It goes without saying that the University of Virginia’s Class of 2024 is unlike any other. These students are joining the University community in unprecedented times, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to force physical distancing, mask-wearing and stepped-up hygiene.
This year’s class of 3,803 students hails from 79 countries and 48 U.S. states and territories outside of Virginia. More than 41,000 students applied for admission, setting yet another record for the largest applicant pool in school history. Virginians make up 67.9% of the class.
Here’s a look at three of the newest Hoos.
One of UVA’s new in-state students is Aaron Seay, this year’s recipient of the John A. Blackburn Scholarship. The award is named for the late dean of admissions, who served for more than 23 years. It meets 100% of financial need for academically qualified low- and middle-income students seeking to attend the University.
Seay is a lifelong resident of Virginia, having lived in Lynchburg, Amherst and now Buckingham, where he recently graduated from Buckingham County High School.
UVA has long been in Seay’s life, he said.
By the Numbers: Class of 2024
“I’ve always kind of known about it,” he said via email. “I even have a hat from when I was a toddler. I went on a field trip there to watch a volleyball game and I really loved being there and I loved the atmosphere, so that was what made me think about it.
“What really pushed me to want to go, though, was my college adviser, Mr. Timothy Vadasz. He went there and he’s been an amazing college adviser and friend to me, so hearing him speak of UVA made me want to go more.”
The first in his family to go to college, he is looking forward to taking courses in guitar and Buddhism. A lover of performing music, Seay is considering a major in commerce “because if I go somewhere with my music, then I would know how to really grow my brand.”
Part of a ‘Posse,’ With a Knack for Business
Leslie Oviedo is from Houston, one of a handful of students coming from the region to UVA in a “posse” of students identified by The Posse Foundation. It selects exceptional students from public urban high schools and matches them with top colleges, which in turn offer full-tuition scholarships.
Like Seay, Oviedo is also a first-generation student, one of 518 in the Class of 2024. A member of the National Honor Society in high school, Oviedo was also president of a business program that competed in several business-case competitions.
Over the summer, she and her team created a blueprint to help a newspaper business improve. “We created a website for the newspaper company to help it reduce its paper consumption by 10%,” she said.
By the Numbers: Class of 2024
From public high schools
An avid volunteer, Oviedo spent more than 300 hours during high school donating her time to the Houston Food Bank; conducting a blood drive at her school, KIPP Northeast College Preparatory; and packing lunches for homeless preschool-aged children.
Oviedo also has designs on majoring in commerce, along with global studies, and is most looking forward to her survey of calculus 1 and algebra course this semester.
“I’m really excited to learn math all over again,” she said. “My senior year, I chose to take statistics instead of calculus. And so, taking this class is going to go back to algebra and calculus.”
A Record of Effective Activism
Amit Vallabh is a Jefferson Scholar from Newton, Massachusetts. He is co-founder and president of Second Chance USA, a nonprofit dedicated to reducing recidivism by placing formerly incarcerated men and women in middle-skill jobs. He started it with a few other friends his freshman year at Newtown North High School, as part of an incubation program.
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“We had heard of the major issue in the U.S. of mass incarceration and recidivism, which is the idea that a lot of people who are leaving prison in the U.S. – which is a lot of people, because we incarcerate way too many people – find it incredibly difficult to find jobs because of their criminal record,” he said. “At the same time, there’s something called the middle-skills job gap, which is that there’s a lot of these jobs that require more than a high school degree, but less than a college degree, and they end up going unfilled as more and more people go to college.”
So Vallabh’s team decided to try to match former inmates with local manufacturing jobs.
After winning $5,000 from the incubator program, they started visiting administrators at the Suffolk County House of Corrections, the largest prison in Massachusetts. “The prisons were really receptive to the idea, because what they’re judged on is whether their inmates end up coming back to jail or not,” he said.
Vallabh’s team began courting businesses to see if they would be interested in Second Chance USA. As luck would have it, they connected with a business owner who shared a similar vision: ending poverty by creating living wage jobs for the formerly incarcerated.
Since the two connected, the 1854 Cycling Company has employed 10 women through a partnership with Second Chance USA.
Vallabh said academics and athletics drew him to UVA and he’s looking forward to taking a class on cinema and dialogue and eyeing a double major in statistics and political science.
‘Nothing Short of Remarkable’
Greg Roberts, UVA’s dean of admission, says the Class of 2024 is incredibly impressive.
“The resilience shown by this class over the last six months is nothing short of remarkable,” he said. “Lives have been forever changed and the students are now very different from the ones we got to know through their applications over the winter.
“Individually they are impressive. Together they are strong and united,” he continued. “There is nothing they cannot do together.
“Mark my words, this class is going to change this place, and I predict in four years, when they walk the Lawn, they will be considered one of the closest and most accomplished classes in University history.”