This graduation season the United Students Achievers Program (USAP) has a lot to be proud of! Many USAP alumni graduating from colleges and universities around the world this month have achieved great heights during their college experiences despite experiencing two years of Covid-19 disruptions. Among these achievements, USAP Class of 2018 students Paddington Mbumbgwa and Wadzanayi Mayiseni were both chosen by their colleges to be the sole student speakers at their respective graduations from Warren Wilson College in North Carolina and Columbia University in New York.
Paddington is a USAP alumnus from the Class of 2018. He recently graduated from Warren Wilson College with awards including the Alton F. Pfaff Award, Warren Wilson’s highest honor given to a graduating senior. During his time at Warren Wilson, Paddington double majored in Biochemistry and Mathematics along with doing summer internships, completing 2 Capstone projects and volunteering at local community organizations. He was the student body President his junior year and played on the school’s soccer team. In addition to his many achievements, Paddington has been featured in a number of articles detailing his success. Read more about his journey in this article. Paddington has high hopes for a future improving Zimbabwe’s health sector, especially for rural people, as he heads off to medical school at Loma Linda University.
Wadzanayi Mayiseni is another USAP alumnus from the Class of 2018. She is a Columbia College graduate with a degree in Neuroscience and Behavior. In 2019, Wadzanayi’s journey from Zimbabwe to the U.S. was detailed in the New York Times column The Surprising Path That Some Kids Take to the Ivy League. Though she began her college experience during the Covid-19 pandemic, Wadzanayi did not let that deter her as she pushed through the difficulties and emerged on the other side with relationships that made her into the person she is today. For the Columbia College graduation ceremony, Wadzanayi’s winning speech was chosen from over 25 entries. It reflects on her journey as a first-generation, low-income cancer survivor from Zimbabwe who went to the United States in search of quality education. Columbia University published an article on her journey which you can read here. Wadzanayi is excited for the future in medical research as she is heading to Yale University to start a Neurology Research Fellowship.
Below is a clip of Wadzanayi’s graduation speech at Columbia’s Class Day where she imparted a message of empowerment and resilience to the Class of 2023.