Updated on March 14, 2024 at 11:30 a.m. ET - This article has been updated to reflect the results of the public vote and our Spotlight honorees. Additional coverage to follow. 

When we all pursue bold, evidence-based solutions to the world’s greatest challenges, the results are remarkable. That’s exactly what the TC community works towards every day, but TC Impact Day — happening March 13 — drives critical results for true change each year. 

In honor of our annual day of action, the TC Impact Spotlight aims to recognize one student and one alum who make an impact in their communities and exemplify our mission to create a more equitable world. 

Learn more about the transformative work of this year’s finalists, vote below through Impact Day (March 13) at 12 pm ET, discover ways that you can make a difference, and stay tuned for the College’s announcement of the honorees on March 13.  


Joel Lopez Spotlight Finalist 2024

Joel Lopez (M.A. '24, Clinical Psychology)

Meet Joel, a student in TC’s Clinical Psychology program and founder of the Teachers College Interdisciplinary Psychedelic Society (TCIPS).

How Joel makes an impact:

  • Establishing TCIPS and continuing to destigmatize the topic of the therapeutic application of psychedelic substances among scholars at TC and CU, drawing on previous professional experiences with psychedelic research, non-profit development.
  • Collaborating with a team of volunteer student leaders to produce events including documentary screenings, discussions on psychedelic training and harm reduction at Columbia, as well as their blog, ‘The Blotter.
  • Engaging the broader community as the Diversity Fund Scholarship Manager and Psychedelic Therapist Training Support Staff at Fluence, an organization that educates licensed clinicians globally to become psychedelic therapists.
  • Serving in the U.S. Army Reserves as a Behavioral Health Specialist.


Jada John Spotlight Finalist 2024

Jada K. John (Ed.D. '23, Mathematics Education)

Meet Jada, a school leader and educator creating accessible academic opportunities for youth in underserved communities.

How Jada makes an impact: 

  • Leading Big Apple Leadership Academy for the Arts (BALAA), which provides free after school programming and music education to youth in historically underrepresented communities.
  • Teaching math for more than 20 years at the high school level in New York City with an emphasis on highly engaging lessons and a “progressive pedagogical philosophy.”
  • Empowering youth to share and build upon their talents to become leaders in their communities through enrichment activities, character development, skill building and performance opportunities.
  • Facilitated New York City’s first HBCU Audition Fair with in-person scholarship auditions, allowing for students that attended to receive $282,000 in scholarship offers to date. 

Student Finalists


Sophia Acquisto Spotlight Finalist 2024

Sophia Acquisto (M.A. ’24, Computing in Education)

Meet Sophia, a student in TC’s Computing in Education program and Hudson Valley  teacher who’s putting a new spin on history curriculum using digital innovation.

How Sophia makes an impact:

  • Increasing learning interest and public knowledge around local history by creating “My Hudson History,” a digital mapping tool which provides information on the Hudson Valley’s most historic sites, from Albany to Westchester.
  • Instilling passion for history in her students by connecting the broad lessons in their textbooks with their own experiences, cultures, and identities.
  • Employing inclusive teaching strategies to help students from underrepresented identities feel they are positively included and celebrated in history curriculum.
  • Helping students engage with their local community by incorporating diverse, local voices and community stories in the classroom.


Yoshita Dawar Spotlight Finalist 2024

Yoshita Dawar (M.A. '24, Clinical Psychology) 

Meet Yoshita, a student in TC’s Clinical Psychology program with a passion for forensic psychology in service of vulnerable populations. 

How Yoshita makes an impact:

  • Fostering positive social-emotional development among incarcerated women through art workshops at Rikers Island.
  • Volunteering with the Street Homeless Advocacy Project, through which she works with New York individuals who are homeless to better understand their identities and offer pathways to voluntarily transitioning from street living to safer alternatives.
  • Supporting immigration cases of refugees and asylum seekers through the Columbia Human Rights Initiative Asylum Clinic by assessing their psychological well-being and drafting legal affidavits.
  • Engaging the TC community in the cross-cultural exchange of dance as the head of TC Hub of Dancers.
  • Supporting the academic rights and success of TC students with disabilities as a student proctor for TC’s Office of Access and Services for Individuals with Disabilities.

Alumni Finalists 


Wendy Moore Spotlight Finalist 2024

Wendy Moore (Ph.D. '13, Cognitive Studies in Education)

Meet Wendy, who leverages her education background to develop high-impact, community-focused programs and services through grassroots nonprofit work. 

How Wendy makes an impact: 

  • Establishing the Brooklyn Diaper Project, which since the pandemic has donated nearly 400,000 diapers to local, underserved families through its community partner organizations.
  • Supporting the ecological and sustainable benefits of kelp through Lazy Point Farms, which helps provide the structural, educational, and logistical support necessary to help farmers across New York State.
  • Developing a prototype for a sustainable, locally-sourced diaper material made of kelp and oyster shells with the Fashion Institute of Technology.
  • Creating an open, interdisciplinary curriculum that uses New York’s kelp farming as a means of teaching students about sustainability, economic issues and more.


Ornella Parker Spotlight Finalist 2024

Ornella Parker (Ed.M. '19, Education Leadership)

Meet Ornella, an education leader driving equity through policy, practice and community. 

How Ornella makes an impact:

  • Created a diversity, equity and inclusion training curriculum for educators in Success Academy’s 47 charter schools that emphasized actionable practices to improve improving student achievement.
  • Supporting the DEI development of K-12 educators as an adjunct professor at Relay Graduate School of Education.
  • Leading supportive, inclusive schools — currently as a principal for Ascend Charter Schools, and previously driving achievement gains in school communities of color.
  • Established the Ornella Parker ’14 Endowed Scholarship for Black Student Leaders at her alma mater, SUNY Canton, as one of their youngest philanthropists in history. 

Learn more about how you can make a difference as part of Impact Day on March 13 and beyond here.