This month, Abby Case, our Annual Fund and Stewardship Manager had the pleasure of chatting with Ben-oni (Ben) Vainquer. Ben grew up in Silver Spring, MD, and became a Central Scholarship recipient last year. He is a rising sophomore at Northeastern University in Boston, MA.

Fun Facts:

  • Ben is on the “Four-year, three-month coop plan” at Northeastern.
  • He is majoring in Computer Engineering and Computer Science and minoring in Math.
  • An enthusiastic tech fan, he loves pursuing Robotics at school.

Dream Turned Reality

Ben was always involved in extracurriculars and clubs in high school, but he was never quite sure college was in his future. He didn’t know if he’d be able to finance it. “It didn’t click that I could go to college until I got my first acceptance letter in the mail. I remember thinking, ‘Wow. This is really happening!’”

Most Surprising Thing About College

Upon reflecting on his Freshman year, Ben concludes that the biggest challenge was learning how to be completely independent. “I knew that it would be tough, but I didn’t realize how challenging it would be to balance my classes, schedule, and responsibilities.”

At the end of his first semester, Ben said he had a pivotal moment where he had put about 100 hours of work into building an autonomous robotic car for class. The deadline was approaching, and in the wee hours of the morning, as he was pulling an all-nighter, he finally got the car to work. “If you would have asked me at the beginning of the semester if I could do that, I would have said no way. But I looked at all the code I had written and realized how much I had learned that semester. I felt really accomplished.”

The COVID-19 Effect

Ben explained how he took the pandemic seriously, early on. “I was worried about getting out of Boston and back to Silver Spring quickly. Luckily, I was able to store stuff at a friend’s house in the area, and as soon as we were clear to leave campus, I avoided the airport and took a bus home. There was hardly anyone on the bus, and I traveled with a mask and hand sanitizer, so I was ok.” He, like so many other students, was looking forward to so many things in the Spring. “It was weird saying goodbye to friends because we didn’t know when we’d be seeing each other again.”

In Ben’s opinion, the most difficult thing about adapting to online classes has been not really being able to ask in-depth questions. “I really like bouncing ideas off my classmates and professors. It’s so much harder to do that online versus in person.”

What do students need?

“I think the most important thing colleges can do for their students is to communicate transparently about what is going on and what could happen next. Also, students and professors should support each other as online learning is a huge adjustment.”

Heading Back for the Fall

At Northeastern, they have made it optional for students to be on campus to work remotely. Ben is choosing to move back on campus. “There’s an on-campus testing site, and they are making sure social distancing orders are in place. Teachers will be wearing face shields, and students will be wearing masks. It’s worth it for me to go back because I’m taking three labs this semester, and I thrive in a classroom setting.”

Ben, we’re so proud to call you a Central Scholar. Keep up the exceptional work, and let us know how your fall semester turns out!

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