Twenty-seven members of the Class of 2027 earned the full-tuition merit-based Soaring Together scholarships. Over the course of four years, this cohort will explore what’s possible in their own personal and professional development and then lead and mentor their classmates and future scholars.
Learn a bit more about each scholar. Then learn how you might support future Soaring Together scholars.
Meet the scholars!
Chelsea Berson ’27
Math and Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies
She loves her dog, Belle, a nine-year-old springerdoodle, an English springer spaniel and poodle mix. Berson misses her dog and has gone back to Westchester to visit her (and her family) once. She joined the animal therapy club on campus to get a regular animal fix. Seeing the Lehigh Police dogs is always a treat.
She is also staying active as a member of club field hockey. Having played the sport since middle school, she enjoys having her own mini-rivalry when the team goes up against Lafayette. The Center for Gender Equity also has her busy. It created a haunted house for Halloween, illustrating how the patriarchy, hidden around every turn, has haunted women for years.
Classes: Calculus, Gender and Society, Introduction to Writing Poetry, First-Year Seminar
Lehigh is a popular choice for students from her town, so she didn’t want to even consider it. She still visited campus though. That’s when she realized why Lehigh was so popular. “It was friendly, cute, and cozy,” she says. During her tour, she saw a group of students in costumes on the quad. That’s when she realized that Lehigh students didn’t take themselves too seriously and saw the collaborative nature of their collective smarts at a competitive school.
She loves to add creative thinking to problem-solving — she regularly sketches out answers to complex math problems. It’s why she hopes to bring gender equity to the world of math or use her math skills to help nonprofits focus on gender equity.
As a sophomore in high school, Berson began to volunteer at Planned Parenthood. She was inspired by a sexual politics course she took and wanted to join the youth activism group. Soon she was a member of the Community Advisory Council as it worked on a K-12 comprehensive sexual education program. She began to lobby state senators, the New York State Board of Regents, and spoke at a national convention held by the Society for Public Health Education. “It just feels wrong to pretend that there is not injustice in the world. Each of us should feel empowered to do something about it,” she says.
Sean Henry ’27
Chicken nuggets. Canned ravioli. Dry cereal. As a kid, Henry was a picky eater. While pizza may still be his favorite (which he acknowledges as basic but delicious), he has become more adventurous in his eating, like escargot and octopus. He credits his mom, who has inspired him to bake; his aunt, who makes his favorite Boston Drop cookies; and his former cross country coach, who is a coffee connoisseur. Maybe this is why he has joined the coffee club, tea club, and cheese club on campus. Respectively, yes, they pour, steep, cut, and savor.
More than just indulging, he also signed up for the fencing club and outing club where he soon will participate in a color run. He has run in nearly every single Pace the Prez, where President Helble runs four miles with anyone from the Lehigh community. What gets Henry up at 6:30 a.m. on those Tuesday mornings? His alarm clock, he quips. While the president is fast and usually leads the pack, Henry has noticed he does slow down and step back to chat with all runners. Henry talked with Helble about — you guessed it— running. As an introvert, Henry is getting out there. He’s also involved in clubs tied to the College of Business: marketing, ventures, and supply chain.
Classes: Foundations in Business, Business Communication, Calculus, Economics, and Current Events
Henry was dual enrolled in high school, earning his diploma as well as an associate degree in liberal arts from Rowan College of South Jersey. He could have transferred into Rowan, but he wanted to go further from his south New Jersey home. While the Soaring Together scholarship played a big factor in his decision-making, he liked Lehigh and felt a bit more at home here.
While traveling in Iceland, Henry was on a tour of the capital city when the guide spoke about the country’s history. The guide was proud of how the nation has progressed in the modern age, ranked high in categories like equity across its laws and culture. “That was the first time I heard people speak about it so plainly,” he says. “I recognized that we don’t talk the same way here or have the same attitude toward it.” That’s why he thinks it’s important to be a man who is involved in this issue. “There are many ways to show we care by doing more and celebrating its successes,” he says.
Roisin Gaffney ’27
Gaffney is already playing on three club teams at Lehigh: soccer, lacrosse, and rugby. She is used to rough-and-tumble sports. Having been raised in the Sunset District, a predominantly Irish neighborhood in San Francisco, she played Gaelic football and camogie. At the nearby Irish cultural center, she and her dad would watch matches and eat a stout Irish breakfast.
She’s no stranger to the pitch. Since second grade, Gaffney has played soccer on club teams and at the varsity level. She was the goalie. During her junior year, she also stood in front of the net for her high school lacrosse team. While she might see five shots on net in soccer, lacrosse tested her focus and reaction times.
Gaffney not only led on the field but also as a student government representative. She enjoyed being able to use her voice and create change. She also liked amplifying school spirit and organizing rallies and events. Her positive experiences have her active at Lehigh as a member of the student senate. Her first big task on campus? Organizing a tailgate for students at the Rivalry game.
Classes: Foundations of Business, Business Analytics, Economics, Calculus, Philosophy, and Business Communication
There seems to be a solid cohort from San Francisco at Lehigh. Gaffney thinks that might have to do with the university’s partnership with NASDAQ. While she wanted to attend a college out of state, the costs made it seem that her local school (UC Berkeley) would be her best option. But she liked the opportunities she saw at Lehigh — the small class sizes, the caring community, the ample internships, and the study abroad programs.
“I want to take advantage of every opportunity,” she says. That started with the Soaring Together scholarship. She has three siblings, so a full tuition scholarship made coming East an easy decision.
Twice Gaffney earned Youth Referee of the Year, an award based on her work on the soccer field as decided on by coaches and parents. Earning those accolades doesn’t mean it was an easy job. When she gave a coach a yellow card after he disagreed with her call and then disparaged her abilities and gender at length in front of players, coaches, and parents, Gaffney knew she had to do more to help other young female referees. She was the first referee to join the Youth Advisory Council where she advanced new rules and helped conduct workshops to improve respect for referees of all ages and genders.
At Lehigh, she hopes to advance gender equity in sports, dreaming of creating a nonprofit to help all children have access to equipment and club-level training. In the meantime, she volunteers through Hillel and Lehigh’s Community Service Office. She’s not sure if she will reach the 1,000 hours she amassed in high school when she helped the unhoused with food and friendship.
Jyana Francois ’27
Although both her parents are fluent English speakers and have raised Francois and her siblings in the U.S., she didn't realize until she was older how little English her father spoke at home. It explains how she became fluent in Creole. Her parents are also fluent in French. It’s what prompted her as a person of Haitian lineage to join the African Student Association and Women of Color Alliance on campus.
Like her language skills, Francois' talents are diverse. She’s a member of J.M. Entertainment, a KPOP dance group on campus. Her dance training is classical, but she has danced in many styles and forms. She is also a member of the clarinet choir, a smaller ensemble for clarinetists. Having picked up that woodwind instrument in the fourth grade, she has performed in the symphonic band, wind ensemble, pit orchestra, and combined orchestra. She’s eager to see what other doors will appear and open on this collegiate journey.
Classes: Chemistry, Calculus II, Engineering, College of Health Seminar, English Seminar in Critical Reading and Writing
She was touring Zoellner Arts Center when she spotted a large poster, draped by the entrance, that read, “Young, Gifted, and Black.” “I realized that this school took the time to highlight those of every background and race, and it hit me as a young black woman that my talents and interests would be nurtured and expanded, allowing me to grow into an even better version of myself,” she says.
She applied early decision two (ED2) … which was not an easy decision. Her parents told her not to worry about the money. “My family has been praying for a scholarship since I began the application process,” she says.
Since COVID-19, she has been taking her faith more seriously — where she stands and who she seeks to become. In that time, her faith has made her more confident. “I trust that God is making a way for me,” she says. “Never once did I think the blessing of being chosen for this esteemed program would be a part of it. I am beyond honored and overjoyed.”
On the pre-med track, she sees how frequently equity is lost in healthcare. She has had female friends with conditions that have gone undiagnosed or where symptoms are ignored or dismissed by medical professionals. She has peers from other cultures who are unable to discuss natural processes, like menstruation, because it is seen as taboo. “As a woman of color, I want my presence to help others who are often underrepresented in STEM fields,” she says. “I want to be a doctor who listens and understands differently and is part of changing medicine for future generations.”
McKenna Littleton ’27
Global Studies and Spanish
Her quest for adventure began in high school. She and her family were traveling from their hometown in Texas to Culver Academy in Indiana where her brother was recruited to play ice hockey. As soon as she stepped on campus to watch the game, Littleton knew she wanted to go there as well. While it took a bit of convincing, she soon was off (and her younger sister soon followed suit and became her roommate).
That questing continued when she spent a summer in a Spanish language immersion program in Oviedo, Spain. Her skills in travel and language are coming in handy as she entered Lehigh Launch, a place-based learning experience for first-semester first-year students. She is in Quito, Ecuador, living with a host family, speaking Spanish, eating cuy (guinea pig), and learning biology and anthropology through excursions to the Galapagos, Amazon, and villages around the capital city.
Classes: Environmental studies first-year seminar, anthropology, biology, and Spanish
She wanted a college that emphasized a global perspective. Lehigh did through the Launch program, United Nations partnership, and Iacocca Internship. Those opportunities paired well with the “academic flexibility” she wanted. “I want to learn, lead, and problem solve across disciplines,” she says.
She studied leadership theory as a senior in a high school seminar and focused on the topic for her honors thesis. As she formed her own leadership philosophy, she saw that most language was agentic, focusing on the agency of a strong and vocal leader. The traits all seemed very masculine. What seemed to be lacking were communal strengths — an ability to listen, nurture, and offer kindness.
“Adding more traits that are traditionally ascribed to women and shifting the inherent bias in leadership development matters to me,” she says. Her honors fair presentation to classmates struck a nerve as many young women approached her and wanted to take up the cause, infusing a broader range of leadership styles into existing systems and roles.
Jing Yan ’27
Jing entered Lehigh as a junior with 55 credits already, which gives them lots of ways to explore all that campus has to offer. Exploration has always been a priority in their life back in South Dakota. Their parents immigrated from China and wanted them to have a chance to pursue every opportunity. They play violin and piano, having taken lessons since elementary school. After years studying those instruments, they took up flute in middle school and then oboe in high school.
That talent in music was also displayed in language. Jing speaks Mandarin at home, attended a Spanish immersion elementary and middle school, and then studied French in high school. Opportunities at Lehigh are only amplifying their exploration. They are now playing piccolo in the marching band and violin in the orchestra. They also auditioned for and landed a role in a play where they’re learning bass guitar. They’re looking into trying out tools available in Wilbur Powerhouse as well as classes in Arabic and ASL.
Classes: Mechanics, Calculus II, Intro to Programming, and Intro to Sociology
They had some specific criteria when looking for a college. While many places checked the boxes, Lehigh stood out in part because of its anti-racism statement. “The language felt more active, like Lehigh actually wants to help,” they say. The IDEAS program was also a big hit. What they might study isn’t quite clear yet, but the possibilities are fun to explore.
Jing has always had a critical view of gender. To the point that they learned to not use the restroom at school. Not because they didn’t have to go, but because the gendered definitions and responses from peers made it less than accommodating.
“Many people have made rude comments to me when they think I’m a boy wearing a skirt or a girl with very short hair. I want to express myself without being judged or restrained by gender,” they say. “I’m nonbinary, and questioning my gender made me feel much more comfortable in how I express it. I highly recommend everyone to question your gender at least once in your lifetime.”
They are interested in intersectionality, exploring what it is like for themself, being a queer person of color, as well as how other marginalized identities affect people’s experiences of discrimination and what that means in the fight for gender equity. “It’s important that we work for equity for all people at the same time,” they say.
Amelie Fry ’27
She road-tripped with her father, leaving her hometown of Seattle, Washington, and driving across the country over the course of six days. She was raised in a split-party household, so the conversations and debates in the car matched the changing blue and red politics outside their windows. The journey also kept her 40 records and turntable safe. Now she can listen to the Riot Grrrl artists that capture the ethos of her own intersections of art, politics, feminism, and music. She has already registered to vote in Pennsylvania, recognizing the power of her life in a swing state while also getting involved in politics on campus and in the community.
Classes: Calculus II, Introduction to Chemistry, Drawing I, Introduction to Philosophy, and IDEAS seminar
She wanted something that President Joseph Helble calls “radically interdisciplinary.” She is passionate about science as well as the humanities and arts. “IDEAS is exactly what I wanted to do based on my interdisciplinary interests in bioengineering, sociology, political science, and visual arts,” she says. She previously combined those passions in an advanced placement art portfolio that featured paintings uniting people, genetics, and generational traumas experienced by immigrants.
As a little girl, she often argued with boys, sharing her opinions. Sometimes loudly. That passion to be heard focused on specific issues in high school so that students could have a voice in decision-making. Being a Soaring Together Scholar allows her to keep gender equity at the center of her life while also altering her life. “This honor allows me to focus on my academic prospects rather than the financial questions and concerns,” she says.
Kristina Cavaliere ’27
While growing up, she was determined to drive the 1981 Porsche that her father had parked in the garage. But it’s not the kind of car one uses to get practice at using a manual transmission. Not only did she learn to drive stick shift and chauffeur her boyfriend to prom in that classic car, but she also enrolled in Skip Barber Racing School and developed a deep passion for motorsports. Needless to say, her trip to South Mountain from her Long Island hometown was a fast one. “My father inspired me in so many ways — from driving to decision-making to my college major to use of dad jokes,” she says. Like him, investment banking is in her future … unless the track claims her skills full time.
Classes: Economics, Business, Calculus, Psychology, and Organizational Behavior
Setting aside the proximity to the Pocono Raceway, Lehigh became an obvious choice for her when she considered our reputation on Wall Street and the College of Business curriculum. She also liked the sense of community. “Lehigh Fest was very impressive and made me realize how personable the community is,” she says. “My admissions counselor recognized my name, remembered my application, and introduced me to the president and dean.” That says something, knowing that she applied to 22 schools.
She was the only driver at racing school who already knew how to drive stick — a requirement that the guys seemed less than honest about. As she waited for the boys and men to catch up to her, she hit the track. “I taught five other women back home how to drive manual,” she says. She also wasted no time getting an inside track on the Lehigh Racing team as it builds a Formula One car. “Never know when building a clutch will come in handy,” she says. Nothing is going to slow her roll. “1976. That was the last time a woman raced in a Formula One World Championship. I am going to change that.”
Isaac Huber ’27
Clouds! That was the first thing that he noticed as he navigated South Mountain from his perpetually sunny hometown of Albuquerque, New Mexico. Those sunny skies were the backdrop to most of his days outdoors as an Eagle Scout. For his project, he built a wheelchair-compliant walkway at a visitor’s center in a native marshland. Baking in the western sun was a soundtrack to his life. This piano player enjoys learning film scores and visits Zoellner almost daily to continue practicing, currently at work on the theme from the latest installment in the Batman franchise.
Classes: Calculus II, Introduction to Chemistry, English II, and First-Year Seminar
As a high school sophomore, he created a science fair project on purifying magnetite nanoparticles that got him invited to the International Science Fair. It helped that his father also works in nanotechnology. “I had to figure lots of things out, but when I got stuck, I could ask him questions,” he says. His exposure at the fair led colleges to reach out to him, including Lehigh. Since he has family in the area, he toured campus while visiting Pennsylvania and liked the idea of hiking up the steps.
As an Eagle Scout, he was occasionally asked to speak to donors. He took a stance at one such engagement when asked if girls should join Boy Scouts. “I had watched my sister’s reactions when she couldn’t go on our monthly campouts, so when the rule changed, she signed right up,” he says. He knew how much scouts benefited him and wanted his sister to experience the same character-building. So he spoke in favor of the new rule allowing girls to join Boy Scouts and was pleased to help change a few minds. “I now understand what she faced. I am one of two men in the cohort of Soaring Together Scholars,” he says. “I see the power of putting yourself in uncomfortable situations in order to grow and help others grow.”