Jackie’s achievements at one of New York’s most selective and demanding high schools are outstanding. His transcript is thick with honors and AP courses, he captains the tennis team and is the secretary of the student government.

His accomplishments might have been hard to predict. “I attended middle school in silence,” he recalled. Conversations about video games with friends gave him more confidence. But the big change came in the summer after eighth grade, when he attended a program in Montreal that exposed him to the work of the Nobel Prize winning economist Muhammad Yunus. “I fell in love with the language of impact and change,” Jackie wrote. “The hands of trepidation lost their grip on me. I opened my mouth with confidence and spoke my passion.” 

Elected to student government in high school, he articulated the concerns of his peers to the administration and sometimes higher. “Joining the committees to represent my school in our endeavors,” he wrote, “I stand my ground against the officials of the New York City Department of Education. I now raise my voice as a leader of change for my family, my school, and my community.”

Outside of school, he has learned much from volunteering with La Jornada, a nonprofit organization that promotes awareness of Hispanic heritage and feeds hungry workers. Its motto is “Serve. Compassion. Empower.” A weightlifter and swimmer, he has found that “Friends and a swimming pool are the most helpful academic, social, and emotional support to me.”

Jackie continues to be inspired by the ideas of Muhammad Yunis and other economists who work to alleviate poverty and inequality. “Business and economics,” Jackie wrote, “are the language of change and the key to addressing social issues.” Following that path, he plans to study business, economics, and finance in college.

The teacher/mentor that has made the greatest difference in my life is Ms. Zhao (Chinese teacher). Whether I was waving at Ms. Zhao when walking past her down the hallway or writing notes in her class, Ms. Zhao was more than just a teacher for me. Ms. Zhao was someone who I trusted, someone who I vented about my problems, and someone who I was eager to talk to everyday.