The Class of 2025 and 2026 get ready for the start of the school year.
Freshman Hannah Tarquini contracted Pott’s disease at age 6 in Liberia. As an orphan, she often lacked access to proper health care and the spinal tuberculosis spread.
“What started as a small stone of obstacle,” she shares, “grew into a boulder.”
Tarquini’s condition worsened. By the time she was adopted and came to the U.S. at age 10, the disease left her paralyzed from the waist down.
While she has received care from many wonderful providers in the U.S., Tarquini says the lack of diversity she experiences troubles her.
“I don’t see a lot of people who look like me in the medical field—people with disabilities, women of color,” Tarquini says.
That’s one of the reasons why she will pursue a health sciences/physician assistant degree at Jefferson. She hopes to take this newfound knowledge and help people in underserved areas around the world.
“I want to get out of my shell a little bit and see what else is out there,” says Tarquini, a Phoenixville Area High School grad. “I’m excited for this new adventure.”
Nearly 800 undergraduates will join her on this journey. The Class of 2025—and 2026 for five-year programs—includes students from 28 states and 19 countries, some from as far away as Australia, South Sudan and Uzbekistan.
Different paths lead them to enroll at Jefferson, but they now share a common bond and new students like Alyzeah Hedgepeth aim to leave their marks.
Hedgepeth’s mother died when she was 15 years old. Her father kicked her out of the house when she turned 18.
“I was independent my senior year,” says Hedgepeth, the oldest of nine siblings. “I had no identity. No insurance. No license. I had really nothing to my name. Living with a great friend, I slowly rebuilt my life. I wanted to succeed despite everything that happened to me.”
As Hedgepeth applied to colleges, she immediately felt connected to Jefferson. She’s entering the School of Business with a minor in Spanish and plans to study abroad.
“I feel very powerful with the knowledge and experience that I have,” says Hedgepeth, who graduated from Pottsgrove High School with a 4.0 GPA. “I’d like to bring that into something and make it better. I want to run something and give back to people.”
Freshman Samuel “Tommy” Rhodes IV shares this passion to transform the world. For as long as he could remember, he wanted to pursue a hands-on profession.
Architecture seemed liked a natural fit, says the graduate from Charter School of Wilmington in Delaware.
“There are limitless possibilities,” Rhodes says. “There’s so much you can do with it. I’m a creative person, and it’s a field where I can really express that.”
He credits his middle school math teacher Julie Dapkus for instilling in him a love of learning. She has remained a key mentor in his life, and as a thank you, Rhodes nominated her for Jefferson’s Centennial Educator Award.
Traditionally presented at the start of each school year, the honor recognizes remarkable educators who have impacted incoming students. Along with Dapkus, other 2021 winners include South Windsor High School child development and care teacher Ann Wolff, nominated by occupational therapy student Anindita Chakravarty, and Central High School social studies teacher Michael Horwits, nominated by pre-medical studies student Katie Chin.
“He truly is the catalyst to who I have become,” wrote Chin in her nominating essay for Horwits.
The inspiration for twins Faith and Kyle Hardy to pursue their respective fields— health care and architecture—at Jefferson came from their parents.
Faith, the older sister by two minutes, will enter the health sciences/pre-nursing program. Her mom is a nurse, which fueled her desire to help others.
A self-described crafty person, Kyle says she developed her love for tinkering and building from her dad.
The Camden Catholic High School grads from Audubon, N.J., will play lacrosse for the Rams, and both look forward to beginning this next phase of their lives together.
“When I went on my first campus tour, I just felt like I belonged here,” Faith says. “I decided to attend Jefferson that day.”
See more scenes from move-in at East Falls Campus below.