Ocasio-Cortez attended Yorktown High School, graduating in 2007. She came in second in the Microbiology category of the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair with a microbiology research project on the effect of antioxidants on the lifespan of the nematode C. elegans. In a show of appreciation for her efforts, the MIT Lincoln Laboratory named a small asteroid after her: 23238 Ocasio-Cortez. In high school, she took part in the National Hispanic Institute's Lorenzo de Zavala (LDZ) Youth Legislative Session. She later became the LDZ Secretary of State while she attended Boston University. Ocasio-Cortez had a John F. Lopez Fellowship. In 2008, while Ocasio-Cortez was a sophomore at Boston University, her father died of lung cancer. During college, she served as an intern in the office of U. S. Senator Ted Kennedy, in his section on foreign affairs and immigration issues. "I was the only Spanish speaker, and as a result, as basically a kid—a 19-, 20-year-old kid—whenever a frantic call would come into the office because someone is looking for their husband because they have been snatched off the street by ICE, I was the one that had to pick up that phone," Ocasio-Cortez said. "I was the one that had to help that person navigate that system. "