Our 2019 Fellows

The Karel Fellowship has been around since 2012. There have been six classes of Fellows so far, and we’re so excited to welcome our seventh class of Fellows this summer.

Naomi Cruz is a first-generation student at the University of Florida studying public relations. Growing up in Miami, Naomi remembers being enraged by all the inequalities that plagued the city, particularly the vicious cycle of poverty. Through her studies she came to realize that higher education and nutrition were essential to breaking this cycle and wanted to play a part in doing so. Last summer, she interned at the Smithsonian Latino Center, mentoring high school seniors who were preparing to transition to college. This summer she will be interning at the National Wildlife Federation, a nonprofit whose mission is to unite Americans from all walks of life in giving wildlife a voice. 


Key Estime is a Jack Kent Cooke Scholar studying anthropology at Mount Holyoke College. As a first-generation, low-income, queer student of color, Key is deeply committed to building youth leadership and intergenerational collaboration. They are a youth leader at the Railroad Street Youth Project (RSYP), a program that helps youth transition into adulthood. As a youth leader, Key is responsible for mentoring 10 students. They’ve also helped plan, and participated in, panels, designed a new curriculum around empowerment and started a scholarship program to help high school students attend college. This summer Key will be interning at Martha’s Table, a nonprofit that supports children, families and communities by increasing access to quality education programs, healthy food and family supports.


Maryam Iftikhar is an honors student at Montgomery College studying social sciences. She was born in Pakistan but moved to the U.S. when she was one year old. As an immigrant and citizen, Maryam has developed a well-rounded perspective on various social issues including gender equality, climate change and educational reform. Last Fall, she worked with students in Jordan on a sustainability project that sought to tackle challenges facing the global tourism industry. Maryam collaborated with a multi-disciplined research team, pulling insights from hospitality, economics, international relations and computer science, to develop a comprehensive solution to the assigned problem. Maryam is also the president of her school’s Model UN Club. This summer she will be interning at Families USA, a leading nonprofit and national voice for health care consumers that is dedicated to the achievement of high-quality, affordable health care and improved health for all.


Camryn Jackson is a Jack Kent Cooke Scholar studying journalism and sociology at Mercer University. As a contributing writer and reporter for her school’s TV station, Camryn has developed a strong interest in storytelling. She is captivated by the stories of civil and human rights defenders and hopes to one day tell those stories as a documentary journalist. Camryn is also a mentor to high school girls, facilitating tough conversations around sexual assault and harassment and offering advice about how to navigate college as a woman of color. This summer she will be interning at Mary’s Center, a nonprofit that provides medical, social and education services to families in the greater Washington D.C. area.


Cindy Jara is a first-generation student at the University of Florida (UF) studying public relations and criminology. During her time at UF, she has become a known advocate for first-generation, low-income students on her campus and in the Greater Gainesville community. She is currently a student assistant for the Machen Florida Opportunity Scholars Program. When she was hired, Cindy took it upon herself to revamp the program’s social media strategy and has been managing and growing the accounts ever since. She also oversees the mentor program and speaks frequently at events about the challenges that first-gen students like her face. This summer Cindy will be interning at the Children’s Defense Fund, an organization that is dedicated to making sure every child gets what they need to thrive and reach their full potential. 


Taina Perez is a rising senior at Franklin & Marshall College majoring in Environmental Studies with a minor in Latin American studies. Born and raised in the Bronx, Taina recalls growing up around waste sites. Her experiences motivated her to seek environmental justice for her community and indigenous people. Last summer, she interned at Arca de Amor, a nonprofit in Colombia that focuses on providing medical, educational and legal services to endangered indigenous communities. During her internship, she researched the impact that NGOs have on indigenous peoples and helped create content for the organization’s social media platforms. This summer Taina will be interning at The Communications Network, a professional network of foundation and nonprofit leaders who share ideas, evidence, and lessons about how smart communications improves lives.


Patricia Sanchez-Ramirez is a Jack Kent Cooke Scholar studying sociology at Lenoir-Rhyne University. She is a DACA recipient and is committed to helping immigrant students like her get access to the financial support they need to pursue their academic dreams. As a student ambassador, Patricia proposed that her school offer interpreters to prospective Hispanic students and families during their financial aid appointments. She also advocated for Spanish campus tours, both of which are now offered. Through her advocacy efforts, Patricia was able to influence policy change in her school and hopes to one day influence policy change in our country. This summer she will be interning at Living Cities, a philanthropic collaborative of 22 of the world’s largest foundations and financial institutions working to improve the economic well-being of low-income people in cities.


Paige Swanson is a rising senior at Yale University, majoring in Political Science. She is also a Cooke Scholar. Being a first-generation student from a low-income family at an Ivy League school has pushed Paige into unfamiliar spaces and, at the same time, empowered her to become an advocate for disadvantages communities. One of the issues that’s top of mind for Paige is voting rights. For the past two years, she has interned for political campaigns, organizing phone banks and fundraisers, and recruiting volunteers to canvass neighborhoods. By giving people access to the information and resources they need, Paige hopes to empower disadvantaged people to advocate for themselves. This summer she will be interning at Spitfire Strategiesa public relations firm that helps nonprofits and foundations make positive change happen.