Student Achievement Award
2011 to 2012
University of Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras to Towson University - Academic year 2011-2012
Samuel Nemir Olivares knew from the very beginning that he was destined for greater things than his origins and upbringing would ever allow. At the moment of submitting an application for the NSE, he made it very clear that what he expected from himself was nothing short of a drastic life overhaul. His intentions were very clearly stated: to gain a sense of independence, to imbue himself in foreign cultures and experiences, to enrich his academic and professional background, to throw himself into circumstances that would force him to overcome certain drawbacks in his skills... in short, "to have a transcendental experience", something that would change his life forever. Samuel's NSE experiences will have a lasting impact on his life because he accomplished goals and dreams he hadn't expected to accomplish until later in his life.
When he entered Towson University, Samuel visited the office of the student newspaper, The Towerlight. A few days later he was assigned a weekly column and for five months he developed his reading and writing skills while enhancing his journalism craftsmanship. Serving as a columnist for The Towerlight, he wrote weekly columns on a broad range of topics. As a result Samuel became involved with the Latin American Student Organization (LASO) and served as master of ceremony on the organization's biggest event "Fuego Latino," testing his newfound skills in English in front of a very large crowd.
One of Samuel's most inspiring courses at Towson was History of Immigration in the U.S. He completed a research paper on the Puerto Rican Diaspora: the impact of housing and barrio conditions. He found that Puerto Ricans made up 10 percent of the New York population, which he considers very important to his Puerto Rican heritage. He ventured to New York to review archives at the Puerto Rican Library at CUNY something he wouldn't have been able to do without the exchange to Towson.
During the second semester, Samuel was accepted to the Student Projects of the 2012 UNITY Convention- the largest gathering of Journalists in the world- held in August in Las Vegas, where he worked on a one-week program with the support of professional mentors from important media outlets. There, he focused on the contributions of the Latino community in the entertainment industry at Las Vegas, and also took photographs, video and managed social media about other topics.
Samuel enrolled in a Photojournalism course that gave him the opportunity to work with three-time Pulitzer nominee, Monica Loppossay. It provided him with the opportunity to build on his interest in photojournalism and photograph Occupy Wall Street (in New York, Washington, and Baltimore), Steve Jobs, President Obama and his family, Fashion Street Style, and more including the opportunity to interview and photograph Ricky Martin leading to a full-page article about Ricky Martin on Broadway, complete with photographs, for "El Vocero", one of the main Puerto Rican newspapers.
Another major accomplishment for Samuel was his acceptance to the New York Times Student Journalism Institute. As one of 23 students accepted to the Institute, Samuel traveled to Tucson, Arizona where he spent two weeks covering many issues and events, including the shooting anniversary of Gabby Gifford. His major assignment was to cover a community that has been abandoned by the government and harassed by the authorities because of their legal status (the residents were mainly undocumented Mexican immigrants). His work was recognized by the New York Times staff, and he was invited two weeks later to work for them during New York Fashion Week. He took full advantage of the invitation and not only attended a planning meeting for the magazine, but was given an actual photographic assignment. Thirty-two of his images were published in the online version and seven on the Thursday and Sunday print editions. As Samuel said, "I was always trying to get my first paid job, and I did it with The New York Times!"
As Samuel Wrote, "I had many expectations before I participated in the exchange, but the experience surpassed them beyond measure. The impact on my life and career could not be quantified, though it is yielding amazing results on my academic and professional life. My language skills have improved radically.
Just as I got back to Puerto Rico, even though it was summer, I started to collaborate on several articles and photographs for magazines, and I started writing for one of the Puerto Rican main newspapers. Also, I have been invited on several occasions to a national TV day-time show called "Entre Nosotras" to talk as a journalist about fashion trends and other feminine topics. My participation in NSE, my English language improvements, and my work experience with The New York Times has made me more qualified for many things, and has gotten me more recognition among professional peers, and many compliments, invitations and professional approaches.
I grew up in a rural town, in a single-parent, low-resources family, but I had a strong drive to overcome my circumstances. It was very painful and it cost me many tears to get out of my comfort zone and leave my family in order to evolve and get an enriching experience. I got much more than that, thanks to my participation in this program, and thanks to God."
University of Arizona to University of South Carolina - Academic Year 2011-2012
Major: Biomedical Engineering
Kelsey learned about NSE through a program held for Resident Assistants at the University of Arizona. She decided that she wanted a chance to make a difference as an RA at a different University. In addition, this was a chance to expand her educational opportunities in engineering and be able to live in a new part of the country. Kelsey got her chance and was excited about her placement at the University of South Carolina.
While on exchange at the University of South Carolina, Kelsey made the experience all that it could be by getting involved on campus and in her academic field of study. Kelsey was a Resident Mentor for University Housing, was captain of a Relay for Life team, organized a fundraiser to educate young women about the importance of women's health, was nominated for Woman of the Year at USC, won the award for "Residence Life RM Community Builder of the Year", and worked with high school students involved in summer camps at USC talking with them about relationships and how to empower women. Academically, she spent her summer doing research with a professor as a part of the National Science Foundation project.
Kelsey was not only able to grow personally as a result of participating in NSE, but she has also been able to help develop other undergraduate students, make an impact on the local community and work towards her own scholarly research. She did this all while experiencing personal heartache and showing great resilience throughout the year, as she lost two family members at home in Arizona while she was in South Carolina and had a number of health issues herself.
As a culmination to her exchange, Kelsey was one of only ten students in the United States chosen for USC's REU (research experience for undergrads) program sponsored by the National Science Foundation. The internship provided the opportunity to do research in Dr. Goodwin's lab at the USC Medical School in cardiology. The research focused on creating 3D reconstructions of the aortic root of the heart of mice to see the defects that occur when there is insufficient elastin present. The research was an attempt to better understand the impact of cardiovascular defects throughout a person's life and was done in collaboration with the Cincinnati Children's Hospital. The internship allowed her the opportunity to network with significant researchers within the United States. As a result she has the opportunity of being published in a scientific journal and to submit an abstract to the Biomedical Engineering Society Conference that will be hosted in Atlanta, GA.
Kelsey said, "Overall I had an amazing adventure at USC and I will never forget all that I experienced and the memories involved. The NSE program has been the best thing that has ever happened to me. All I have ever wanted to do was make some type of difference and I truly believe this has given me that opportunity. Someone once told me that in every experience I go through I should always strive to leave footprints that have in some way touched others. I really wanted to make that true for this experience. In every adventure I had at USC I was able to learn so much and it wasn't ever about how much I taught others, but how every person at USC truly touched my heart in a very influential way. I learned leadership, compassion, strength, courage, and perseverance, which are qualities that have impacted my character and that I will carry for the rest of my life."