Last year, Anushka Patel ’20 was a world champion; now she’s one of 487 students in Kenyon’s Class of 2020.
Patel, of Mercer Island, Washington, was a member of Seattle-based Hot Dog USA, which brought home the team title in the 2015 World Jump Rope Championships in Paris. Patel and her six teammates spent nearly a year working on their three-and-a-half minute routine entered in the team freestyle category.
“It was a lot of hard work, but it really paid off,” said Patel, who began competitive jump-roping in the fourth grade. “We cried happy tears; we were all really excited after we won.”
Patel expects to “retire” from competitive jump-roping to focus on academics at Kenyon. “It’s a new phase in my life,” she said. Patel came to Kenyon to major in English but wants to pursue a double major.
Jump-roping taught her time management, teamwork, confidence, commitment and organization that will carry over to school work, she said. And other students might find her in the Kenyon Athletic Center skipping rope to stay fit. “I may try it, just to see if I can still jump,” she said.
Each member of the Class of 2020 arrives at Kenyon with his or her own unique story. Below, a representative sample of just a few of these stories.
Selam Michael Bezuneh, Research Scholar
Selam Michael Bezuneh ’20 comes to Kenyon with experience at one of America’s most prestigious research universities.
As a high school student in Potomac, Maryland, Bezuneh spent a semester in the Molecular Biology and Genomics Research program at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.
Her task was to submit a genomic analysis of the aquatic plant duckweed and compare its DNA sequence to other plant species. Hopkins published her findings online. “This was my first experience with research,” Bezuneh said. “It taught me self-discipline and time management.”
Bezuneh considered Kenyon on advice from her high school counselor. “I never thought about a liberal arts education before that, but when I visited the campus it just felt right,” she said.
Bezuneh has not yet declared a major, but is considering anthropology. “My parents wanted me to go into the medical field, but the pressure of caring for others didn’t appeal to me, so I started looking at related fields,” she said.
Jordan Horowitz, Champion Fundraiser
For the past 10 years, Jordan Horowitz ’20 has been the top student fundraiser for the March of Dimes’ March of Babies. She has raised more than $500,000 to fight premature birth, the top killer of babies in the United States.
Horowitz started walking in the event with her father at age seven because “I was a premature baby,” she said. “I weighed one pound and four ounces at birth and spent four months in the NICU [Neonatal Intensive Care Unit]. The best part of my story is that I am 100 percent OK. Not everyone is as lucky.”
She raised most of her money from pledges for her participation in the walk. Her donor list swelled to more than 300 people, each receiving a handwritten thank-you note. “I always heard that was my biggest selling point,” she said.
The Los Angeles native, whose major remains undeclared, has fallen in love with Kenyon’s small-town, rural atmosphere. “The on-campus community is really comforting. I know I’ll never get a chance to live somewhere like this again.”
Max van Woensel, Youth Volunteer
Before arriving at Kenyon, Max van Woensel ’20 spent a gap year at Mattahunt Elementary School in the diverse Boston neighborhood of Mattapan, where African-Americans, Caribbean Americans and Haitians make up a majority of the population.
As a City Year corps member, van Woensel, of the Netherlands, worked with students to improve behavior, attendance, academic and social skills, and goal-setting.
The students persevered, despite backgrounds of poverty, violence and segregation.
“My experience was as beautiful as it was horrendous,” he said. “These children had so much on their plates that their circumstances would be nightmares for most middle-class white people, but therein was the beauty of my service: I got to experience the resilience of the human spirit. It is what got me out of bed at 5 a.m., made me stay in school 10-13 hours a day and complete 1,700 hours of service.”
Van Woensel expects to major in history and said he chose Kenyon because “it will give me the tools I need to pursue a career in education reform.”
Harper Beeland, Creative Scientist
Creative problem-solving competition Destination Imagination is billed as the world’s “largest celebration of student creativity.” Harper Beeland ’20 would know. For six consecutive years, Beeland and his teammates from Hamilton County Schools in Tennessee advanced past regional and state competitions to qualify for the global finals in Knoxville.
Beeland, who most recently entered the science category, helped develop a skit involving an extraterrestrial invasion of peaches, among other dramatizations, to demonstrate the role camouflage plays in nature.
Destination Imagination prepared Beeland, who is interested in pursuing English and environmental studies at Kenyon, for academic success. “It taught me how to analyze different problems from a variety of perspectives and that the arts and sciences are not as separate as they may seem,” he said.
Caroline Cohen, Aspiring Teacher
With a wealth of teaching experience already behind her, it’s no surprise that Caroline Cohen ’20 eyes a career in education. “That’s my dream,” said Cohen, who is already volunteering at East Knox Elementary School.
A native of Cincinnati’s Seven Hills, a northern suburb, Cohen spent her high school years teaching young dancers at the Le Jeune Dance Academy. She also founded a weeklong summer camp for girls ages 6 through 10, which had a four-year run on her parents’ property.
Camp Fun in the Sun included a half-day of arts and crafts projects, sports, water games and scavenger hunts at $50 per child. “Most of the kids were from the neighborhood or families we knew,” Cohen said. “I didn’t think I would stick with it, but it turned out to be a lot of fun. We started with seven girls and had 26 by the fourth year.”
She danced eight years with the Le Jeune Dance Academy, including summer training with the Boston Ballet and The Washington Ballet in D.C. “Dance was my passion for a long time, but I got a little worn out after high school. It was nice to get a summer break, but I know I’ll want to go back to it, either by taking classes here or joining some performance ensembles.”