First THRIVE Class Graduates after Four Transformative Years

By Rebecca Goldfine
Four years ago, the first Geoffrey Canada Scholars arrived at Bowdoin. That same year, THRIVE was formed, bringing these scholars under the same umbrella with four other mentoring and scholarship programs.
Two friends stand together, their arms on each other's backs
A recent party for THRIVE seniors offered students a chance to connect in the final days of their time at Bowdoin.

When the inaugural Geoffrey Canada Scholars arrived at Bowdoin for their summer orientation program in 2018, they were eager and enthusiastic, but still uncertain about what lay ahead of them.

Though they encountered hiccups, challenges, and hardships—just like every student—they went on to become class presidents, community service leaders, engaged scholars, and mentors to their peers.

The same year Bowdoin launched the Geoffrey Canada Scholars program, Bowdoin formed THRIVE to coalesce several of its programs that support students of color, first-generation-to-college students, or those who come from low-income backgrounds. THRIVE provides these students with a home base (currently in Banister Hall, soon to be Ladd House) and a community.

Besides the Geoffrey Canada Scholars, THRIVE includes the programs Bowdoin Advising in Support of Excellence, Bowdoin Science Experience, Bowdoin Science Scholars, and Joshua L. Chamberlain Scholars.

This Saturday, on May 28, more than seventy THRIVE students in the Class of 2022 will graduate from Bowdoin. The THRIVE team organized an outdoor party a week before graduation to recognize their success and to have fun.

"I am thrilled for THRIVE’s first class of students to graduate," THRIVE director Jessica Perez said. "They have accomplished so much, all while navigating a pandemic, and I am excited to be celebrating them."

We reached out to six THRIVE seniors to ask them to share some of their thoughts as they prepare to graduate.

Carey Lee ’22 portrait

Carey Lee ’22, Bowdoin Advising in Support of Excellence

Major/minor: Asian studies/sociology

Hometown: Skowhegan, Maine

Plans after Bowdoin (or, aspirations and dreams!): I will be an assistant English language teacher in Japan through the JET (Japan Exchange and Teaching) Program! While in Japan for a year, I will engage in cultural exchange, continue to hone my language abilities, and gain formal teaching experience.

What is one of your favorite Bowdoin memories?

One of my favorite Bowdoin memories occurred during my first semester when THRIVE hosted an off-campus retreat at Camp Kieve. I spent a weekend enjoying the beautiful outdoors, making friends that I a
m still very close to today, and taking some time away from being a busy Bowdoin student.

What advice would you give to an incoming THRIVE student?

Please utilize the THRIVE space and faculty! I feel as though I spent a lot of time here studying, talking to the staff, and making lots of new friends across all backgrounds. THRIVE has truly been one of the most inclusive spaces on campus, where I felt I could be myself and have others understand where I am coming from. I have lots of fond memories associated with the THRIVE space and the program, so I hope you can use them to your benefit!

Elizabeth Baker

Elizabeth Baker ’22, Bowdoin Science Experience

Major/minor: Biology/English

Hometown: Covington, Georgia

Plans after Bowdoin: I’ll be spending the summer on Kent Island, a Bowdoin-owned island with a research facility in Canada. I don’t have anything firm lined up after that, but I hope to continue with science research, education and outreach, and/or wildlife rehabilitation!

What is one of your favorite Bowdoin memories?

Most of my favorite Bowdoin memories are made of simple ingredients. I love spending time with my friends, whether that is an outing to Goodwill or the Giant's Stairs in Harpswell. Most of all, I love quiet nights with friends, sharing meals. Coming from a small family, there’s nothing that makes me quite as content as a full table of happy people sharing a meal with each other. As we get closer to graduating, I’ve realized more and more how glad I am to have met so many people I genuinely cherish. Well, now I just sound nostalgic!

What advice would you give to an incoming THRIVE student?

Belonging at Bowdoin as a first-gen, low-income student isn’t always easy. You probably won’t always feel like you belong and that feeling may be difficult to name as a first-year, but it’s okay to feel uncomfortable and out of place. As a THRIVE student, you are a minority at Bowdoin in some way, whether it’s visible or not. As a minority, you will probably spend more time than the average Bowdoin student building your community. The people that make up that community may surprise you and may include faculty and staff, like the folks at THRIVE who have been where you are or who are making an effort to make Bowdoin more inclusive. Remember that there are people on your side. Connect with those people and other students who are out of place, and I think you’ll feel more at home at Bowdoin. You may not belong here in the same way that the average Bowdoin student does, but you deserve to be here and feel comfortable in this place as much as they do.

Jacob Kassama ’22 portrait

Jacob Kassama ’22, Bowdoin Science Scholars

Major/minor: Biochemistry/economics

Hometown: Madison, Alabama

Plans after Bowdoin: I will be starting a PhD program in biology at MIT.

How have you changed and grown in the last four years?

My time at Bowdoin has allowed me to develop critical thinking and leadership skills. Through my courses at Bowdoin and conducting research with Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry Danielle Dube, I have increased my aptitude in applying the knowledge gained theoretically from my academic courses to real-world problems. Through my work for different offices across the College, I have gained confidence in my ability to propose, defend, and execute my ideas. Additionally, my time as a learning assistant with the chemistry department has allowed me to share my passions in biochemistry with peers and motivated me to further explore teaching as a potential career option. Working with various faculty, staff, and peers across Bowdoin, I have been able to develop my ability to synthesize different perspectives and approaches from a diverse group of people and create unique solutions.

What advice would you give to an incoming THRIVE student?

My advice to incoming THRIVE students would be to branch out and get connected to a diverse range of people at Bowdoin. Get to know different faculty and staff across campus and grab a meal or go on a walk with them. This ranges from your professors to the deans to Jessica [Perez] and Edili [Lopez] from THRIVE. My diverse connections here at Bowdoin were critical in helping me develop not only as a student but as a person. I would not be where I am today without these connections.

Love Avril portrait

Love Avril, Jr. ’22, Bowdoin Advising in Support of Excellence, Bowdoin Science Experience, and Chamberlain Scholars

Major/minor: Biochemistry/sociology

Hometown: Miami, Florida

Plans after Bowdoin: My aspiration in life is to be happy, and to me, happiness looks like going back to Miami and giving back to the community that supported me throughout my life. I'm not exactly sure what that looks like yet, but I'm excited to find out :)

How have you changed and grown in the last four years? 

I think being at Bowdoin has helped me find myself. I felt inspired to leave Miami and come to Bowdoin because I wanted to expand my understanding of myself and the world. My passion for learning and developing meaningful relationships with people allowed me to explore different perspectives while on my journey. The connections I made along the way helped me cultivate a more expansive worldview; and because of this, I feel confident saying I know who I am and what I stand for: Love.

What advice would you give to an incoming THRIVE student?

Explore, while staying true to yourself <3

Lynn Nguyen portrait

Lynn Nguyen ’22, Geoffrey Canada Scholars

Major/minor: Biochemistry/sociology

Hometown: Alameda, California

Plans after Bowdoin: I am beyond excited and grateful to be working at Bowdoin as the assistant director of the McKeen Center for the Common Good!

What is one of your favorite Bowdoin memories?

A core memory I will never forget is being in rural Hawai’i during March 2020 as part of the Alternative Spring Break Program through the McKeen Center. I co-led this trip with one of my closest friends (and former first-year roommate!) and we made amazing memories together and with our group of trip participants as we learned from, reflected upon, and engaged in discussions around homelessness and colonialism within the local native Hawai'ian community.

What advice would you give to an incoming THRIVE student?

Bowdoin has so many resources and people across campus from staff to faculty who genuinely care and have supported my academic, personal, and professional pursuits. Without them, I would not have been able to have the opportunities I have had, from my three-year involvement with Alternative Break trips to being a head College House proctor. Explore and lean into your interests, don’t be afraid to advocate for yourself and others, and you’ll meet amazing people in the process.

Marc Muro portrait

Marc Muro ’22, Geoffrey Canada Scholars

Major: Education/Hispanic Studies 

Hometown: Tucson, Arizona

Plans after Bowdoin: After graduation I plan to work in higher ed trying to help bridge the gap between students coming from backgrounds of low-income, first-gen, and/or BIPOC to access college and graduate college.

What is one of your favorite Bowdoin memories?

One of my favorite Bowdoin memories would have to be the first time I went cross-country skiing with THRIVE my first year. I had no clue what I was doing, but at the end of the day I was able to get the hang of it! It only took a couple of falls and stumbles, but I made it through!

What advice would you give an incoming THRIVE student?

The advice that I would give to incoming THRIVE first-years is to not be afraid of trying new things. Step out of your comfort zone and branch out, Bowdoin has a handful of clubs/organizations that you could be a part of! Bowdoin also has a lot of resources so don’t be afraid to ask for help!

The THRIVE party on May 21, photos by Fred Field.