2014 Kenneth Cole Fellows


Benjamin Kornick is a sophomore at Columbia College, studying political science, sociology and business. Originally from Roslyn, New York, community service has been an integral part of his life. As a volunteer for Special Olympics, he learned early on the importance of helping make the world a better place. He then spent much of his high school years pursuing his interest in public policy, law and government as an active member of the Nassau County Executive Youth Council, a group of high school students who act as a think-tank and resource for lawmakers, and the Nassau County Youth Safety Coalition Task Force, a group of professional organizations dedicated to keeping teenagers safe from destructive decision-making. Following a summer internship at the Nassau County District Attorney's Office, he landed a position as a program administrator at the Nassau County Youth Court, an alternative court system for first-time, low-level, juvenile offenders. In this role, he advised defendants, mediated jury deliberations, and created alternative pro-social punishments. He looks forward to continuing in this fashion as part of the Kenneth Cole Community Engagement Fellowship Program.


Beulah Agbabiaka is a junior in Columbia College majoring in African-American Studies and Jazz Studies on the Pre-Law track. Being raised in a family of educators in Richmond, California ignited a passion for education and the correlation between mass-incarceration and other forms of systematic oppression and the access to education in communities of color. As a jazz musician and someone who directly benefitted from music in schools, Beulah is also specifically interested in the access to arts education for all students, and how the arts can be used to aid other academic disciplines. Beulah is wants to pursue a JD/MPP to inform her community work and political activism with a legal perspective that will enable her to most effectively challenge the laws that function as barriers to success for marginalized populations.  Beulah is looking forward to enhancing her knowledge in community activism and community building, and her knowledge of the non-profit sector as a Kenneth Cole Fellow in order to supplement her first-hand experience in grassroots community organizing in anti-mass incarceration.


Bill Nguyen is a person of few words and many appetites—a product of growing up in the ever-placid San Jose, California. As a sophomore in Columbia College, Bill is pursuing a course of study that mixes human rights, math, and linguistics. Some call it ambitious; he calls it indecisive. Thankfully, however, he does have some idea of where his life is going. He wants to become a public defender by day and a writer by night, and ultimately hopes to give back to the community that has propelled him to where he stands today. Thus, he works with organizations like Columbia Community Outreach and the Quest Scholars Network on campus, and he has even interned at Eden Housing, a low-income housing company. The blessings that Bill has received from his community—a place to call home, a full scholarship to attend college—he will no doubt repay in kind.


Ellie Kirk is a sophomore at Columbia College, pursuing a major in Neuroscience and Behavior, with a concentration is Sociocultural Anthropology. Ellie comes from a family of musicians, and plays harp in the Columbia University Orchestra, chamber ensembles on campus, the Varsity Show pit orchestra, and various musical theater pit orchestras. Her love of music fueled a passion for the arts in general and for arts advocacy. This past summer, Ellie interned at the Southwestern Association of Indian Arts to bring Native arts to the world in a spectacular celebration of all forms of visual and performing arts, and increase outreach to native youth in the Santa Fe area. Ellie is involved with multiple education-related organizations to teach conflict resolution in public elementary schools in Harlem, tutor students one-on-one, and bring engaging science curriculum to third graders. As part of the Kenneth Cole Community Engagement Program, she hopes to continue her work with nonprofit organizations and engage meaningful change in the New York community.


Fabiola Urdaneta is a sophomore in Columbia College majoring in Philosophy. She is originally from Caracas, Venezuela but grew up in Miami, Florida for most of her life. While in high school, Fabiola developed a passion for public speaking and debate. She joined Breakthrough Miami, a non-profit organization dedicated to teaching inner-city kids, where she taught a debate class to 5th and 6th graders. Now at Columbia, she has worked closely with Generation Citizen, a non-profit focused on civic engagement and youth activism. As a Kenneth Cole Fellow she hopes to broaden her understanding of community development and learn more about local New York City communities. Her hope is to take the skills she learns from these different endeavors to a legal career in the public sector.


Gabrielle DaCosta is a junior Anthropology major at Columbia College interested in discerning the utility of Marxist theory in assessing and resolving modern social and economic inequality. Through her work with the Kenneth Cole Community Engagement program, she hopes to ground theory in praxis, learning how exactly movements coalesce, how communities cohere, and what role distinct, yet interrelated social groups can or should play in the generation of revolutionary social, political, and economic transformation.


Heather Akumiah is sophomore in Columbia College majoring in Sociology and Creative Writing. Before coming to Columbia, Heather was involved in a broad range of community service and volunteer projects at her high school in Alpharetta, Georgia. Since she's been on campus, Heather has worked for Community Impact, specifically helping to coordinate the AM GED Prep program. She is also a Senior Staff writer for Bwog.com and a Staff Editor at Quarto. Heather looks forward to strengthening and building local communities through her work with the Kenneth Cole program.


Kate Joo Hyun Lee is a junior in Columbia College double-majoring in East Asian Languages and Cultures and English and Comparative Literature. Originally from Seoul, Kate followed her parents to Indonesia where she attended an international school. Because of her upbringing, Kate speaks Korean, English, Mandarin, and Indonesian, and has worked in Indonesia, Seoul, and Shanghai. When she was 14, she became actively involved in the North Korean refugee crisis. To date, she has organized various charity concerts and fundraisers, tutored North Korean refugees, and has worked for the Ministry of Unification. To channel her passion for North Korea and human rights, she turned to journalism, becoming the editor-in-chief of her high school newspaper and a deputy editor at the Columbia Spectator her freshman and sophomore year. Kate currently serves as the vice-president and secretary for the Columbia chapter of Liberty in North Korea, the president of KCCC, and the secretary for the pre-law society.


Lucero Jorge is a New York native raised in the Bronx, which serves as the backdrop for her involvement in community service and educational equity, as well as other social issues occurring in the city. She is currently a sophomore in Columbia College majoring in Urban Studies with a Political Science specialization and Caribbean Studies concentration. Her involvement as a peer mentor in the Hispanic Scholarship Fund and other mentoring endeavors have sparked in her the desire to pursue legal studies upon graduation and gaining extensive knowledge in educational and public policies. By being given the opportunity to be part of the Kenneth Cole Community Engagement Program, she hopes to develop her leadership and networking skills to develop a network that will enable her to pursue these goals and create a visible change in the community around her and beyond.


Sharon Liao is a sophomore in Columbia College majoring in History and concentrating in Economics. She is from Cincinnati, Ohio, where she has worked with Breakthrough Collaborative for the past four years as a middle school tutor and math and science teacher. She cares deeply about education and social justice, and hopes that through the Kenneth Cole fellowship she can gain an interdisciplinary perspective on community building and learn about the intersecting social issues that impact schools. On campus, Sharon is a Columbia College Student Ambassador and enjoys working with Community Impact. She is a Coordinator for the Community Impact Leadership Program (CILP), and guides juniors and seniors at Frederick Douglass Academy through the college application process as a Lets Get Ready volunteer. Outside of the classroom, Sharon enjoys embarking on NYC food adventures and watching political dramas. 


Tanika Lynch is a junior in Columbia College studying Political Science with a minor in Educational Studies. In her hometown of Baltimore, MD, she spent the last six weeks of high school as a full-time student teacher at the local elementary school she once attended. There, she found her passion for teaching and became interested in schools as a site for community building and social change. This passion guides her at Columbia where she tutors with the Prison Reform and Education Project (PREP) at youth detention centers in the Bronx and serves on the executive board of the Education Umbrella. She plans to pursue a Master’s of Education to teach low-income elementary school students. She looks forward to using the knowledge and skills acquired from the Kenneth Cole fellowship to be an exemplary teacher and social justice advocate. Eventually, she hopes to work on national education policy.

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