Youssef (International Relations)

In a class of 939 at Fort Hamilton High School in Brooklyn, Youssef stands seventh, with a GPA of 99.87 in an honors program that requires all honors and AP classes in junior year. That remarkable achievement is only part of what makes him stand out. “Youssef,” his college counselor wrote, “has always been determined to bring people together, to effect change and to be a voice for others.” He was the first male cheerleader in his school, persisting through taunts and worse. “I influenced people by example,” his essay said, “and I became a leader in my school for young men who feel outside the gender-based boxes.” One other young man has joined him on the cheerleading squad, and three more are trying out. Beyond school, he is active in the PERIOD organization, which advocates for menstrual products as a human right. He is the only male in the New York City chapter. Youssef’s family, headed by his widowed mother, has struggled with financial and medical issues. His older brother, who has cerebral palsy, needs constant care. His older sister has returned home from college to give that care, saying that if only one of them gets an education, it should be Youssef. “I need to empower myself,” he wrote, “with what I do to empower others.”