Leaving a Mark

Gifts to the Dartmouth College Fund help make great things happen for our students. Here is one of their stories.
Heather Zezzo standing in archway

Born in China and adopted by a single mother in Jamison, Pennsylvania, Heather Zezzo ’17 grew up an avid field hockey player, dragon boat racer, and scholar. At Dartmouth, she’s earning her AB and BE degrees in four years, playing field hockey, and considering a career involving clean energy and sustainability.

I was born in Liling, in Hunan province. Chinese adoption is a very private matter, so I probably will never learn anything about my birth mother. I do know that she left me somewhere safe, in the hopes that I could have a better life. Before giving me up, she imprinted a primitive blue oval tattoo on my left wrist. The orphanage told my adoptive mom that the tattoo was a message to let me know that my birth mother gave me up not because she didn’t love me, but because she loved me so much.

My tattoo started fading around second grade and was completely gone by sixth. The most important thing I learned through my adoption is that people can leave both visible and invisible marks on others. That’s what motivates me every day. I need to leave my mark, because it’s the right thing to do.

I competed on the Dragon Boat USA junior national team. I also attended the world championships the summer before my junior year of high school. I’ve been a part of teams throughout my life, but representing the U.S. was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had.

When I traveled to Shanghai, Beijing, and Hangzhou in 2011, I was stunned by the amount of air pollution. That struck an emotional chord for me, and it’s where my interest in clean energy began.

Dartmouth has given me the opportunity to be an athlete, an engineer, a sorority member, and a volunteer. This juggling act has forced me to become a stronger, more independent person—emotionally, physically, and intellectually. It has made me more mature and responsible.

After Dartmouth, I’d like an engineering consulting job in New York City. Long term, I may pursue a PhD or possibly an MBA and then maybe combine business with engineering.