As always, agonizing over who will make up this year's class of Emerging Scholars was intense, yet this was a happy work. We felt privileged to have the opportunity to read about so many talented young scholars committed to using their gift s to make the world a better place.

One of the most eye-popping nominations for the Emerging Scholars Class of 2012 came in for Geanncarlo Lugo-Villarino, a postdoctoral fellow studying tuberculosis a world away in Toulouse, France, at the French government's equivalent to the NIH. Lugo's Ph.D. in immunology from Harvard is a first clue that he is a bright star on the academic horizon, but the fact that he earned an associate in science degree in general studies from Southwestern College and lists this fact prominently on his CV is an indication of Lugo's true potential.

Among many other things, community colleges have long served as a springboard for high-potential students with meager resources to make it big. Lugo tells Diverse correspondent Helen Hu that he was the first in his family to complete high school, yet struggled with English and ended up working at a shoe store. After he decided to leave that job, he considered going back to school or going into the military. Ultimately, aided by a $400 gift from his mother and grandmother to help cover tuition and books, Lugo says he "opted for the community college level. It was the single most important step in my life. It was a game-changer."

Lugo says regarding his experience at Southwestern College, "It gave me the orientation I needed. ...The first year, I was adapting to a new level. There, people told me, "You can do it."

Are there any future emerging scholars in your life who need encouragement? How many Geanncarlo Lugos are languishing in dead-end jobs or are at home in front of the television without the hope or prospect of a brighter future? We here at Diverse salute 2012 Emerging Scholars such as Dr. Karen Lee not just because she is a full professor and department chairwoman at 38, but because of her commitment to teaching and advising students on a one-one-one basis above and beyond the call of duty.

Similarly, transplant surgeon Kristian Brown's two doctorates and body of published works are noteworthy, but it is the spirit of encouraging the next generation of talented young Black men to aim for the highest level of academic achievement that we honor.

We also recognize Emerging Scholars Class of 2012 member Alexes Harris for never forgetting the classmate she lost as a high school junior to senseless gun violence after being "caught up," she says. This classmate was another nameless Black drug dealer dead before 21 to many, yet his death stirred within Harris the desire to do all she could to root out the social ills plaguing the Black community, in particular.

There is something special about each of the Emerging Scholars you will have a chance to get to know through reading the profiles in this special edition. Though their backgrounds vary widely, they all share the desire to use their gift s to improve the lot of mankind. It is this spirit of service-oriented scholarship that Diverse salutes in its 11th annual installment of Emerging Scholars.