Ehteshamul arrived in New York with his parents and two sisters two years ago from Bangladesh, the culmination of a dozen years of planning and saving. They were welcomed by Ehteshamul’s uncle, who was to help smooth their transition. A few weeks later his uncle passed away, and their small amount of savings was quickly disappearing. Ehteshamul found a job working at a subway station café from 8:00 P.M. 3:00 A.M. Extra shifts on weekends, holidays and school vacations helped. He later found a high school with a mission to work with older students who are learning English. One of his teachers called Ehteshamul’s record at the school “amazing.” After his first semester he skipped sophomore year. Ranking 4th in a class of 96, he has outstanding grades in math and science. He has taken courses at a nearby college and has won internships. One of them brought him to Columbia as a research intern at the university’s Engineering the Next Generation program, which included advanced math and statistics. “I have the ability to sustain myself through periods of hardship,” he wrote in his essay, and he has learned “to remain strong and resilient” in such situations, “knowing that all problems have solutions, with family remaining at the center of my life.” His goal is to become an engineer. 

Ehteshamul selected his guidance counselor, Jackie Pena, as his Teacher Who Makes a Difference, writing that whenever he visited her office, he “left feeling so hopeful about everything.” He wanted to thank her, he wrote, for “encouraging me to always dream big.”

Many thanks to Perry Pazer for sponsoring Ehteshamul through his college journey.