Liam Waldman is dedicated to his education — so much so that he chose to endure a 2.5 hour round trip from his home in Glendale to New Roads in Santa Monica every school day for seven years.
Now that commitment to attending the best school for his interdisciplinary interests has paid off with Waldman winning a full ride four-year scholarship to Wesleyan University through QuestBridge’s Match Scholarship.
Waldman’s parents are both Israeli immigrants who work in the fashion and garment industry and passed on to him a love for the visual arts that he found difficult to pursue in his public elementary and middle schools. He chose to apply to New Roads because of its excellent art resources. While attending New Roads, he developed and was able to simultaneously pursue interests in debate, journalism and public policy.
“There were moments when I definitely considered just going to my local public high school, but in the end I think I realized that New Roads gave me all these opportunities and different ways to pursue my passions that I really would not have been able to do at any other school,” said Waldman.
Although the commute was draining, Waldman chose to view it as an opportunity and applied his in-car observations to a two-year research project that combined several of his interests.
“When you’re driving through a city as diverse and constantly evolving as Los Angeles, you start to notice a lot of things and one of the things that I noticed was there was this patchwork of architecture… then alongside that there was obviously this massive homelessness crisis,” said Waldman.
For his independent project, Waldman researched the connection between architecture, urban planning and economic inequality in LA. He learned how politics closely shaped the design of physical spaces that residents inhabit. For example, he was particularly interested in the case study architecture of the 1960s, when the City of LA held competitions commissioning architects to build the nicest houses using the cheapest materials.
“A lot of really cheap houses were made that were very nice and are still dominant in LA architecture today, so I was really fascinated about why we live in certain houses and how that’s connected to housing policy and homelessness,” said Waldman.
One of his biggest takeaways from the research project was that down ballot politicians have a big impact on housing policy that residents aren’t often aware of. He also said that many Angelenos unknowingly vote against their own housing interests and are swayed by corporate interests.
As a result of his project and his time on the debate team, Waldman developed an interest in public policy that he now looks forward to deepening as a political science major at Wesleyan. At the same time he is pleased to be able to continue engaging with the visual arts and admires how the interdisciplinary philosophy at Wesleyan closely aligns with the teaching style he came to love at New Roads.
Waldman said he was thrilled to find a college where he can pursue all of his interests and be free from the financial pressures that had long loomed over his college search process. The QuestBridge Match Scholarship includes tuition and fees, room and board, books and supplies, and travel expenses.
“I definitely had the cost of college first and foremost in my mind. When you don’t have a lot of money and you’re applying to college that already limits the colleges that you can apply to and even applying to college costs money,” said Waldman, adding that the QuestBridge program provided the additional benefit of waiving all his college application fees.
Waldman is especially grateful for the four year scholarship guarantee, which means that he will not have to deal with the stress of his college re-examining his financial aid package each year. After university he is interested in a career in public policy and legal advocacy, potentially in the areas of housing or labor organizing.
“Liam’s desire to put his knowledge into action, and to impact our world for the better is quite admirable,” said Alejandra Bonilla, director of college counseling at New Roads. “He is guided by his consciousness, social justice orientation and care for others. I know in the future he will make an impact in our local community and will continue to work for the common good.”