By Jill Spotz

Now in its fifth year, the annual 24-hour Bring the Best challenge returned on March 9. Launched by President Alison Byerly in 2017 through a series of fun “challenges” including a diving contest, the annual antics evolved into lip sync competitions and even a rendition of the 1970s game show “Hollywood Squares.” These themed challenges may have been laughable but what they all had in common was they were for a great cause – making Lafayette more accessible to a wider range of students.

This year, members of the Lafayette community contributed $1.9 million dollars for financial aid. In total, through the one-day fundraising initiatives, Lafayette has raised more than $6.4 million dollars for financial aid. Overall, through the President’s Challenge for Financial Aid, the College has raised more than $50 million since 2016. How does this impact students? The financial aid budget has increased by more than 30% since the launch of the strategic direction, and average student loan debt has decreased by $2,500 per student borrower. What this really comes down to is making Lafayette more affordable to stellar students. And we’d like you to meet some of the many superstars who have been positively impacted.

Elise Hummel ’22 at LaFarm

Elise Hummel ’22

Majors: Civil engineering and international studies

Hometown: Wallingford, Conn.

Why Lafayette? 

I remember attending an information session about Lafayette’s engineering program as I was applying, and Prof. Scott Hummel said something along the lines of, ‘It doesn’t matter what school you choose; the laws of thermodynamics will always be the same.’ He went on to say that what distinguishes Lafayette from other schools is not what we’re taught, but how we’re taught it. Professors aren’t just teachers; they’re mentors. Likewise, residence halls aren’t just dorms; they’re communities, and classmates aren’t just peers; they’re an inspiration. Lafayette has given me the opportunity to become whatever I want to be. I’m an engineer with a major in international studies. I’m a dean’s list student and a Division I athlete. I’ve been able to spend a semester living in Madrid, design a footbridge for the community of Easton, research microbially induced calcite precipitation, grow organic vegetables, and so much more.

What did it feel like when you received your acceptance letter to Lafayette? 

At the time that I received my acceptance letter, I still wasn’t sure about where I would enroll. It wasn’t until I went to campus and spoke with current students, faculty members, and other accepted students that I knew that Lafayette could become my home. Knowing not only that I could thrive at Lafayette, but also that the financial support which I had received made Lafayette a possibility for my family and me, was a moment of tremendous excitement and gratitude.

How is Lafayette preparing you for success after college?

Lafayette doesn’t just teach its students how to do their jobs; it also teaches us why our jobs are necessary. I am receiving a fantastic technical education at Lafayette, and I feel prepared for any civil engineering position that I could find myself in. Beyond that, however, Lafayette has prepared me on how to present and defend my work, and how to think about a given problem from a different, more holistic angle. Lafayette has taught me the importance of collaboration and how to act as a member of a team. Lafayette has taught me how to be a leader, how to put myself out there and take risks. Beyond the endless array of skills that I am cultivating at Lafayette, I am also being equipped with an endless amount of professional support. My professors and advisers, the Gateway Career Center, and the Dyer Center of Innovation and Entrepreneurship offer me constant personalized guidance. Whether it be a simple résumé review or the opportunity to participate in this winter’s Data Analytics Bootcamp, Lafayette is preparing me for success after college by providing me with all the tools necessary to present myself as a well-rounded, strong, and confident candidate for any future endeavor.

What is something unique about you that most people wouldn’t know?

In high school, I spent a year growing 102 radishes in order to study the effects of greywater irrigation on food security.

Sami Teresia ’23

Majors: Computer science and economics

Minor: German

Hometown: Nairobi, Kenya

About me: I come from a huge family of seven children and was raised by a single mother. I went to a high school in Nairobi, where I graduated before proceeding to look for higher learning avenues.

Why Lafayette? 

The rare blend of ambition and passion in a highly diverse yet unified student body was, and still is, very unique to me. In this expansive yet intimate school atmosphere made possible by the ample yet distinctly useful resources, I can grow, learn, and simultaneously make an impact. I am home.

Why is financial aid important? 

Financial aid, genuinely and truly, gives so many students the actual opportunity to say yes to their dreams and aspirations who otherwise would not have been able to. It is true that fear is one the greatest hurdles to success, and overcoming it to apply to Lafayette despite feelings of not belonging is no mean feat. However, the question posed by finances is all the more daunting. Financial aid makes my ‘Yes to Lafayette’ possible, my presence here a reality, and a better future feasible.

How is Lafayette preparing you for success after college?

 Lafayette so far has taught me so much more than I anticipated to learn in college. Lafayette is equipping me with innumerable interpersonal skills through which I am learning that human connections are the most important resource. Lafayette, through various forums and opportunities, is teaching me to hone my talents and practically apply what I learn in class for a holistic learning experience. Most importantly though, Lafayette has made it possible for me to enjoy my current college experience while providing resources for me to prepare and make choices about my career. It is through this that I was able to get four internship offers at leading companies this past fall, including Facebook.

Biggest “aha!” moment? 

My biggest aha moment was 2020 right when COVID hit. I was so uncertain about my future and that of many others. I was not sure about how things would pan out, but the grace with which Lafayette handled the students and their transition stuck with me. I stayed in school, and I am still able to get an education despite the times. How Lafayette prioritized the students’ well-being reminded me why this place is a home for so many and different from other places.

Zach Whitney ’21

Zach Whitney ’21

Major: Neuroscience

Minor: Women, gender, and sexuality studies

Hometown: Douglassville, Pa.

Why Lafayette? 

After first being waitlisted and then accepted, I toured Lafayette for a second time with a wonderful tour guide named Molly, who walked around the campus saying hi to practically every person she saw. In a classic father-on-tour way, my dad asked, ‘Are you paying these people?’ Because it didn’t seem like it could possibly be true. But of course it was. The Lafayette community that shines through in many of our stories as students appeared so evident to me four years ago, making my decision to attend Lafayette one of the easiest in my life.

Financial aid is so important because …

It allows many students to be able to attend Lafayette and make a difference. Additional financial aid will always result in a more socioeconomically cooperative and diverse community, which spurs creativity and collaboration. A variety of backgrounds and experiences makes a huge difference, and without the financial aid that Lafayette provides, we would be missing out on so many amazing people who have made an impressive impact on campus. And hey, I wouldn’t be here without financial aid, so I consider that pretty fantastic too!

How is Lafayette preparing you for success after college? 

Naturally, I feel prepared and supported from all of the tangible offices and resources at Lafayette such as the Health Professions office, but it is so much more than that. It’s the deeper cognitive skills professors ask of you, it’s the critical links across disciplines and the dive into real-world scenarios professors demonstrate for you, and it’s the professional yet meaningful relationships professors share with you. In short, most of the credit goes to professors who go the extra mile to show you the path to success, encourage you with all their might, and push you to believe in yourself as much as they do. As I head into my final semester, taking Advanced Neuroscience with Prof. Lisa Gabel, this line exemplifies it best: ‘My goal is to make sure you are all confident in your knowledge and abilities as you move on to the next phase of your careers.’

What is something unique about you that most people wouldn’t know? 

I was on a billboard in Times Square! As part of an organization outside of Lafayette, the Quell Foundation, who advocates for erasing the stigma around mental health, they asked me to be on one of their billboards right in the heart of the city.

Kimberly Manalang ’21

Kimberly Manalang ’21

Major: Biology

Hometown: Washington, D.C.

Why Lafayette? 

When I was a junior in high school, a close friend who had received a Posse Scholarship had suggested I look into it. The further I researched the schools DC Posse offered, the more attached I became to Lafayette College. As a first generation student, I did not know much about colleges and assumed I’d be going to a school near my apartment to limit costs. I wanted to go where I could see myself grow as a student and as a person. And luckily, Admissions saw that in me. I can safely say that I am not the same person who first stepped on this campus.

What did it feel like when you received your acceptance letter to Lafayette? 

I actually received a call. I was a hysterical mess, remembering Matt Hyde’s words, ‘What sweatshirt size do you want?’ I remember running into my living room, missing the couch, and falling to the floor crying in front of my mother saying I got into college in between my breaths of air as I cried. It was a surreal moment that not only was I accepted, but this acceptance meant something as I can actually attend Lafayette without worrying about the costs.

How is Lafayette preparing you for success after college? 

Lafayette has unique leadership opportunities that are specifically at Lafayette—such as being a head resident as it is not a common job at other colleges. I have always been a timid person, and Lafayette has allowed me to grow as a leader, student, scientist, and person. Throughout my four years at Lafayette, I have earned opportunities that I never saw myself doing or leading because I never thought I was capable. However, I was so blessed to have people around me who nominated me and believed in my leadership potential, allowing me to fully blossom and continue to grow as a person.

What is something unique about you that most people wouldn’t know? 

At first I was so intimidated by how amazing everyone is on campus. But something I kept having to remind myself is that I am here too. I learned not to be intimidated but motivated to better myself as we have a unique community. There is just enough competition to want to better yourself, but it’s balanced with a collaborative environment where everyone, at least the people I surround myself with, wanted the best for me, and I wanted the best for them.


Categorized in: Campus life, Featured News, Giving News, News and Features, Student Profiles, Students

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