Current Scholars

Grace Bech '26

South Sudan

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Grace Bech

Grace's work in international politics seeks to change the narrative around "girls left behind" to "girls achieving." Inspired by her own childhood as a South Sudanese refugee in Kenya's Kakuma refugee camp, she seeks to fight poverty and illiteracy by educating girls who have dropped out of school due to forced early marriage. As a member of Elimisha Kakuma—a community-based organization working to provide opportunities for refugee students—she volunteers at a local health camp, teaches biology, and creates awareness around COVID-19 and gender-based violence. A "determined fighter," she'll harness the power of the Dartmouth African Student Association and international relations courses to create tangible differences in the lives of refugee women.

Dhanush Balaji '26

India

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Dhanush Balaji

Dhanush's life changed drastically upon his admittance to Shanti Bhavan, a special residential school for children belonging to the lowest stratum of India's caste system, known as the Dalit or "untouchable" caste. There, he developed a desire to bridge the gap between socioeconomic classes and earned the nickname "Bollywood" for his effortless charisma and love of music. His community lauds that he never hesitates to share his gift of knowledge with others. At Dartmouth, he seeks economics and the Human Development Fellowship to help him "end cyclical poverty, promote social justice, and raise awareness about the importance of education." His proposed online platform will help students from low-income communities develop the essential interpersonal and professional skills necessary for success in the corporate world.

Yehalah Fernando '26

Sri Lanka

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Yehalah Fernando

The valedictorian of her Sri Lankan secondary school, Yehalah worked with a local environmental protection NGO to study the origins of petrochemical pollution and the protection of migratory birds using radar. She writes, "I hope to engineer systems that will help us combat climate change and take care of our only planet." Described by her community as humble, wise, and mature beyond her years, she is also passionate about empowering local youth and fostering safe spaces for survivors of abuse or exploitation. A first-generation college student, Yehalah hopes to help rural Sri Lankan communities gain access to electricity and running water by studying green energy at the Thayer School of Engineering.

Josue Frejus Godeme '26

Benin

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Josue Frejus Godeme

At only 13 years of age, Josué lost his sister to lung cancer caused by toxic waste, instilling in him a deep-seated passion for environmental stewardship. He partnered with his community's pastor to initiate a town clean-up event and purchased equipment to protect neighbors from chemicals emitted by the local landfill. With a work ethic that his counselor remarks is "unmatched," Josué went on to excel on Benin's national examination, earning the highest mark out of over 80,000 test-takers. Now, he seeks the interdisciplinary opportunities afforded by Dartmouth to pursue environmental studies, computer science, and artificial intelligence in hopes of building network-controlled drones that can detect harmful chemicals and eradicate pollutants. Before leaving his home country in August 2022, he spoke with the honorable Wadagni Romuald State Minister of Finance of Benin regarding building a power plant which shall transform waste into energy. The minister agreed to let him spearhead research center activities in Benin.

Triumph Kia Teh '26

Cameroon

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Triumph Kia Teh

Raised in a country plagued by sociopolitical instability, Triumph carries within himself a strong Christian faith and a "burning passion" to help others. He is described as "selfless to a fault" by his counselor at Open Dreams, a community-based organization in Yaounde, Cameroon's capital city, that helps high-achieving low-income students make their goals of attending university a reality. Triumph went on to earn the highest grade in the O-Level examination scores in his secondary school's history. Because Triumph's family has suffered due to painful mental health stigmas and patient-based violence in Cameroon, his aspiration to become an entrepreneur-psychiatrist is deeply personal. With the help of a major in cognitive sciences and pre-health coursework at Dartmouth, he will found an NGO in his home country that will work to help families like his own grapple with undiagnosed mental illnesses. 

Triumph's enthusiasm and dedication to serving the community are unparalleled; he's a terrific example of "give-back," with over 3 years of civic participation, supporting community healthcare through volunteering, seminars, and health campaigns that span the SDGs. He has served as a youth leader in Cameroon for the Restless Development and UNAIDS' Generation to End Aids (#GENDIT) project, which aims to improve sexual and reproductive health and end HIV/AIDS by 2030. Triumph received a Merit Award from Global Leadership Adventures in 2021 for excellent contributions to public health and exemplary leadership, and he is an alumnus of the Harvard-founded Aspire Leaders Program, as well as an alumni-fellow of the Goodwill Fellowship.

During the Anglophone socio-political crisis, in 2019, he founded the Hopes of New Beginnings Network in the English regions of his country, working in peer-counseling and mentorship that reached out to hundreds of students and schools and significantly reduced the rate of school dropouts. Initiatives in which he has participated have inspired more than 3000 youths to engage in sustainable youth action.

Triumph's interests, encompassing social entrepreneurship, health, and education, as well as his faith, talents, passion, and demonstrated service, communicate that he will maximize all resources at Dartmouth and beyond to go on to change the world!

MD Al Mamun '26

Bangladesh

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MD Al Mamun

Being a part of the industrial community in Bangladesh, MD Al witnessed the imbalances, policy mismanagements, and flawed regulations in the workplace. Such imbalances and transgression sparked his interest in the system of creating and regulating policies, particularly focusing on the role of workers in this system.

After encountering several major accidents in the ready-made garment industry, which were responsible more than a few thousand deaths, he got the encouragement to start his journey to work for the people. Involving himself in non-profit organizations and the worker union community, he started to speak for workers' rights, fight for policy reform, and highlight the issue of workplace safety. His work included raising funds for the privilege of low-income workers, supporting and arranging movements against any ongoing mismanagements in factories, and organizing a peaceful meeting between the labor and owner committee to address issues.

At Dartmouth, he plans to study Economics with a public policy minor to work on the development of policies for the workers. Furthermore, he dreams of making Bangladesh a developed country and a renowned 'Made in Bangladesh' with its own identity.

Arif Sulimani '26

Afghanistan

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Arif Sulimani

Arif was born in a rural area in the Ghazni province of Afghanistan. Since Arif spend his childhood as a shepherd, he only was permitted to receive an education at the local mosque only during the winter seasons. It was only after his family was forced to flee their home country that he attended school regularly, yet he still faced persecution as a member of the Hazara community (an ethnic minority in Pakistan). Living in violence and war spurred his desire to study international relations and economics and to advocate for his community: "I'm looking forward to becoming a successful leader and politician who will help marginalized communities, contribute to solving conflicts, and bring peace to my motherland and the world." At 16, Arif and his family immigrated to Sweden where he could pursue his education in peace, at the same time, advocate for the rights of refugees, asylum-seekers, and vulnerable communities. To better help refugees, Arif took the leadership of the Stockholm Union of Unaccompanied Minors where he with the help of his colleagues could save the lives of hundreds of young refugees to get a job in Sweden and then get residence permits. 

The Global Village Living Learning Community and Dartmouth Political Union will benefit from this "extraordinary positive force" who envisions the creation of the first Dartmouth Afghanistan Society. While at Dartmouth, Arif is passionate to advocate for his home country, Afghanistan. He hopes to better introduce Afghanistan to the Dartmouth Society and get support for it. In his free time, Arif enjoys engaging in social activism, reading books, writing posts, and going running.

Keila Suntura '25

Bolivia

Keila Suntura

Keila Suntura

Keila brings to Dartmouth a rural Bolivian perspective on history and social justice. The daughter of two street vendors, Keila was recognized upon high school graduation as the top student in the state but was unable to attend college due to her family's finances. Since 2017, she has been working to assist her family while participating in EducationUSA's Opportunity Funds program in order to realize her educational ambitions. She is described as "that kind of student that doesn't leave the memory of a teacher and stays in the heart," "always thinking about how our institution can better serve people." Inspired to action by the mistreatment of indigenous communities, Keila led her school's art organization championing multicultural and indigenous awareness; she also worked with the school to outline a curriculum designed to better support low-income students and peers with learning disabilities. At Dartmouth, Keila intends to direct her passion for activism and civil rights into the study of sociology and further develop the College's commitment to inclusion.

Maxwell Simba '25

South Africa

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Maxwell

Maxwell's life changed when he was cast as Dartmouth alumnus William Kamkwamba '14 in 2019's The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind, a film that follows a young Kamkwamba ingeniously building a wind turbine out of bicycle parts when his village is faced by drought and crop failure. Maxwell too characterizes himself as an "aspiring engineer who is passionate about social impact" and the study of thermophotovoltaic cells' potential to provide his village with electricity. He is described by his counselor as "somewhat of a conundrum, in the best way possible," for his multifaceted passions in physics, mathematics, and acting. He has given his own masterclasses to the Kenyan Association of Actors and to children aspiring to get into acting as well. The son of a fishmonger, Maxwell describes acting as the "bicycle" that he needed to make his own "windmill" as a now successful actor with renewed hope for a better future. At Dartmouth, he will study engineering to further his understanding of electrification in rural areas and plans to get involved with the Black Underground Theatre Association.

Piok Deng Mayiik Mei '25

Rwanda

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Piok

Piok's aspiration to create a unified South Sudan stems from his own experience as a Sudanese refugee in Kenya and Uganda. While his was father on the battlefield, Piok became convinced that his contribution to the country would be through education; several moves between schools in different countries and family farming responsibilities instilled in Piok a "never-give-up attitude" that would lead to his recognition as one of the top two students in the country. His English teacher writes that "his passion for South Sudan radiates from the pages of his writing," and his enthusiasm has won the admiration of all. Coming from an oil-rich part of Sudan, he has directly witnessed the deleterious effects of oil extraction on communities like his own and hopes to pursue economics at Dartmouth in order to work toward a diversified green economy where the wellbeing of the citizen is the top priority.

Aya Hajjeh '25

Syria

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aya

A first-generation college student, aspiring architect, and member of Syrian Youth Empowerment—a non-profit that aims to empower youth in conflict zones through education—Aya imagines a future where she can "create beautiful, functional structures that would transform [her] own community." Inspired by architect Zaha Hadid, Aya plans on returning to Syria after studying in the U.S. to rebuild her country, writing, "I choose to focus on the future, on skyscrapers like those built by Zaha Hadid—a woman who dared to make structures that touched the sky. I hope to continue my [studies] . . . so I can scrape the sky myself." Aya has also conducted research on olfactory theories and heat energy, helped develop art talent classes at her school, led community groups in environmental service, and captained her school's swim team.

Abdibaset Bare '25

Kenya

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Abdibaset

Though he began his studies in an under-resourced Kenyan primary school, Abdibaset made his way to the country's top secondary school coming from a county where only 20% of students go on to secondary education. A new, academically rigorous high school with a stark socioeconomic divide presented significant challenges for Abdibaset, but his gratitude for opportunity remained strong. When the time came for him to take Kenya's national secondary exam, he was one of 627 test takers to receive an overall A grade from a pool of 679,000. A leader in his school's Muslim Union and Peace Club, Abdibaset intends to study economics or engineering in hopes of improving his communities in Kenya. His teachers remark him as an "open book," always smiling and bringing his sense of hope for the future.

Renata Edaes Hoh '25

Brazil

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renata

Raised in a small Brazilian village, Renata writes about being "fearless" in her pursuit of science. She comes from an unconventional, artistic family that left the big city in search of peace in nature, an environment that nurtured an "unbreakable connection" with painting. As an artist, Women's Day community organizer, and gold medalist in national science Olympiads, Renata looked to the United States for an interdisciplinary education. She intends to study physics and art side by side and possibly become an educator to women and children. She is excited to do research through the Women in Science Program and join a supportive network of women in science that will lay the groundwork for her mission to empower girls through STEM education.

Alejandra Carrasco Alayo '25

Peru

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Alejandra comes to Dartmouth from Peru, where hundreds of thousands of rural students lose development opportunities for lack of access to technology. After learning about villages abandoned by the Peruvian government, Alejandra and her family hatched the idea of the Wawa Laptop, the first eco-friendly laptop made in Peru. Under her leadership, the impact of the organization and its technology on rural Peruvian youth has been significant and exemplifies Alejandra's ability to build up communities noted by her teachers. Nationally recognized for her contributions, Alejandra sees herself studying human-centered design and education to continue providing access to populations in isolated communities. Outside of her studies, she looks forward to sharing her passion for Peruvian culture, food, and dance.

Makara Poy '24

Cambodia

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Makara was born and raised in rural Cambodia. The daughter of a policeman, she is a top scholar from SHE-CAN (Supporting Her Education Changes a Nation)–a non-profit focused on helping young female scholars from post-conflict countries access educational opportunities that will give them the tools to be a force of change in their home country. When Cambodia's Minister of Education expressed concern that young people did not know enough about economics, Makara was nominated to write and publish a Cambodian Economics book in both Khmer and English. The book was recognized by the government and distributed to secondary schools throughout Cambodia. It has since been developed into an interactive website–cambodianeconomy.org–on which Makara continues to contribute articles about Cambodian currency and the importance of microfinance opportunities. Makara is also a passionate advocate for gender and LGBTQ+ equity in Cambodia, which has a traditionally conservative culture around these topics. She hopes to address the lack of dialogue within her culture about these topics. She regularly conducts workshops in her community on gender-based violence and has presented at the US Embassy.

 

Muhammad Qaisar Nawaz '24

Pakistan

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Qaisar is a first-generation student who cites a "deep connection with the educational crisis in Pakistan". Coming from a low-income family, he saw firsthand how the effects of educational inequality transformed into larger structural problems in Pakistan, including poverty. Qaisar hopes to influence education policy to make quality education more accessible so that other underprivileged high school students won't have to fight the same uphill battle he did. To this end, he has identified Entrepreneurship and Public Policy as professional goals. Academically, Qaisar has wide-ranging interests, from Physics and Computer Science to Government and Public Policy. He thinks Dartmouth, due to its unique liberal arts curriculum, is an ideal place for him to pursue all of them. During high school, Qaisarresearched poverty alleviation at the PIDE, attended multiple National STEM Makers camps, played cricket for his school team, and co-founded an NGO that documents and advocates against discrimination towards the transgender community in Rawalpindi. In his free time, he enjoys hiking and playing(and watching) cricket and table tennis.

Victor Gabriel da Silva Balbino '24

Brazil

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Victor is a first-generation Afro-Brazilian who wants to study economics and sustainability in order to improve sanitation in his hometown's favelas. He also possesses a proclivity for the performing arts, having written and acted in numerous plays throughout his high school career. After graduating from high school, Victor won the 22nd FIAT Education Award and attended the Argentina Leadership Bootcamp sponsored by the Latin American Leadership Academy, all while mentoring high school students to apply to U.S. colleges and universities through SuperMentor, a free and interactive mentoring platform.

 

Amittai Joel Siavava Wekesa '24

Kenya

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Amittai was born in a rural village in Western Kenya and recognizes the unique challenges that people in the rural world face. For example, sustainability is a big issue for most families in such communities due to an ever-growing population and the use of basic, inefficient methods of farming. He points out that such issues are interconnected. One implication of basic farming methods is that everything has to be done manually, which means most kids have to help their parents out before going to school. That affects their performance in school and eventually leads to high school drop-out rates. Out of his grade-one class of over a hundred, only three made it through high school. 

These are some of the problems that he hopes to solve. With his passion for science and technology, Amittai wants to explore how emerging technologies such as machine learning and artificial intelligence can be leveraged to accelerate development in third-world countries and ultimately improve the lives of millions, maybe even billions of people.

In the past, Amittai has applied his tech-savvy skills to provide technical support for polling clerks in the 2017 Kenya General Elections, the first-ever Kenyan election with electronic components. He has also taken part in a successful government drive to digitize civil records, among other endeavors.

Amittai hopes to use the opportunity offered to him by the King Scholars program to make a difference.

Mark Lekina Rorat '24

Kenya

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Mark is a first-generation son of farmers. An environmental advocate and self-taught coder whose experience working on his parent's farm has inspired him to coding Flutter apps that will allow farmers—most of whom have not received a formal education—to store all farm records digitally. He is leader of his school's Science Club and Engineering Fair, through which he directed research on sustainable energy and farming solutions for low-income communities, and he has a penchant for a good science fiction novel. Mark dreams of using his skills in coding to research and design computational models for applications in intelligent power systems and smart power grids for rural communities.

Catharine Herrera '23

Brazil

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Catherine is a first generation, public school student, whose single mother works as a receptionist in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. In her Dickey essay, Catherine discusses wanting to better understand issues related to economic and educational inequality in her hometown.

Catherine is already involved with politics as she presented her idea for free public transit passes for public school students to the local government in her role as student council president. She is also a winner of the opportunity fund grant from the US department of state, which "provides funds to support students who demonstrate a strong academic background, great potential for succeeding at a U.S. institution of higher learning, and come from modest backgrounds" in order to cover the up-front costs of applying to university in the United States.

 

Dary Phen '23

Cambodia

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Dary is the top scholar from SHE-CAN (Supporting Her Education Changes a Nation)–a non-profit focused on helping young female scholars from post-conflict countries access educational opportunities that will give them the tools to be a force of change in their home country. Dary was invited to the Palace of the Prime Minister after achieving the second highest score on Cambodia's national standardized test, which had over 100,000 test-takers. The daughter of a bus driver and a street market vendor,

Dary grew up in the capital city of Phnom Penh and is focused on the development and modernization of Cambodia's "dilapidated healthcare system," which has caused her family a lot of heartbreak.

Eyasu Lemma '23

Ethiopia

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Eyasu was born and raised in Chero, Eithiopia as the son of a nurse and a clergy member. After losing his aunt to a car accident, Eyasu wrote in his supplement about how he wants to become an engineer and a scientist to discover knowledge and create worlds that don't exist yet–like worlds free of car accidents.

Eyasu was the President of the Physics, Math, and Chemistry clubs at his high school. His physics teacher says he was a transformational leader in these roles as he brought a more inclusive approach helping members grow in understanding and see the importance of science for the benefit of humanity. The teacher said watching Eyasu mange the clubs and work with his peers was a highlight in his 9-year teaching career. Eyasu has a really powerful peer recommendation letter in which his best friend states: "Eyasu strives for what he believes in. He gives devotion and commitment to what he loves. And he cares about everything, including the birds that sweep the sky and the insects that crawl the earth. Whether it is through fighting for a cause or achieving a goal, Eyasu has been a tremendous inspiration to me and many of his peers."

Laxman Bist '23

Nepal

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Laxman was an education USA opportunity fund winner born to farmers in rural Nepal. Until 2012 Laxman's village did not always have electricity so he studied by the light of a kerosene lamp. Laxman is a scientist who loves philosophy. In his supplemental essay on intellectual curiousity he discusses the concept of relativity and its impact on what humans perceive as reality.

His school counselor calls him a once-in-a-lifetime student. In the village where he was raised there has been a rise in anti-intellectual passions as those with access to schooling are considered elitist. Laxman wants to improve access to education in rural communities similar to his in order to stem the tide of this anti-intellectual mentality.

Mubarak Idoko '23

Nigeria

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Mubarak was born and raised in Jos, Nigeria as the son of two medical missionaries. Throughout high school he worked to support his family as a brick layer, and more recently, as an auto mechanic's assistant. In 2017 he was selected to participate in the Yale Young Scholars Program where he completed a Capstone Project on Artificial Intelligence. Every recommendation letter in Mubark's file glows. His counselor says he is the epitome of good virtue.

All of his teachers call him one of the best they have encountered in their careers. His chemistry teacher said he brought an infectious intellect and an impeccable reputation to the classroom each day. Mubarak's alumni interviewer gave him a perfect score and said that, "the defining characteristic in our conversation was his eagerness; he is a cheerful and delightful person; I enjoyed our conversation immensely, and let it run more than half an hour beyond the allotted time. The first interview I've ever given the highest rating."

Rocio Barrionuevo Quispe '23

Peru

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Rocio is a graduate of COAR–a special IB boarding school for high ability, low income Peruvian children who attend public schools. She talks in her why Dartmouth essay about wanting to "solve Peru's prominent issue of economic development through research opportunities and programs at the Dickey Center." Rocio grew up in a community plagued by domestic violence and has been conducting sex education workshops with rural, indigenous communities outside her home city of Cuzco.

She was featured on the front page of the Peruvian Ministry of Education's magazine for her efforts in this space.

Hana Ba-Sabaa '22

Yemen

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A witness to war and its aftermath, Hana is aware of the importance of education and its ability to make countries and communities rise and prosper: "I witnessed a whole country crumble because of ignorance, violence and poverty." In her senior year, Hana applied to the Diana Kamal Scholarship Search Fund, which helped her discover Dartmouth.

Hana was drawn to Dartmouth because of the sense of community it seemed to radiate: "Dartmouth gives students a sense of belonging, which is something everyone needs; it's nice to know that there are always people who are ready to help." Hana plans to major in Engineering modified with Studio Art, with a longer term goal of earning a professional degree in architecture. She is also interested in taking CS classes and making the most of rich opportunities a liberal arts education offers.

Honored and thankful to have been named a King Scholar, Hana recognizes the value of being part of this close-knit group, of being surrounded regularly by "amazing and empowered young people who retain that child's voice in their heads that wants to change the world."

Janel Consuelo Perez '22

Philippines

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Janel was born and raised in Manila and witnessed how corruption - from the classroom to the highest levels of government - can stunt progress and cloud societal values.  After earning a scholarship to the International School Manila, she co-founded The Buting Elementary Support and Training Project (Project BEST) to provide previously inaccessible opportunities to students in a nearby public elementary school and bridge the gap between her school and the local community.

As a prospective Government and Economics major, Janel looks forward to opportunities to conduct research on economic policy and human capital development and to explore her many academic interests and the majestic natural environment around campus.  Eventually she hopes to earn a law degree and work at the intersection of business, policy, and development, in order to stimulate inclusive and universally profitable nation-building.

On being selected as a King Scholar, she says, "I am deeply grateful to be part of this amazing program, and cannot wait to leverage the countless opportunities to grow as a person to empower fellow Filipinos, and to redefine the traditional path to success. So ready."

Rafael Alves de Lima '20

Brazil

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Headshot of Rafael Alves de Lima
Rafael was born in a poverty-stricken area of Osasco, Brazil and attended an "emergency school" made of corrugated tin for the first thirteen years of his life. A scholarship to a prestigious high school in a wealthy neighborhood of São Paulo afforded him the opportunity to not only receive a quality education, but also to understand the vast socio-economic disparities that define Brazilian society. As friends from Osasco were forced to drop out of school to work or raise children, Rafael became aware of the privileges he received and the responsibility to use them to better his community in the future.

Rafael plans to study science and government while at Dartmouth, a combination he hopes will help him develop the leadership skills necessary to promote the idea that positive change in Brazil is possible through technology and innovation.

For Rafael, being part of the King Scholar program is inspiring because it means building relationships with people who have vastly different backgrounds, yet share the same dream: tackling poverty. "Whether it is through Medicine, Engineering or Politics, each one of us has something to teach each other and this kind of community motivates me to work hard for those who didn't have access to the same opportunities I did," Rafael says. "The King Scholarship is hope, not only for me as an individual, but also for Osasco, hope for Brazil."

Internships & Projects: Itaú Unibanco, São Paulo, Brazil