Nine Lives

By Peter Gilstrap Photos by Max S. Gerber

From movers and shakers to risk takers (and a cheese maker), meet some of the new faces of the Class of 2025

Depending on what you Google, the number 25 “is about intuition, self-awareness, and interest in nearly everything”; “reveals that the changes coming into your life will force you to grow and become a better person in society”; and is indicative of individuals with “very high intellectual abilities.”

But you don’t have to be a numerologist to figure out that Oxy’s Class of ’25 shares all those qualities, and more. Of the 545 incoming first-years who arrived on campus this fall, most came directly from high school; 86 of them bring gap year experiences to campus.

They hail from 37 states (and the District of Columbia) and 30 countries. Their number includes athletes, activists, podcasters, and (of course) Tik-Tokers. If history is any indication, their post-Oxy journeys will make a sizable impact on many lives.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Beyond the numbers, one thing is especially true this fall: We are happy to see them on campus and in person. Let’s start with a few introductions.


Though a physician may argue the point, Lauren Chin’s blood runs Oxy orange. “My two cousins [Abby Chin-Martin ’14 and her sister Lily ’17] graduated from Oxy, and both of their long-term boyfriends [Dustin Neiderman ’13 and Garrett Schwab ’15, respectively] also went to Oxy,” Lauren says. “My aunt [Andrea Chin ’82] was in school at the same time as Obama. For us, Thanksgiving is a lot of Oxy every year!”

Chin’s older cousins and their boyfriends—all Tigers—“had an amazing time while they were at Oxy,” she says, “and now they’re reminiscing about when they were here.”
The Seattle native attended James A. Garfield High School, which hosted then-Sen. Barack Obama ’83 for a speech on education in 2006. “There are five girls from my graduating class who are at Oxy and my best friend is here, and we didn’t even really know where the other was applying,” Lauren says.

Her high school life was a whirlwind of study, volunteer work, and extracurricular activities. Lauren served on the executive board of Post 84, a student-run racial justice organization that strives to encourage environmental awareness, leadership, diversity, and self-confidence through outdoor activities such as hiking, camping, and skiing. “Traditionally these kinds of activities can be really inaccessible because of cost or because it’s not something that you or your family grew up doing,” she says. “Like, I had never gone camping until my freshman year of high school when I went on a Post trip. I had a great time.”

Of all her high school extracurriculars, Planned Parenthood Teen Council, which offers peer-led sex education, made the most profound impact on Lauren. “We met every week at a Planned Parenthood clinic and learned various lessons about consent or birth control or gender and sexuality,” she explains. “We would go to middle schools and high schools in our region and give these lessons. It’s super important that students have access to these kinds of resources and education to make healthy, safe decisions.”

Lauren’s vigorous engagement with activities in high school is continuing at Oxy. “There’s just so much to do,” she says. “I’m applying to different clubs and I just auditioned onto the dance team, but I’m really excited about taking diplomacy and world affairs courses.”

Looking beyond college, “I want to do something that’s very much involved in making any kind of progressive, positive change, whether that’s on the global scale or doing something with policymaking,” Lauren says. “All my classes at Oxy are super interesting. I feel like I’m learning a lot about the things that are really important to me.”


It’s hard to imagine that Henry Myrick does not have a future in politics. Even though he’s new to the Oxy campus, he’s already a veteran of Capitol Hill. Henry grew up in Falls Church, Va., just a short Metro ride away from Washington, D.C., where his father, Gary, serves as secretary for the Democratic Majority of the U.S. Senate.

“By the time high school rolled around, I was always hanging out down by Georgetown or on Capitol Hill,” Myrick says.
“The best part about living in D.C. was probably seeing all the different types of people that live there and the different jobs that people have,” Henry says. “It made me very cognizant of the political landscape and political system, because I was surrounded by it every day.”

During high school and a gap year prior to Oxy, he held eye-opening jobs as a Senate doorkeeper and page, applying for both through Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), who sponsored Henry for the positions.

“Pages are heroes in the Capitol,” Henry says. “When we walked around in our baggy navy blue suits with rectangular name tags we would always hear, ‘OMG! Pages!’ or get greeted by random staffers. People were so interested in the job and it was cool to have adults be interested in what I was doing at such a young age.”

Those adults included senators themselves. Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) “would randomly surprise pages and ask them to tell him a joke,” Henry says. “It was an opportunity most pages took, and it was a major credit if you could make him laugh before he would go on the floor.”

Henry made a connection with Oxy through Dire Ezeh ’19, a diplomacy and world affairs major from Nigeria, whom he met at a summer camp in eastern Maryland. “Dire was so knowledgeable and well-spoken,” Henry says. “When I started my college search, my ACT tutor said, ‘Think about the coolest people in your life and figure out where they went to school.’ And my brain immediately went to Dire. That’s how Oxy got on my radar.

“I decided that of the whole West Coast, the school I liked most was definitely Occidental, partly because of its location. Los Angeles is such a great city to be in, and when we did the campus tour, our guide was so excellent it just seemed like a perfect match.”

Henry is interested in studying urban and environmental policy, but after that? “I would love to pursue politics,” he says. “Our generation has so much power in our hands. It’s up to us to learn how to use it.”


Growing up in the Dallas suburb of Plano, Texas, Isabella Lambert encountered a cultural mindset that often ran counter to her own beliefs—most recently the state’s new abortion law and Gov. Greg Abbott’s handling of COVID-19. “It was always difficult to live in a place like that, where a lot of people don’t do really what you wish they’d do,” she says.

Lambert worked at a manufacturing company assembling COVID-19 test kits in her hometown of Plano, Texas.
From fifth grade on, Isabella attended the Hockaday School in Dallas, which eased the situation. “It was a smaller, really good environment,” she says of the all-girls school. “I was lucky to be surrounded by people who didn’t necessarily agree with all of that other stuff.”

When Isabella began delving into potential colleges, the charms of the Golden State beckoned. “I was always interested in California,” she says. “I’d never really traveled too much, and I’d never been to the West Coast. That was a place that always sounded really cool, particularly Los Angeles. And since I wanted to go to a small school but I still wanted the city experience, Oxy seemed perfect.”

Isabella is considering a double major in biology and theater, embracing the full breadth of a liberal arts education. “I’ve been doing theater for practically my whole life and I’ve been super interested in film, but then also I’m really interested in biology,” she says. “Oxy was a place that would allow me to experiment with all my interests, and then being in L.A. for the entertainment side of it was very beneficial.”

Though she may not have traveled much in a conventional sense, acting has given Isabella a road to exploration in other ways. “I really love acting, it just feels so good to be performing on a stage,” she explains. “It’s just really cool to experiment, to be a different person or a different thing. Kind of like traveling in your mind to a whole different world and getting to adapt to that.”

Isabella hopes to act on the Keck Theater stage, but her favorite role from high school may be hard to top. “I played Simon in Lord of the Flies—it was an all-girl cast. Simon is the crazy one, the one who kind of goes off the rails. I got to do a lot of physical, crazy acting. And I just got to do so many things that I would not normally do, like having these like crazy freak-outs. That was definitely fun.”


Mario Alvarado’s hometown of Redding lies along the Sacramento River in Northern California, a place with a rich Native American and Gold Rush history and many natural attractions. But Mario says his favorite spot was “a really, really nice gym called Rice Brothers Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu where I trained every single day.”

Brazilian jiu-jitzu “is a very technical sport,” Alvarado said in a 2020 video profile, “and it’s even better when you have good training partners to push you and help make your jiu-jitsu better.”
The unique martial art—which dates back about a century and is similar to wrestling and judo—has been a major part of his life from an early age. “When I was around 5, I had some issues with bullying because I was a little bit younger than my classmates,” says Mario. “My dad decided to put me into Brazilian jiu-jitsu for self-defense and discipline. That increased my self-confidence and throughout the years I became better. Eventually I started competing and having fun.”

And winning awards. Mario is one of the best jiu-jitsu competitors in his age group on the planet, and he has the titles to prove it—2018 World Champion, 2019 European Champion, 2019 Pan American Champion, and 2019 World Championship Silver Medalist. On top of all that, the positives of jiu-jitsu’s intense style of sporting combat helped Mario get a chokehold on his academic work. “Sometimes you need a break from studying all the time,” he says. “You can just go train and focus and it’ll make you feel better. Then you get right back into studying.”

After high school, Mario knew he wanted to stay in California. Research led him to Occidental. “My weakest point is with writing, and I felt Oxy would help me become a more independent thinker and a better writer. And I love the campus and the area. And I love the campus food!”

Mario is leaning strongly toward a major in chemistry: “I want to become a physician like my father. He works in anesthesia, but I want to pursue orthopedics.” When it comes to career goals, the “no pain, no gain” axiom he’s learned in jiu-jitsu has been a motivator. 

“My injuries inspired what I want to study,” says Mario, who sustained a syndesmosis ankle sprain and a fractured tibia during a match in high school, among other battle scars. “With all the injuries I’ve had from jiu-jitsu, I want to be able to help people who have experienced injuries and increase their quality of life. That’s what I’m passionate about.”


If you’ve ever wondered what it would be like to live in a place that many people consider to be heaven on earth, Matthew Vickers offers up the lowdown on his native stomping grounds, the Hawaiian island of Kauai.

In placing first out of a field of 71 runners in the Kauai Inter­scholastic Federation cross country race in 2019, Vickers had to shoo a nene (the world’s rarest goose, native to Hawai‘i) off the course.
“It’s kind of like growing up in a postcard,” he says. “I did like growing up in Hawai‘i, but it’s not completely this beautiful tropical paradise that everyone associates it with. It’s pretty rural but there’s a lot of tourist infrastructure and everything supports that. It’s a very weird kind of place, if you really think about it.”

If that sounds a bit existential, there’s good reason for that. Matthew is a devotee of philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre, and wrote about his interest in French Structuralism as one of his reasons for choosing Oxy.

“As a kid, I was deeply interested in history,” Matthew says, “but then I had this overall turn to focusing more on philosophy after I read Sartre’s Existentialism Is a Humanism, which is based on a short lecture he gave in Paris in 1945.”

Another draw to Occidental was a bit more terra firma. “I was looking at liberal arts schools on the West Coast, but what really set Oxy apart was I got a letter from Rob Bartlett [head coach of Oxy’s track and field and cross country programs] looking for recruits after I won the Kauai Interscholastic Federation,” says Matthew, whose main races were the 800-meter dash and 1,500-meter. He got on Bartlett’s radar after winning two federation cross country titles. He was also twice named MVP for his team.

When he arrived to check out the College, “It felt like it had this very nice openness in the air, different from any of the schools I visited,” explains Vickers, who is deciding between economics, politics, and English as a major. (He took a gap year after graduating from the Island School in Lihue in 2020 in a socially distanced ceremony.)

“I met some members of the cross country team, and they were very kind. They showed me around everything, even though I was just some stranger from the tour. And I’m really interested in the humanities and want to take my time with them, especially my first two years. The openness of the curriculum worked out. That’s what really piqued my interest.”


Brooke and Claire Andrews are identical twins who hail from Vancouver, British Columbia, where they attended the all-girls Crofton House School. But if you’ve ever wondered about the alleged mysterious powers possessed by identical twins, Brooke will happily set you straight. “We get a lot of people asking if we have twin telepathy,” she says. “We’re really close, which is great, but no telepathy!” 

Claire, left, and Brooke Andrews will play tennis for the Tigers next spring. “My sister’s a lot better than me,” says Claire.
“There’s actually a lot we don’t see eye-to-eye on,” Claire adds. “We have pretty similar mannerisms but I would say we have quite different personalities. Brooke’s a lot more organized than I am. I’m a lot more like last-minute.”

Something the pair do see eye-to-matching-eye on is tennis. “We’re both on the tennis team at Oxy,” Claire says. Brooke was scouted, and Claire wasn’t, but then-Coach David Bojalad ’94 reached out to Claire and asked her if she wanted to play on the team.

“My sister’s a lot better than me, she played a lot more than me, but it was always kind of her thing,” Claire says. “I was more into academics, and I like hiking and skiing and outdoor activities. Vancouver has so many mountains and beaches. I really enjoyed growing up there.”

Tennis brought the sisters to Occidental, on a tip from a tennis friend of Brooke’s. “She said Oxy was really nice,” says Brooke, who applied Early Decision. “Oxy has a pretty good tennis program but it also has really good academics, which is important to me. I really want to study psychology.”

Claire, who applied Early Decision II, is leaning toward a double major in economics and sociology. Beyond that? “Honestly, I haven’t really given that much thought,” she says. “I’m kind of ‘go with the flow.’”

Arriving on campus was far from the twins’ first exposure to Los Angeles. “Our parents have a house in Ventura, so we’d go into L.A. quite a bit,” says Brooke. “There’s so much to do, and we have friends down here.”

Going back to tennis, who is the sisters’ biggest influence? “Probably Serena Williams,” Brooke replies. “She’s done really well and she has a really good attitude on court.”

“Probably my parents—they met each other playing tennis,” Claire replies. In fact, her whole family plays. “My maternal grandparents played, and they also met each other through tennis. My Aunt Teresa is really good. She almost went pro. So that always inspired me.” 


Not many first-years arrive in Eagle Rock preceded by their handiwork, but Avery Jones can make that claim. “I visited this shop called Milkfarm [a cheese establishment and eatery on Colorado Boulevard] with my family on Move-In Day,” Avery says with a smile. “We saw a few of my dad’s cheeses and one of mine. The owners recognized us, and they asked to take a picture with us.”

Last fall, Jones donated $2,200 from her cheese sales to AmpSurf, a Pismo Beach-based organization dedicated to teaching adaptive surfing to people with disabilities.
The Modesto native has spent most of her life in the wine- and cheese-making hub of Templeton. Avery has already made a name for herself in the artisanal cheese world. Her creations have been written about in The New York Times and Food & Wine magazine. At age 15, Avery took third place among 1,742 competitors for Best of Show honors in the prestigious American Cheese Society competition.

Her father, Reggie Jones, co-owner of Central Coast Creamery in Paso Robles, let Avery tag along from a young age as he plied his craft. It got into her blood, sparking her own offshoot business, Shooting Star Creamery. Inspired by her great-grandfather’s and great-great-grandfather’s military service, Avery donates a percentage of her profits to AmpSurf, a nonprofit that offers surfing rehabilitation therapy to disabled people, many of them veterans. 

Shooting Star’s offerings include Avery’s prize-winning, aged Alpine sheep milk cheese, Aries; a soft-washed rind cheese, Scorpio; a delicate rind cheese, Leo; and her latest, Sagittarius. (The zodiac-themed names, she explains, are “partially due to the name of the company, and partially because I felt it represented the cheese.”)

Although her father earned a degree in biological sciences at Fresno State University, he attended Occidental “for a year or so,” Avery says. “I always wanted a different experience than what I had in my hometown, which is a small rural community where everyone has pretty much been in school with each other since kindergarten. I didn’t want too much of a shock going from a really small town to a really big city, so when my dad suggested Occidental, I looked into it—and Oxy had everything I wanted.”

Avery is considering a biology major with a minor in theater. One of those would be a boon to cheese making. “All these tiny organisms that you put in the cheese make it work a certain way,” she says. “I might not keep cheese making as my permanent career, but I love doing it.”


It sounds like something out of a Nashville story song: Yenni González Salinas was born in Music City to a single mother who arrived there from Mexico looking for a relative who had been reported dead. The relative turned up alive and well, and Yenni’s mother stayed and created a home for her daughter.

The first in her family to graduate from high school, González Salinas draws inspiration from her mother’s daily mantra: “You can do it.”
“I grew up in a Hispanic community that was very low-income, but we were all there for each other,” Yenni says. “Nashville is very diverse but segregated. When I was at home, I mainly spoke Spanish. I could integrate myself into my culture and I didn’t have to explain things.”

But for her first couple of years of high school at University School of Nashville—where only 37 percent of the enrollment are students of color—Yenni felt “completely lost. I had never been exposed to so many white people being around me,” and “there were comments made that made me really uncomfortable.”

The experience sparked her passion for social justice and educating communities, and Yenni became co-leader of Aliados (Spanish for allies), a student organization “focused on how we could be allies to the Hispanic community,” she explains. “Each month we would host a big fiesta, and all the money raised would go toward different [Hispanic] organizations.”

Yenni was a prime facilitator of diversity, equity, and inclusion conversations on campus. As a senior, she did an independent study on indigenous communities and the right to vote. In these conversations, she says, participants would confide how they felt that “they don’t have the same voting rights as white people or Hispanic people or people of color.”

In recognition of her diversity and equity work, Yenni was awarded Oxy’s new Community Impact Scholarship, which recognizes high school students who have had an enormous impact on their communities, with all signs pointing to them accomplishing the same at Oxy.

Yenni—who wants to major in politics in preparation for law school—became aware of Occidental through her high school counselor. That led to an admission interview with an Oxy alumna that changed her scholastic path. The interviewer “told me how she didn’t want to go to Oxy to begin with, and that was really funny to me because Oxy wasn’t my first-choice school,” Yenni admits. “She expressed how social justice was very important in the Oxy community.”

The interview prompted Yenni to take a closer look at the College, she says, “and the more I learned, the more it felt right.”

Welcome to Occidental, Yenni—make yourself at home.  

Gilstrap wrote “Reimagining the Sciences” in the Summer issue.