High School

Katie Lopez
AITE 2023
US Navy

A Future 5 Ambassador, Katie credits Future 5 for providing a welcoming place where, as a shy student, she could build her confidence and follow her dreams.

“Lizzie, Karen and everyone at Future 5 were so friendly from the start,” she adds. “They helped me through challenging Covid struggles, when I felt like I was slipping in my academics, and connected me to Laysha, a former Future 5 student, who helped tutor me in math to get back on track. Future 5 was like a second home for me. I made a lot of friends and I felt motivated. Everyone was so friendly and I felt the entire Future 5 community wanted me to succeed.”

One of Katie’s first memories of Future 5, after joining as a freshman, was winning her first Brainwave challenge! She credits some of her success during the popular Future 5 weekly current events contest to her Spanish teacher at AITE, who always encouraged students to watch the news in Spanish. Her parents both immigrated from Ecuador, but Katie’s first language is English and she is working to become bilingual. Having lived her whole life in Stamford, she has always been interested in travel, adventure and service, so it was no surprise when, as a senior going through the college process with her Future 5 coach, Donna Sueden, she felt a driving desire to shift her focus to follow her cousin, Josh (also a former Future 5 student) and pursue a career in the US Navy. Her coach encouraged her to follow her passion and helped coach and prepare her for her meeting with a recruiter. Now she’s prepping for the exam that will help determine what path she’ll take in the Navy, which she hopes will be in the area of mechanics or engineering.

Joaquin Diaz-Huerta
Stamford High School 2023
Wharton School of Business, U Penn 2027

Although reading philosophy by Marcus Aurelius is only a pastime, there’s no question Joaquin digs deep to learn about and experience the world around him, and in his own words, he’s committed to making an impact on mankind.

Raised by a single mother who immigrated from Peru when he was six years old to give him a better life, Joaquin honed his entrepreneurial skills early on, building websites and selling goods online to help support his family during his early years of high school.

Now a Future 5 Ambassador, Joaquin joined the organization during his Junior year, and after years of navigating life quietly on his own, soon “felt I was in a hidden away magic community.” He praises the Future 5 staff and community for providing a welcoming and supportive place to grow. He’s taken advantage of almost every community service event, noting that one of his favorites was being out on the Long Island Sound in a kayak, cleaning up marine debris with local partner, Soundwaters.

When Joaquin first learned about Questbridge, a not for profit matches low income, first gen students to opportunities at national colleges and universities, he never expected to become a finalist, crediting his college coach, Carolyn Brook, with adding structure and discipline to the process. She was a role model for me,” recalls Joaquin, adding, “Seeing her business background made my path more tangible and I immediately saw how much I would learn from her.”

A few weeks ago, Joaquin learned that he had received a National College Match through Questbridge, resulting a four-year scholarship to The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, where he plans to study Entrepreneurship and Social Impact, so that he can “do his small part to advance the human race.”


Claudia Lucien
AITE 2019
UConn Storrs 2023

Following in the footsteps of her older brother, Shiller, an early Future 5 member who graduated from Stamford High School in 2012, Claudia joined Future 5 as a sophomore and hit the ground running.

Claudia took advantage of tutors, a college coach, Sharon Katz, and engaged in so many community service events in the interest of “paying it forward” that she was awarded a $7,500 scholarship for outstanding community service at the 2019 Citizen of the Year event in Stamford honoring Dan Malloy. “Future 5 has always been there for me,” she shares, and “I would not be the person I am today without Future 5.” Claudia was always willing to do the work, but she needed to tap into her inner strength, and in Future 5 she found a support system that helped her build skills to push herself out of her comfort zone, develop confidence in her abilities and project that confidence to the outside world. She recalls even the most basic “soft skills” she learned in the Future 5 Job Prep workshop – the importance of eye contact with a smile and a good handshake.

Claudia’s growing confidence translated into other accolades and scholarships as well, including college awards from Person to Person and 100 Black Men of Stamford, some of which provided financial support for all four years of undergraduate college.

Every year, Claudia makes a list of goals that she’s determined to achieve. Last year, as a Junior at UConn Storrs, she shifted her major to Human Development and Family Sciences. Having worked at UConn’s Student Health and Wellness Center and focusing on getting into med school, she’s currently working on pre-med post-baccalaureate applications. She hopes to pursue a career as a physician in Orthopedics, EMS, ObGyn, Surgery or Internal Medicine, with a focus on women’s health and health disparities in minority or underrepresented communities.

Justin Tat
AITE 2018
UConn 2022

The son of Cambodian and Vietnamese immigrants, Justin was raised in Stamford and followed a friend to Future 5 during his sophomore year in 2016, where, in his words, he began to learn about the value of persistence.

Early on, Justin embraced a tutor, Cliff DeSouza, who taught him to stay curious about math and science and worked with him to analyze problems and find solutions. He was inspired to put in the daily effort to become physically fit by Future 5 founder, Clif McFeely, who also interested him in staying informed about world news and events through the weekly Brainwave session that challenges students about current events.

He credits his college coach, Susan Foster, with helping him stay persistent throughout the college process. During his time as a student at UConn he became a resident advisor, a role that continued to help him grow intellectually, mentally and emotionally, as he helped guide younger classmen through a program that promoted mental and physical health and academic success. He could be found on a daily basis between classes at Future 5, where he’d camp out in the computer room doing homework or get extra help with tutors on a college level.

Most recently, he expressed his gratitude for Diane Bailey, Future 5’s Career Advisor, for helping him stay grounded and maintain tenacity during his job search process – researching companies, interviewing and staying motivated and positive even when the process was daunting and sometimes heartbreaking. With her encouragement and support, he recently identified and landed a dream job at UnitedHealth Group as a software engineer.

Justin recently served on a panel at Future 5, this time as a proud alum, working with younger student members who had questions about career pathways and opportunities, bringing Future 5 full circle!


Leslina Dangler
Stamford High School 2015
Norwalk Community College 2019
University of Bridgeport 2022

Leslina says she would never have reached her goal of becoming a dental hygienist without the support of Future 5, describing her youth as a perfect storm of every imaginable challenge.

Relying solely on her grandmother to provide family, financial or emotional support while caring for a younger brother, Leslina latched onto Future 5 as the safe haven she never had at home.

Upon becoming a member, Leslina immediately re-structured her life to come to Future 5 every day after school to do homework, learn about the college process and hone her interviewing skills and credits Clif, Beth and other members of the team for shining a light on what had been a dark and lonely path.

In Leslina’s words, “Future 5 made a difference in the course of my life every step of the way.

Clif made a difference…

Beth made a difference…

Ellen made a difference…”

Along the way, Clif connected Leslina to a dental hygienist who inspired her to be persistent in her career journey. But the path didn’t get easier, and Leslina needed to postpone school to support herself and her brother before heading to NCC in 2017 and throughout her time there. She stayed connected to Future 5 for help with course selections and the transfer process to University of Bridgeport and proudly graduated with a degree in Dental Hygiene in 2022, passing her boards a few months later.

Today, Leslina is thrilled to finally be working as a dental hygienist at Pearl Dentistry in Stamford and Trumbull, where she says even the 10-hour days on her feet fly by and she enjoys educating her patients while she works on their dental needs. As another alum who wants to give back to Future 5, she is sharing her experience in the medical community with younger student members who are interested in a similar career.

Karlos Mikem
Stamford High School 2013
Norwalk Community College 2016
UConn 2022

Karlos didn’t have the financial support he needed to attend UConn upon graduating from high school, but he was determined not to let life get in the way of his goals and aspirations.

Karlos enrolled at Norwalk Community College, where he studied Media Studies, graduating in 2016. That same year, his parents moved to Texas, so Karlos and his brother, Camille, also a Future 5 member, started building a support system for themselves, starting their own video production company to supplement their primary sources of income. First and foremost, Karlos needed to support himself.

Karlos’ first job upon graduating from NCC was with Jim Grunberger, a longtime Stamford businessman and Future 5 board member known for helping Future 5 students secure jobs and apartments. With the help of Future 5, Karlos then landed an internship at Irving Levin Associates. Marketing and multi-media internships at Spectrum and TMCnet followed.

In 2020, while working full time, Karlos reconnected with the Future 5 College Success team and successfully transferred to UConn Stamford. He and his brother secured another apartment through Future, this time

Karlos lost his father two weeks before he enrolled at UConn Stamford, but in spite of his personal heartbreak, he persevered to stay on track, graduating in 2022 with a major in Digital Media Design and a 3.89 GPA!

Karlos story came full circle in January 2023 when he accepted a job as Development Assistant at Future 5. In his words, “Future 5 impacted my life in every way – from college to jobs to apartments to learning to manage my stress and anxiety when times got tough. He’s excited “to work in a supportive environment – to give back and pay it forward.”