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New group of Powell Scholars have variety of talents, interests

Jun 26, 2020

Meet the accomplished incoming class of the Powell Scholars program at University of the Pacific:

  • Ballet dancer with a passion for equine science.
  • Aspiring speech-language pathologist inspired by her mother’s speech impediment.
  • Valedictorian who recognizes the meshing of her passions for medicine, vocal performance and art.
  • Member of MENSA with a background in robotics.
  • Award-winning cellist whose concert venues include women’s shelters and children’s programs.

The Powell Scholars website describes the program’s purpose: “The Powell Scholars Program develops responsible leaders who excel academically and take the initiative to understand and serve the university and local and global communities. Our individual achievements are complemented by uniting others to make a difference in the world.”

The Powell Scholars Program is possible through a generous gift from Robert and Jeanette Powell.

Courtney Lehmann, professor of English and director of Powell Scholars, shared biographies of the new cohort of Powell Scholars. There are only five scholars in this year’s class so the program can return to its cap of 40. 

Megan Acosta

Megan Acosta
Hometown: Los Angeles
Major: Computer Science
A recognized National Hispanic Scholar, Megan Acosta is also the president of her high school’s Ballet Folklorico Club, an organization that reflects her Salvadoran heritage through the performance and celebration of Latin American dance traditions.

As a high school student, she won the Academic Decathlon two years running in the individual competition and was the goalie of the Eagle Rock High School water polo team, earning the Scholar-Athlete Award three years in a row.

Equine science is another passion of hers; with 8 years of experience of professional horsemanship and cavalry training with the California Rangers, a non-profit precision drill riding organization, she has risen to the rank of stable sergeant and second in command of her drill team.

She is particularly interested in the relationship between information systems, the tech industry and athletics. Megan has begun preliminary research into the impact of dry-land training on water sports athletes. She hopes to walk on to Pacific’s water polo team this fall. 

Lauren Graham

Lauren Graham
Hometown: Salinas
Major: Speech-Language Pathology
Inspired by her mother’s lifelong challenges with a speech impediment, Lauren has always been passionate about helping others find their voice—literally—as an aspiring practitioner who is especially interested in working with non-verbal autistic children.

She is also deeply committed to making speech and language therapy affordable for all who need it, and is particularly excited about the relationship between technology and opportunities for greater access to treatment. In addition to being active in Health Explorers 450, a leadership and research organization for aspiring health professionals, Lauren has spent more than 300 hours volunteering at Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital.

Based on her outstanding service record and academic performance, she was selected to attend the National Youth Leadership Forum for Medicine. Additionally, Lauren has held offices in student government and has won the Scholar-Athlete Award for three years running as captain of her high school’s competitive cheer and dance program. 

Aneri Mehta

Aneri Mehta
Hometown: Phoenix
Major: Pre-dentistry
Aneri Mehta has always been interested in the intersections between the practice of medicine and her passion for art and singing.  In addition to earning the President’s Volunteer Service Award for her work at the CASS Homeless Dental Clinic, she has been employed throughout high school as an art teacher who specializes in working with children with developmental challenges, donating all of her earnings to the Southwest Autism and Research Center. 

Her art has been displayed in municipal buildings throughout the state of Arizona and, though only a high school senior, she has spent seven years earning a bachelor’s degree (Sangeet Visharod) as valedictorian of the Phoenix Gharana School of Indian Arts, where she has excelled as a classical Indian (Hindustani) vocalist. 

As a research assistant at the University of Arizona College of Medicine, she has studied the relationship between serotonin uptake, neurotransmitters and schizophrenia in the frontal cortex of mice. She joins Pacific to further engage and refine her understanding of the therapeutic applications of art in medical practice.

Lorenzo Spaccarelli

Lorenzo Spaccarelli
Hometown: Lake Oswego, Ore.
Major: History
Lorenzo Spaccarelli is a member of MENSA and winner of the Grand Award for The Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth after completing four years in its famed SET (Study of Exceptional Talent) Program.  

He comes to Pacific with an array of interests and is especially keen on exploring the intersections between economic and climate-based policy and renewable power, alongside his passion for robotics, quantum theory, international relations and theater. 

He served as a delegate to the Oregon Model UN and leads a weekly lab for students in robotics at Portland State University. Bridging his interests in computer science and the performing arts, Lorenzo is currently producing a play for Robot Theater, using Python and Raspberry Pi. In his spare time, he enjoys lifeguarding.

Hasina Torres

Hasina Torres
Hometown: Fresno
Major: Music Therapy
In a city renowned for its musical talent, Hasina has long been a standout cellist devoted to the therapeutic applications of music. Winner of the Cello Fresno Gala, the American String Teachers Association Competition and All-State Honors as a principal cellist, she is also the founder of the community activist performance group “Little Virtuosos.” 

Comprised of four musicians and a vocalist, “Little Virtuosos” performs a repertoire (as well as songs by request) at a local women’s shelter, providing survivors of domestic abuse and their children with creative opportunities for healing. 

A rare distinction, Hasina is a gold medal recipient for the Classical Literacy Exam, a national test that requires not only a deep understanding of Greek and Roman culture but also of Latin. Based on her outstanding academic record and history of community service, she was selected to attend an African-American leadership institute in the greater Los Angeles area. She joins Pacific as a gifted cellist and an advocate for the beneficial role of music on cognitive development and mental health. 

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