CAPS 8 – Class of 2021


Chioma Andrea Akali
Hometown: Sacramento, California

Chioma Andrea Akali is from Sacramento, California. After middle school, she moved to Nigeria to learn more about her Igbo heritage and attend British Spring College in Awka. She represented her school in the National Mathematics and Science Olympiad, coming out in the top three multiple times. During her stay in Nigeria, she also volunteered for a local non-profit organization that worked with impoverished youth and widows. Her volunteer work gave her a greater appreciation of life and a desire to help those around her.

Chioma is interested in pursuing a career in the medical field. At Colby, she plans on majoring in psychology with a concentration in neuroscience and a minor in computer science. In her free time, she enjoys designing and sewing clothing, playing soccer, and reading a good book.



Nicole Byrd
Hometown: Edwardsburg, Michigan

Nicole is a graduate of Edwardsburg High School in Michigan. She is involved in many service organizations that allow her to give back to her community. Nicole is also first runner up to Miss Edwardsburg 2017. One of her favorite pastimes is reading and her favorite author is Paolo Bacigalupi.

Nicole plans to study cellular and molecular biology, and is considering a double major in French. Nicole hopes to be able to share her passion for science and language through laboratory work or teaching.



Charlyna Gonzales
Hometown: Vadito, New Mexico 

Charlyna Gonzales is from Vadito, New Mexico. She graduated from Peñasco High School alongside her small class of 19 students. Charlyna participated in athletics, including volleyball, track and field, and basketball, and continues to have a passion for running. She graduated with an associate’s degree in the liberal arts from Northern New Mexico College and for the past two summers, worked as an intern at the Los Alamos National Laboratory. It was there that she first gained an interest in physics.

Charlyna plans to major in physics and participate in the Dual-Degree Engineering Program so she can pursue biomedical engineering. She is grateful to be a QuestBridge scholar and hopes to encourage others to work hard and never sell themselves short of accomplishing their goals.


Derek Hernandez 
Hometown: The Bronx, New York 

Derek is coming to CAPS from Bard High School Early College in Manhattan, New York. With the help of his high school’s college counselors, he was able to receive two full scholarships to spend three weeks at Cornell University studying law and three weeks at Carleton College conducting scientific research on the magnetic field strength of the midcontinental rift under Minnesota. Derek has a deep passion for forensic science and hopes to reduce the number of wrongful convictions.

Derek is coming to Colby on a QuestBridge scholarship. He plans on majoring in chemistry so he can attend graduate school for forensic science. Derek is also excited about spending four more years in a small liberal arts environment because he loves getting to know people, especially his professors.


Ja’Sean Holmes
Hometown: Memphis, Tennessee 

Ja’Sean attended White Station High School, graduating in the top 6 percent of his class. A highly diligent student who maintained the various responsibilities of his AP classes and extracurricular involvements, Ja’Sean is proud to join Colby College as a QuestBridge scholar. He credits the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) and STEM Virtual Academy for his interest in engineering. Ja’Sean plans to continue his involvement in NSBE by establishing Colby’s very first chapter.

Ja’Sean also has an interest in community service. He shares that he’s from an indigent environment and hopes to improve the communities around him through science. His past involvement with Teach For America has taught him the importance of education. At Colby, Ja’Sean plans to study molecular biology and enroll in Colby’s Dual-Degree Engineering Program. He also intends to continue his studies in the Spanish language with the goal of learning more about the cultures of the Spanish-speaking world.

Gustavo Jimenez
Hometown: Brooklyn, New York

Gustavo Jimenez attended Achievement First University Prep High School in Brooklyn, New York. During high school, he became involved and interested in robotics. He credits this work with helping him discover who is and what he loves to do.

At Colby, Gustavo intends to continue his work with technology. He hopes to use his experience and passion for technology for the good of society and the field of medicine. Gustavo enjoys spending time with friends and exploring new places.




Mackjeannie Joseph
Hometown: New London, Connecticut 

Mackjeannie Joseph lives in New London, Connecticut and graduated from New London High School. Throughout high school, she focused on the sciences, attending medical and health science magnet schools. As a senior, she took classes such as human body structure and medical intervention.

Mackjeannie will be attending Colby as a QuestBridge scholar and plans to major in biology. Her future goals include medical school and becoming a pediatrician. Mackjeannie’s hobbies include reading, listening to music, and playing volleyball and soccer. She also enjoys learning about other cultures and languages. Mackjeannie currently speaks four languages including English, French, Spanish, and Creole. At Colby, she would like to study another language.


Emmanuel Sogunle
Hometown: Aurora, Colorado

Emmanuel graduated from Vista Peak Preparatory High School in Colorado. While in high school, Emmanuel was president of his school’s HOSA chapter, vice president of the National Honors Society, and an active member of the Black Student Alliance. Emmanuel is very proud of everything he was able to accomplish during high school and is ready to continue his journey at Colby.

Emmanuel is interested in pursuing a degree in computer science and economics and is very excited for the many opportunities Colby has to offer both academically and socially.



Elizabeth Stephens
Hometown: Chevy Chase, Maryland

Elizabeth Stephens graduated from Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School. She completed the IB Diploma program, studying higher level courses in biology, history, and English. Elizabeth enjoys long-distance running, making pottery, reading Toni Morrison, and watching Chinese and Korean dramas. Throughout high school, she was active in the Chinese calligraphy club and Peer Partners (tutoring), as well as volunteering at a senior home and the non-profit A Wider Circle. One of her fondest experiences is studying Chinese in Beijing for six weeks during the summer of 2015. Elizabeth is a recipient of the QuestBridge scholarship at Colby.

While at Colby, Elizabeth plans to major in biology, specializing in either biochemistry or neuroscience. Now in her seventh year of study, she looks forward to continue learning Mandarin on campus and abroad. Last but not least, Elizabeth is excited for snowy winters and many more chances to eat the Maine delicacy—whoopie pies.


Kayla (Kay) Wesley
Hometown: Brooklyn, New York 

Kayla graduated from Achievement First Brooklyn High School. She is a singer and political enthusiast. Kayla was captain of her public forum debate team for two years. In her free time, she enjoys hanging out with friends.

At Colby, Kayla plans to pursue either political science or neuroscience, and is considering minoring in African Studies. Kayla cares a lot about mental health in the Black community, but also the systemic treatment of Blacks in America. She wants to make a difference in race relations in America.



Connor Wilson
Hometown: Johnson City, Tennessee 

Connor is from Johnson City, in northeastern Tennessee. He went to Daniel Boone High School, where he played soccer and was involved in many clubs and societies. He also enjoys outdoor activities. Connor plans on pursuing a double major in neuroscience and international relations, with hopes of becoming a pediatric neurosurgeon.






Derek Zapata
Hometown: San Antonio, Texas

Derek Zapata graduated with distinction from Claudia Taylor Johnson High School in San Antonio, Texas. Derek’s academic interests have always revolved around the sciences, and he studied biology, chemistry, and physics in high school. In addition to core academics, Derek has a passion for music. He played cello in the Johnson Varsity Orchestra for four years and competed at the district and state level in solo competitions. Derek also has extensive volunteer service. One of his favorite volunteer opportunities was with Children’s Association for Maximum Potential (CAMP), where he was a counselor at a summer camp exclusively for children and young adults with special needs. Derek enjoys creative writing, and has a passion for writing poetry, songs, and occasional short stories.

At Colby, Derek plans to major in physics with a concentration in astrophysics, but wants to explore more academic territory before deciding his minor. He hopes to continue playing cello in Colby’s orchestra program, and would like to learn more about music theory and composition in Colby’s other music-based programs. Derek is ambitious about joining extracurricular activities, including clubs, volunteer groups, and perhaps intramural sports.