Incoming 2022

POSTED ON: August 17, 2022

Incoming 2022

Each year we like to introduce a few newly arriving students. Meet Sophie Saari, Damani Laidlow, and Amira Jehnoi Walcott, and learn about how they ended up in their choice of degree and at The Cooper Union, what they are most looking forward to in their studies, and what they did over their summer.

SophieSophie Saari
Spokane, Washington (as well as Idaho, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and Maine)

I want to study art because I felt like the piece of me that needs creativity, beauty, and design was unavoidable. I am inspired by everything from the brainstorming to production and creation.

I discovered The Cooper Union when I was literally walking around New York. My mom and I visited the city a few times, and she would let me explore on my own because she knew how special it was for me. During the summer before my sophomore year of high school, I was in the East Village and saw this beautiful building. When I found it was a school, I had to know more about it. When I heard about The Cooper Union’s art program and discovered how unique it was when it came to engagement with the city and the people around it, I knew that’s where I was supposed to be. In fact, my favorite part about Cooper is the concept of social obligation. I finally found a place where I can include my love of making art and my love of working with a community. Long story short, I applied early decision and never looked back.

I’m looking forward to the variety of classes I’ll be taking, especially in my foundation year. As an art student, I love that I don’t have to be tied down to one medium or subject. I can’t wait to see where this year takes me.

This summer, I’ve been working a lot at a cafe in the park by my house. I get to walk through the park’s gardens in the mornings and it’s always breathtaking. I’ve also been practicing some drawing/sketching and trying to learn to expand on my work through different mediums. Besides that, summers in a place like Spokane are filled with hiking, camping, hammocking, swimming, road trips, concerts, and friends! 

Damani Laidlow
Brooklyn, New York

DamaniAs a child growing up in Bushwick in Brooklyn, New York, I was non-verbal until I was nearly five years old and labeled "on the Spectrum," which meant that I was on the verge of being autistic. Fortunately through my mom's perseverance, I was able to get assistance from an early intervention program and later was chosen in a lottery to attend charter school. Early intervention was invaluable in helping me speak my first words and learning how to form sensible sentences. Prior to speech, I communicated with sounds and hand motions, which made it difficult for teachers and other children to understand. 

As I transitioned to charter school, it was difficult at first because I still didn't have the communication skills of the other students. Fortunately, the students and staff were kind and eventually I was able to come out of my shell and be more social. Throughout my years in the Achievement First Charter School system, I was able to continuously excel. I pushed through all challenges with the support of my mom and the Achievement First teachers and staff. 

With my love of trains and the transit system in general, I've had the privilege of attending several Cooper Union STEM programs. These programs have assisted in expanding my knowledge of engineering, which also related to my love of transit. Hard work, perseverance, love, and support have been instrumental in my success thus far. I am so happy that the end of my charter school journey has led me to a full scholarship to The Cooper Union, my first choice for college! 

I am inspired to continue taking pride in how far I've gotten and the obstacles I've overcome. I am taking time this summer to accumulate some work experience and prepare myself for any on-campus or other work I may be doing once the semester begins. 

This fall, as I enter my new chapter at The Cooper Union, I will maintain the same drive and ambition that got me to this point, to become a civil engineer!

AmiraAmira Jehnoi Walcott
North Bergen, NJ

My dentist was the first person who told me about The Cooper Union. I was 10 years old, and he asked me what I wanted to do when I grew up. At the time, I wanted to go into aerospace engineering, and I told him so. My dentist immediately told me about Cooper. He was really happy to hear that I’d gotten in!

My professional goals have changed since then. I went to High Tech High School, a county magnet school in Secaucus where we have majors. I connected a lot with my architect teacher, Ms. Batista. I did an internship with her and she became my mentor, so I majored in architecture. I also volunteered with the drama department designing sets. I went to Our Lady of Grace Church and we did plays growing up. I’m really into theater and singing, but I discovered that I love the backend part so much more.

All along I was shooting to go to Cooper, so I took the summer architecture program. I loved working with Professor Mersiha Veledar: the course convinced me more than ever that Cooper is the right place for me. I’m only one of three women in the history of my school who has been accepted into the school.

This summer I’ve been working at a pool in a nearby town, Ridgefield. I work in the office there, and I’m also babysitting to raise money for school. What I’m most excited about is diving deeper into software for architecture. I’m already very familiar with Rhino and AutoCAD, but there’s so much more to learn. My family is so excited for me too: my late father was a photographer and my mother is a platform director for the Associated Press, but I’m the first person in my family to go to college.


  • 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.