Introducing the newest cohort of Barack Obama Scholars at Occidental College.
Jaya Duckworth ’23: Jaya is a diplomacy and world affairs major from Seattle with a minor in gender, women, and sexuality studies. She is committed to making our education system more equitable, especially for women and girls of color. Over the last three years, she has served as an Education Rights Legal Intern for Public Counsel, a Policy Research and Advocacy Intern for the Justice for Girls Coalition for Washington State, and as a member of Oxy’s Diversity and Equity Board and Equity and Justice Committee. Jaya is excited to learn through the Obama Scholars Program how to channel her own passion for racial and gender justice into a career that creates social change for marginalized youth. She plans to pursue law school or a Master’s in Social Work after Oxy.
Kami Kafka ’23: Kami is a first-generation English major and community college transfer student from Los Angeles who wants to create equitable opportunities for low-income students. He worked in a food processing factory and witnessed hazardous working conditions before enrolling at East Los Angeles College and joining the John Delloro Transfer Program in Social Justice. These experiences furthered his interest in increasing social mobility for low-income students. While at East Los Angeles College, Kami served as an unofficial tutor and mentor, managed a food pantry, and founded a Japanese Learners’ Club before transferring to Occidental in Fall 2021. This summer, Kami will be interning with Friends of the LA River as well as participating in the Obama Scholars Program. He aspires to become an educator and mentor in the future, helping students from under-resourced backgrounds obtain excellent educational opportunities.
Deandre Ortiz ’24: Deandre is a politics major from Fitchburg, Massachusetts, who wants to close the education gap between low-income and more affluent students. As Senior Intern for the State Senator of the Worcester and Middlesex district of Massachusetts, Deandre helped make COVID-19 vaccine distribution more accessible and equitable for low-income families and worked as a translator and advocate for Spanish-speaking constituents. Deandre recently created a non-profit called "Aspire to Inspire Academy" that connects under-resourced students with educational opportunities they wouldn't otherwise have. Deandre describes himself as a bridge builder and is excited to participate in a program named for his favorite president, Barack Obama. He plans to attend law school and run for public office after graduation.
Zander Patent ’24: Zander is a sophomore from Chicago planning a double major in politics and economics. He is committed to helping to dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline. In high school, Zander created an organization to support students struggling with mental health and addiction. Since joining Oxy, he has served as an RA and as a summer intern for U.S. Congressman Mike Quigley. He is currently Oxy’s Sophomore Class Senator. Zander is looking forward to developing his leadership skills and learning from his peers in the Obama Scholars Program. He hopes to pursue law school and run for public office in the future.
Will Powers ’23: Will is a diplomacy and world affairs major and politics minor from Somerset, Kentucky. He is committed to working to improve the global crisis in primary school enrollment. In high school, Will founded and directed the Student Alliance for Mental Health Innovation and Action, a 501c3 nonprofit dedicated to improving youth mental health through research and policy advocacy. Will has also served as the student advisor to the Kentucky Commissioner of Education, as a leader and researcher for the Kentucky Student Voice Team, as a Development and Programming Associate for the Greater Los Angeles Education Foundation, and as a board member for America’s Promise Alliance and the Highland Park Heritage Trust. Last fall, he served as a Research and Project Management intern at the Brookings Institution Center for Global Economy and Development, and he is currently a Junior Class Senator at Oxy. He looks forward to working with a group of peers in the Obama Scholars Program similarly dedicated to public service and to fostering a community on campus that’s reflective of their shared values. After graduation, Will plans to attend graduate school and focus on researching solutions to global education inequities.
Nathan Tam ’23: Nathan is an Urban and Environmental Policy major from San Francisco. He is committed to building community solidarity, supporting organizing efforts, and participating in harm-reduction practices against institutional powers. On campus, Nathan is involved as a Study Abroad Peer Advisor, a Resident Advisor, an Admission Senior Fellow, and a leader in student government. Nathan has been a member of the Diversity and Equity Board helping organize instrumental changes across campus such as funding mutual aid programs and academic accommodations. Previously, Nathan has conducted community-based research on alternatives to community safety and divesting from police reliance, caste issues against Dalits in Nepal, and the history of community building in Chinese American history. Off-campus, Nathan is passionate about his involvement with Chinatown Community for Equitable Development supporting outreach to small businesses and partaking in tenant organizing. Nathan’s undergraduate thesis investigates the social imagination of community using LA’s Chinatown as a case study for other ethnic enclaves. After graduation, Nathan would like to continue learning more about strategies to organize and create movements for community solidarity. Nathan is also interested in pursuing graduate studies in Asian American Studies and Social Welfare.
Sunari Weaver-Anderson ’24: Sunari is a first-generation college student from Richmond, California, majoring in politics with a minor in critical theory and social justice. A 5th-generation Bay Area resident, she is committed to increasing access to legal aid for historically underserved communities. Sunari is a UCLA Law Fellow and member of the Diversity and Equity Board and Oxy Law Society. She is also active with the Center for Community-Based Learning. Sunari looks forward to learning from folks in the Obama Scholars Program who have dedicated themselves to empowering marginalized communities, as well as to making connections with those interested in the public good. She is interested in pursuing law school after graduation, among other career prospects.