Wentcher Scholars Class of 2020

IGNITING UNLIMITED IMPACT

Wentcher Scholars impact the world on local, national and international levels - they are researchers at the nation’s highest educational institutions and teachers who serve in elementary classrooms around Chicago

There are over 600 Wentcher scholar alumni who have graduated to date. Meet several of these leaders below.

From Fulbright recipients to forward-thinking doctors, engineers, entrepreneurs, and business professionals, Wentcher Scholars are formidable leaders in their communities. Our Wentcher scholars also include artists, writers, Emmy winners, pastors, doctors, engineers, and EMTs.

Toccara Castleman

Wentcher Alumni

Curie Metropolitan High School, 2002

B.A., Media Studies, University of Illinois Urbana- Champaign, 2006

 

Toccara is currently Director of Digital Strategy at the Goodman Theatre.

A member of the very first class of Wentcher Scholars, Toccara Castleman has always been drawn to performance. She began performing in elementary school and continued to perform throughout high school. After finishing college, she moved to New York where she began to write her own plays. Toccara has had many successes throughout her career including winning an Emmy for her work on the USA Network television series Mr. Robot. When asked about her experiences Toccara says that she is extremely grateful to the foundation. “Being a Wentcher Scholar made college accessible to me in a wonderfully supportive way. Because of the scholarship I received I did not have to take out any student loans.”  This was a significant help because it placed her at a financial advantage when pursuing her post graduation dreams. In the future, Toccara hopes to premier her play in Chicago. She also hopes to continue working in the theater community. In her role at the historic Goodman Theatre Toccara has created, managed, and produced a comprehensive strategy for the Goodman’s Social Media platform that has increased sales, membership, and engagement. She explained to us that it has been a honor to work for such a pillar in the theater community. You can learn more about Toccara’s story on the Wentcher Blog here.

Maryam Hanif

Wentcher Alumni

Lincoln Park High School, 2005

B.S., Bioengineering, University of Illinois Chicago, 2009 

M.S., Bioengineering, University of Illinois Chicago, 2012

 

Maryam is currently a Staff Sustaining Engineer for a Silicon Valley startup called Talis Biomedical. 

“It was my dream to be an Engineer since 6th grade.” One of the biggest blessings of receiving a Wentcher Scholarship in 2005, Maryam says, was being able to achieve that dream without the constant worry of paying off loans. “I have been able to pursue opportunities that I may not have otherwise.” Born in the UAE to Pakistani parents who moved to the U.S. when she was thirteen, Maryam attended Lincoln Park High School in Chicago and completed a Bachelors and Masters in Bioengineering at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Maryam recalls, “I was a member of one of the earliest classes to receive the Wentcher scholarship, and recall meeting Ernie Wentcher at his apartment prior to being interviewed. As a daughter of immigrant parents, my interview ended up becoming a family affair. My dad and Ernie chatted about their travels and shared their life stories, while I sat there semi-embarrassed, and quite nervous. Ernie took the time to talk to me and the other candidates and eased our nerves before our interviews. Looking back, I imagine the scene much as a grandfather sharing stories from his youth with his grandkids. As a result of my own experiences, I am eager to give back to society. For the past decade I have been a mentor for women in science and engineering fields.” You can read more about Maryam’s journey on the Wentcher Blog here.

Palak Desai, MD

Wentcher Alumni

Lane Technical High School, 2002

B.S., Biology, University of Chicago, 2006

M.D., Hematology and Oncology, Rush University, 2010

 

Palak is currently the Director of the AMITA Saints Mary and Elizabeth Medical Center Cancer Institute.

Dr. Palak Desai graduated from Lane Technical High school in 2002, and became a Wentcher Scholar before earning his Bachelors of Science from the University of Chicago. A member of the first class of Wentcher Scholars, Palak describes the Wentcher Foundation as “big investment in his future that is still paying dividends today.”  Growing up on the north side of Chicago, UChicago was always a dream for him. When he applied Early Decision and received admission he was excited, but the price tag was a bit of a burden. Palak says that the Wentcher Foundation took a lot of stress off of him financially. He continued to express gratitude stating that the Wentcher scholarship allowed him to make the most of his UChicago experience and take advantage of all that the campus had to offer. As a Hematologist and Oncologist, Palak is usually the first physician a patient sees once they receive a cancer diagnosis. He treats every type of cancer that adults develop and benign hematology conditions at both the clinic and hospital. Since the pandemic started, Palak has seen a lot of COVID patients. Palak treats these COVID patients with anticoagulants. Learn more about Palak’s story on the Wentcher Blog here.

Sejahari Saulter-Villegas

Wentcher Alumni

Kenwood Academy High School, 2017

B.F.A., Drama, New York University, 2021

 

Sejahari is currently a model, owner of his own fashion line, and a Marshall Scholar pursuing two Master’s Degree in London.

A native of West Humboldt Park and also Kenwood Academy alum, Sejahari has used his Chicago upbringing to inspire his artistic journey at NYU. Sejahari has written, acted in, directed plays during his time at NYU. His latest work titled Pretty Boy, served as his thesis project which answered questions about perfectionism in Black people and the sensationalism of Black death. Post-graduation, Sejahari is slated to move to London where he is pursuing two Master’s Degrees as a Marshall Scholar. As a first year he is studying Black Humanities at the University of Bristol, and in his second year he plans on pursuing filmmaking. In addition to his educational pursuits, Sejahari will continue his work in the fashion industry. He has modeled at New York Fashion Week, and been featured by brands like Steve Madden, and been featured in magazines like The Fader. Additionally, he will continue working on his own clothing line God of Gold, inspired by his daughter Zanairo. You can learn more about Sejahari’s work on the Wentcher Blog here.

No matter the undergraduate major or the pathway they decide to take after college, the Wencher community is here to support them.

MEET OUR RECENT ALUMNI

First NameLast NameHSCollege
JubrilAdeagboSouth Shore International College Prep HSEmory University
AlejandroAguilarPerspectives – JoslinNorthwestern University
EstherAjayiChicago Math and Science AcademyUniversity of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
MiguelAponteGeorge Washington HSNorthwestern University
VictorBecerrilLane Technical College Prep HSUniversity of Washington-Seattle Campus
TrevonBosleyGwendolyn Brooks College Prep AcademySouthern Illinois University-Edwardsville
GuillermoCamarilloGeorge Westinghouse College PrepStanford University
MariaDe LeonVon Steuben Metropolitan Science CenterHarvard University
VictoriaDeLiraLane Technical College Prep HSNorthwestern University
SamuelDetmerWalter Payton College PrepHarvard University
JonathanDiazProsser Career AcademyUniversity of Illinois at Chicago
AnnaEspinozaSocial Justice HSRoosevelt University
CynthiaEstrada-Diaz de LeonLindblom Math & Science AcademyUniversity of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
MuznaFatimaSenn HSDenison University
MatteoGeattiGeorge Westinghouse College PrepUniversity of Pennsylvania
KennedyGravesLindblom Math & Science AcademyCornell University
GregoryGarveyLindblom Math & Science AcademyVanderbilt University
JessicaHannsberryKing College PrepSpelman College
GregoryHarrisNoble – Gary ComerBrown University
NiaHarrisWhitney Young Magnet HSNew York University
KaylenHerringLindblom Math & Science AcademyHoward University
AmandaHoyneWhitney Young Magnet HSNew York University
DavidJeffriesMather HSMorehouse College
TommyJohnsonChicago Tech AcademyUniversity of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
TakylaJonesKing College PrepSpelman College
CarrianaJulianoNoble – Noble StreetUniversity of Wisconsin-Madison
LinaKappNorthside College Prep HSYale University
LeahKingLincoln Park HSUniversity of Southern California
CharlesKayWhitney Young Magnet HSVanderbilt University
JustinLamWhitney Young Magnet HSUniversity of Southern California
KevinLeeNorthside College Prep HSNorthwestern University
JerryLimonPhoenix Military AcademyUniversity of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
AlexMacedoHubbard HSNorthwestern University
AnthonyMartinezChicago Academy HSUniversity of Michigan-Ann Arbor
SusanaMartinezChicago Academy HSDePaul University
VeronicaMatsukTaft HSUniversity of Wisconsin-Madison
IdaMaungNoble – MuchinColorado College
MichaelMillsWhitney Young Magnet HSBrown University
AlbertoMontesLane Technical College Prep HSUniversity of Illinois at Chicago
DevinMontgomeryLindblom Math & Science AcademyDartmouth College
KhylaMorganOrr Academy HSAgnes Scott College
VanessaOcampoSolorio Academy HSDenison University
MichaelO’SullivanWalter Payton College PrepPomona College
EsterPerezLincoln Park HSRose-Hulman Institute of Technology
JanaeiPhillipsJones College Prep HSLoyola University Chicago
MadelinePooleChicago HS for Agricultural SciencesUniversity of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
SulaimanRajiPhillips Academy HSIllinois Institute of Technology
LeonardoRiveraLane Technical College Prep HSNorthwestern University
TajaRobertsonKenwood AcademyUniversity of Illinois at Chicago
JocelynRodriguezBogan HSKnox College
KyleDeLeonClemente Community AcademyUniversity of Illinois at Chicago
JordiRosadoInfinity Math Science & Technology HSDePaul University
ZacharySebekWhitney Young Magnet HSTufts University
AdelinaSociteRickover Naval AcademyUniversity of Illinois at Chicago
OumarSoumareKing College PrepUniversity of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
SobiaSultanaNorthside College Prep HSIllinois Institute of Technology
AmyTanWhitney Young Magnet HSHarvard University
ChristopherWilsonVon Steuben Metropolitan Science CenterUniversity of Wisconsin-Madison
NovaXuWalter Payton College PrepMassachusetts Institute of Technology
JenniferZhuoWhitney Young Magnet HSUniversity of Chicago
OliviaChudziaszekMaine South HSOakton Community College
MichaelDe La RosaMaine West HSOakton Community College
TiannaHenryEvanston Township HSOakton Community College
ThomasJeskeMaine South HSOakton Community College
NedaVasevskiNorthrop HSOakton Community College
RomeoAbreganaMaine Township HS EastOakton Community College, University of Illinois at Chicago
Sheryl LheiCabadingNiles West HSOakton Community College, University of Illinois at Chicago
SpencerKabatHomeschoolOakton Community College, Purdue University
GeorgeLucaciuMaine Township HS EastOakton Community College, University of Illinois at Chicago
MargaretStangelThe Willows AcademyOakton Community College, Carroll University
JohnYenter-BriarsHomeschoolOakton Community College, DePaul University

First NameLast NameHSCollege
ReganAllenKenwood AcademyUniversity of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
MaribelAlvarezBogan HSCity Colleges of Chicago – Richard J. Daley College
StephanyBacaSenn HSLake Forest College
ChristianBadilloLane Technical College Prep HSStanford University
LizbethBautistaLake View HSDenison University
CierraBrewerJones College Prep HSUniversity of Wisconsin-Madison
EriannaBurrelPhillips Academy HSUniversity of Iowa
DontaeBurtonDouglass Academy HSSouthern Illinois University-Carbondale
JoseCervantesLincoln Park HSEmory University
JessicaCriolloLake View HSLoyola University Chicago
KimberlyCrowNorthside College Prep HSUniversity of Wisconsin-Madison
MatthewDeckertRoosevelt HSUniversity of Illinois at Chicago
VeraDemchenkoLane Technical College Prep HSUniversity of Colorado Boulder
WeiminDengGeorge Westinghouse College PrepUniversity of Southern California
MayraDiazPhoenix Military AcademyLake Forest College
FedericoFloresChicago Academy HSDominican University
QuintonGoinsGwendolyn Brooks College Prep AcademyDePaul University
AminaHadzicAmundsen HSDePaul University
MalikHamiltonLane Technical College Prep HSKnox College
FranciscoHerreraProsser Career AcademyIllinois Institute of Technology
JoanneHuangJones College Prep HSNorthwestern University
RaquelJenkinsHyde Park Academy HSUniversity of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
DanielJohnsonLindblom Math & Science AcademyUniversity of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
JustynaKubekChicago Academy HSLake Forest College
JuliaKulhawikVon Steuben Metropolitan Science CenterMichigan State University
CarlosLeonCarl Schurz HSCity Colleges of Chicago-Wilbur Wright College
MiguelMendozaLincoln Park HSUniversity of Michigan-Ann Arbor
AlexisMurilloChicago HS for Agricultural SciencesUniversity of Minnesota-Twin Cities
AkporesiriOmenePerspectives – IIT Math & ScienceIllinois Institute of Technology
AlexisPerezTaft HSUniversity of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
NicholasRamosLane Technical College Prep HSEastern Illinois University
SarahSanchezWhitney Young Magnet HSUniversity of Illinois at Chicago
GiovanniSantiagoNorthside College Prep HSBrown University
YarimarSergesLake View HSUniversity of Illinois at Chicago
HamnaSiddiquiSenn HSDenison University
NiambiSmithClemente Community AcademyHoward University
CrystalStonewallChicago HS for Agricultural SciencesUniversity of Wisconsin-Madison
ThomasSzeremetaLincoln Park HSUniversity of Denver
MelissaTaingLane Technical College Prep HSColorado College
RobertTichyWhitney Young Magnet HSArizona State University-Tempe
ThuVoMather HSDenison University
ChristopherWashingtonNoble – UICSouthern Methodist University
ThomasKrupaSt. Patrick HSOakton Community College
JohnMcHughSt. Patrick HSOakton Community College
CesarSoriaMaine West HSOakton Community College
KristineAglikinMaine South HSOakton Community College, University of Illinois at Chicago
AllisonBayroMaine West HSOakton Community College, University of Illinois at Chicago
JessicaChepurdaGlenbrook South HSOakton Community College, University of Illinois at Chicago
KevinKowalskiMaine South HSOakton Community College, University of Illinois at Chicago
JosephPinedaGlenbrook South HSOakton Community College, University of Wisconsin-Madison
DonaldShipmanNiles North HSOakton Community College, DePaul University

First NameLast NameHSCollege
TrinityAdamselKing College PrepUniversity of Missouri-Columbia
TroyBoccelliWalter Payton College PrepHarvard University
JaedaBranchMorgan Park HSUniversity of Chicago
LissettCamargoPhoenix Military AcademyConnecticut College
MichaelEstradaGeorge Washington HSCity Colleges of Chicago-Harold Washington College
AshleyGordonDeVry University Advantage AcademyUniversity of Illinois at Chicago
MichelleGuzmanSolorio Academy HSSouthern Illinois University-Carbondale
DavitKsorVon Steuben Metropolitan Science CenterUniversity of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
FrankLawrenceKing College PrepMorehouse College
AraceliLlamasThomas Kelly HSDePaul University
DaleLordLane Technical College Prep HSVassar College
SarahMartinNorthside College Prep HSUniversity of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
OloladeOlawaleLindblom Math & Science AcademyCornell University
BreanaSampleKing College PrepAmerican InterContinental University-Atlanta
AdalbertoSotoSolorio Academy HSTrinity College
DanyaSpringerUrban Prep – BronzevilleSaint Xavier University
MarquisWatsonHyde Park Academy HSUS Military Academy – West Point
KathrynChristopherNiles North HSOakton Community College
JessicaDirkisNiles West HSOakton Community College
AlexandraGruezoNiles West HSOakton Community College
CatherineCangelosiMaine South HSOakton Community College, Northern Illinois University
DiannaFuleaNiles West HSOakton Community College, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
BrandonKabatHomeschoolOakton Community College, Elmhurst College
OliviaKisielewskiNiles West HSOakton Community College, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
SimoneMontgomeryNew Trier Township HSOakton Community College, University of California-Los Angeles
JamesPayneMaine West HSOakton Community College, Kendall College
StephanieWardaNiles North HSOakton Community College, Northeastern Illinois University

First NameLast NameHSCollege
YaneliArizmendiNoble – PritzkerUniversity of Pennsylvania
AnaArtiagaCurie Metropolitan HSUniversity of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
JamesBenderGwendolyn Brooks College Prep AcademyUniversity of Missouri-Columbia
AnthonyBermeoNorthside College Prep HSUniversity of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
HeiChanWhitney Young Magnet HSUniversity of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
BenjaminFromanWhitney Young Magnet HSTulane University of Louisiana
FranciscoGarcia- SalasCurie Metropolitan HSUniversity of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
ShshankKarnSenn HSMiddlebury College
Soo BinKimLane Technical College Prep HSUniversity of Illinois at Chicago
RocioMezaSocial Justice HSColumbia University in the City of New York
EvelinaMitorajChicago Academy HSRoosevelt University
SamuelPedersenTaft HSLake Forest College
HaarisPervaizNorthside College Prep HSNorthwestern University
PatricePirpirisTaft HSLoyola University Chicago
DeJaujhnThompsonNoble – Noble StreetMillikin University
JosalynSaezHyde Park Academy HSConnecticut College
LachlanChenNiles North HSOakton Community College
FrancescaFragaleMaine West HSOakton Community College
DenniseKellyMaine West HSOakton Community College
FionaPrietoNiles West HSOakton Community College
SarahScheauMaine West HSOakton Community College
JamesAglikinMaine South HSOakton Community College, DePaul University
JohnathanBendewaldGlenbrook North HSOakton Community College, Cornell College
ZainabKhanNiles North HSOakton Community College, Vanderbilt University
KatherineSzczepanskiMaine Township HSOakton Community College, Elmhurst College
CodySlivkaGlenbrook South HSOakton Community College, University of Wisconsin-Platteville
LaurenSkolakMaine South HSOakton Community College, University of Wisconsin-White Water

Get Involved

Our current Wentcher Scholars thrive with your support and connection.

There are opportunities to engage with current Wentcher Scholars through our summer Internship Initiative, plus a new Mentorship program in late 2021.