Incoming 2015: Part Two

August 31, 2015

In the second installment of our weekly series focusing on new arrivals at The Cooper Union, we meet Kiersten Mercado, "Olu" Olorode and Kayla Montes de Oca. See part one.

Kiersten MercadoKiersten Mercado
School of Art
Jacksonville, Florida via Torrance, Callifornia

How did you become interested in studying art?
I’ve always enjoyed creating art since I was a little kid. My mom used to sit me in an empty blow up pool in our living room and let me finger paint on sheets of butcher paper. When I was in fifth grade, I begged my parents to fill out the magnet school application for Lavilla School of the Arts (6-8 grade). After attending Lavilla School of the Arts, I auditioned and was accepted to attend Douglas Anderson School of the Arts as a high school student.

Why did you choose to attend The Cooper Union?
I found out about Cooper Union when I was a freshman in high school. My best friend’s older brother was accepted into Cooper and his family suggested I look into it. After I did my research, I fell in love with Cooper Union! I admire the prestige Cooper Union is known for and I knew, with hard work and commitment, I’d have what it takes to attend. I looked into other art colleges but they seemed basic and programmed. I love that genuine spirit the students share at Cooper Union. That fighting spirit is where true ideas and great changes stem from. I devoted my entire high school years to long hours of nonstop progress with my art in preparation for Cooper. My decision to attend Cooper Union is very important to me. I reached that critical point where I put all of my cards on the table: my art, skills, passion, awards and most importantly, who I am as a person. I want to continue building a path and creating new goals at Cooper Union. Great things are on the horizon.

What are you most looking forward to during your time here?
I am most looking forward to becoming actively involved with my school and community in pursuit of fulfilling Peter Cooper’s vision that education should be free as air and water. It will be refreshing to be surrounded by likeminded, hardworking people who share the same passion and drive for producing art and undertaking challenges. 

What have you been up to over the summer?
In June, I went to Carnegie Hall for the third year in a row to accept a National Gold Medal in printmaking from the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards. Taking part in the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards was an honor I will never forget. Also, my family and I took a flight to Europe where we backpacked for a few weeks. That was quite an adventure. Since then, I’ve been spending quality time with friends and family before I make the big move to New York in August.


Oluwadamilola 'Olu' OlorodeOluwadamilola "Olu" Olorode
School of Engineering
Princeton Junction, NJ via Nigeria, Africa, West Orange, NJ and the Bronx, NY

How did you become interested in studying engineering?
I joined my high school FIRST robotics team in my sophomore year. I chose to be on the programming team, which eventually led to becoming the lead programmer and being part of the third best alliance of robotics teams in the world in 2015. During this journey, I also had the privilege of working with the electrical and mechanical teams. I got to learn how to solder and use a drill press, which is not taught in regular school classes. My experiences pointed me toward the field of engineering. Since I had always been good at math and science, using my skills to work on engineering projects and the fun I had led me to decide to become an electrical engineer.

Why did you choose to attend The Cooper Union?
I was attracted to The Cooper Union due to its low price and highly respected educational programs. All the other schools I had gotten into did not seem to be worth the price they were asking for. Additionally, I actually enjoyed talking to all of the people I met at The Cooper Union on admitted students day, which I can't say for certain Ivy schools I won't name. The small, yet incredibly smart community really appealed to me, and I felt I would be able to get a quality education at Cooper.

What are you most looking forward to during your time here?
I am looking forward to meeting all the smart and interesting people at The Cooper Union. So essentially I'm excited to meet everyone. I am also looking forward to a challenge and working on things I actually enjoy.

What have you been up to over the summer?
I have been working as a camp counselor at a LEGO robotics and advanced robotics camp, going to countless graduation parties, and watching a lot of TV shows and movies.


Kayla Montes de OcaKayla Montes de Oca
Miami, Florida
School of Architecture

How did you become interested in studying architecture?
My fascination with architecture started when I was about 12, I would spend my nights watching House Hunters and Reno shows, but once I had a chance to really dive deep and study the basis of it I fell in love instantly. It is really magical to experience the process of an idea that came from a little spark in your head, to paper and finally to something tangible. It gives you a chance to be a part of a community that has the passion to make a beautiful and sustainable world for everyone.

Why did you choose to attend The Cooper Union?
I chose to attend The Cooper Union because of its integrity. I know for a fact that Cooper will bring the best out of anyone, artistically, conceptually, collaboratively, and much more. I can see myself really involved here and genuinely interested in what I’ll be learning for the years to come.

What are you most looking forward to during your time here?
I’m looking forward to moving to New York most of all, but also meeting and working with my classmates and professors. New eyes and ideas are always refreshing, so I’m really excited to be a part of a very talented group of people.

What have you been up to over the summer?

I visited family in the Bahamas for some time, but I spent more than half of my summer in Miami with my friends and family. But most importantly keeping my soundcloud updated.

  • Founded by inventor, industrialist and philanthropist Peter Cooper in 1859, The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art offers education in art, architecture and engineering, as well as courses in the humanities and social sciences.

  • “My feelings, my desires, my hopes, embrace humanity throughout the world,” Peter Cooper proclaimed in a speech in 1853. He looked forward to a time when, “knowledge shall cover the earth as waters cover the great deep.”

  • From its beginnings, Cooper Union was a unique institution, dedicated to founder Peter Cooper's proposition that education is the key not only to personal prosperity but to civic virtue and harmony.

  • Peter Cooper wanted his graduates to acquire the technical mastery and entrepreneurial skills, enrich their intellects and spark their creativity, and develop a sense of social justice that would translate into action.