ROTC cadet Sarah Markosky

Graduating ROTC cadet Sarah Markosky poses for a photograph in front of the SR-71 Blackbird aircraft on display outside the California Science Center. (USC Photo/Gus Ruelas)


It all starts with the students: Meet some of 2021’s most inspiring Trojans

December 17, 2021 David Medzerian

From veterans and athletes to budding scientists and even Miss Black Pasadena, take another look at some of the students who kept us going through another challenging year.

? Veterans at the forefront

“Some veterans don’t see a top tier university as an option. They think they’ll just go to a random college you’ve never heard of and be fine. Or they come into college and don’t know what they’re doing. There’s miscommunication and a lack of motivation. I realized that going in. But if we build this veteran community together we can encourage each other.”

Seulki Noh, USC Veterans Association vice president

? A dramatic change of careers

“When I’m out in the world, I feel like people aren’t giving [serving the aging population] enough attention. But when I come to school, I see the people who are going to make a difference.”

Brett Anderson, rock star turned gerontology expert

? Leaving a trail of community-serving nonprofits

“The homeless issue in L.A. is well documented, so I definitely knew about that, and it was something that we felt like we could definitely help with.”

Anthony “Mo” Hasan, USC quarterback and Second Spoon founder

? Empowering Black women

“I think all Black girls need to feel empowered and to be around other girls who are just like them. I got a crown and the sash but, to me, we were all queens and we all won.”

Laila Ward, first-year human biology student at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences

? A drive to improve transportation

“I challenge the assumption that the amount of travel that we all consume needs to be assumed as fixed and that we need to accommodate it. Some of this travel is induced, and I feel it’s important to expose that.”

Zakhary Mallett, doctoral candidate at the USC Price School of Public Policy and former BART board member

? Swimming to success

“My first chance to see my mom in months was when she came to the Olympics as my coach.”

Noelani Day, first-year USC Dornsife student and the first Tongan to swim at the Olympic Games

? Using technology to help others

“My ultimate dream is to create mainstream assistive technologies to offer people with disabilities the opportunity to succeed. Because we all can, and we all deserve to.”

Paul Chiou, doctoral student at the USC Viterbi School of Engineering

? Flying high

“Every woman is capable of doing anything in the Air Force, but a lot of women come into it feeling intimidated because it’s a male-dominated field. We’re moving toward more women becoming pilots, and I’m excited about that.”

Sarah Markosky, 2021 ROTC cadet graduate

? Sharing stories that need to be told

“In classes, you can only learn so much. It’s not until you do these things hands-on … that you really start to understand what’s involved.”

Frank Rojas, 2021 graduate of the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism

? Cheering for USC

“USC has such a strong tradition of school spirit and to get to be a captain of a group that contributes to that tradition is a huge honor.”

Alexandra Rennie, engineering student and captain of the USC Spirit Leaders

? Seeing stars

“As the only intern, I was working directly with the head of one of the Mars Rover teams. It makes the work I did even greater, but also the stakes are high.”

Devin Martin, Trojan who worked on the Perseverance Rover project as a NASA intern

? Supporting veterans — and her own career goals

“I had no plans to enlist, definitely not. I was in boot camp and I was like, ‘What am I doing here? What did I sign up for?’”

Athena Fleming, Coast Guard veteran and student in USC Annenberg’s online Master of Communication Management program

USC 2021 | A LOOK BACK — See more of our year-end package: