The Inaugural Homecoming Humanitarian Award

By: Will Cousino

October 24, 2011

The Homecoming Humanitarian Award was inspired by a similar nomination-based award from my high school as well as conversations with Caroline Gardner (Office of Advancement) and Ray Shiu (Director of CSJ) in the last few months.

The HH Award is designed to recognize junior or senior Hoyas who have demonstrated compassionate and consistent service and outreach in the Washington, DC community. Any student, staff or faculty member may nominate a candidate. Among 31 nominations submitted to the database on the Corp’s website, we read through the applications to reach a point where we discussed in greater depth the qualifications of 9 of the most outstanding.
The Corp Service & Outreach Committee and the Office of Advancement each contributed $1,000 toward a $2,000 scholarship for the winner. A plaque with nameplates for the award’s recipients will be hung in Sellinger Lounge for additional names to be added in subsequent years.

I hope the Homecoming Humanitarian Award becomes a tradition that recognizes Hoyas who exemplify a spirit of service and giving in line with Georgetown’s Jesuit ideals. The fact that nominations are submitted by peers and professors makes the award all the more special.

Will Cousino – SFS ’12 (The Corp; non-voting chair of the committee)

Winner: Jeremy Cairl (C’13)

Jeremy is President of Saint Elizabeth's Outreach Organization, and has been involved in this program since his freshman year, in 2009. Nearly every Friday for the past two years during the school year continuing now, the nominee organizes trips and travels with a small number of fellow volunteers to St. Elizabeth's Mental Hospital in Anacostia, Southeast D.C.

From 2:30 pm to 6:00 pm every Friday, the nominee drives the van of volunteers to the hospital to spend up to two hours with residents of three different wards of the hospital. He socializes with these individuals with mental afflictions (technically referred to as "criminally insane patients"), plays games with them and listens their incredible stories.

Since the residents rarely get an opportunity for genuine social interaction with any one besides a therapist or doctor seeking to proscribe the correct medication (many residents are without families and friends in the outside world), the nominee provides a tremendously important and valuable service to these individuals through St. E's outreach. The residents show their heartfelt appreciation in many ways: the nominee has received personal letters from some residents, as well as one painting, given to the nominee by a resident as a gift.

The nominee feels deep sympathy for these individuals who are perhaps some of the most neglected and forgotten members of society. His knowledge of life in a mental hospital has not only grown vastly from his personal experience within the walls of St. E's, but also through his study of Psychology (his major): for example, he inferentially learned that a large component of many St. E's residents' illnesses is iatrogenic, meaning that their "disorders" are perpetuated and even sustained by not only the residents' environment within the hospital but also by the throngs of doctors who relentlessly diagnose and proscribe them mandatory medication based on second-hand behavioral reports without spending the time to truly get to know the residents as well as their needs or wishes.

In short, the nominee unceasingly strives to lead by example in treating the residents not as "mental patients" but as people. They are people who love the things anyone else loves: good conversation with someone who cares what you have to say, lighthearted laughs, and a good game of cards with bright, energetic company. The nominee knows this, and so he does what we can every Friday; and he tries tirelessly to drag along everyone else to volunteer with him!

And yet, it would be misleading to describe the nominee as purely driven by compassion and sympathy alone. The nominee simply loves the work he does at St. Elizabeth's Hospital. He clearly draws much personal satisfaction and happiness from his volunteer work—it’s what drives him. He loves spending time with the residents, and he loves getting to know them. He loves learning from them, both their present life and their past.

The benefits the nominee receives are not tangible, but they are immense. He does it for the smiles he gets from the residents, from the warm and genuinely close relationships he slowly builds with residents over time. He wants to be appreciated and trusted by the residents; he wants them to know that they have someone to confide in, someone to express their feelings to, even someone to complain or lament to--someone who actually cares. Someone who is there not because he is paid to get through the day but because he genuinely wants to be there, to hear all the stories, and to laugh his heart away with the lovable and shining souls at St. E's.

"What I enjoy most about St. Elizabeth's Outreach is getting to know the residents of the hospital, getting close to them, laughing with them and hearing the incredible stories about their lives." -- Jeremy Cairl

Nominated by Thomas Bosco MSB ’12.

Outstanding honorable mention, Lindsey Dooner (C’12)

Lindsey has been a DC Reads coordinator since Spring 2011. DC Reads a literacy tutoring, mentoring, and advocacy program that works with 400+ low-income, underserved elementary school students in 7 schools and 2 community centers in Ward 7. The nominee has coordinated the after school tutoring program at Beers ES and Kenilworth ES, and the nominee served as a summer school teacher with DC Reads at Kenilworth ES.

When not dramatically improving the academic trajectory of individual students in classrooms and after school programs with the intensity, enthusiasm, and academic resources the nominee brings to the classroom, the nominee acts an active member of DC Reads' Campus Engagement Committee, in which the nominee has been instrumental in planning monthly seminars for tutor enrichment, the first annual Education Week for campus engagement, and events like Fall Fest and Spring Fling, which provide hundreds of elementary students with first hand experience exploring Georgetown's campus.

The nominee was one of two coordinators for Community Service Day this year. The nominee was responsible for planning and executing over 20 service projects around Ward 7 for hundreds of freshmen and transfer students. The nominee's involvement in community service day not only strengthened the nominee's bond with the Ward 7 community and citizens, but also Georgetown's collective bond with the Ward 7 community.

The nominee shows incredible interest, intelligence, and passion for the systemic issues that surround education as evidenced in the nominee's CSJ-related work and the nominee's upcoming thesis on mixed socio-economic class schooling. The nominee allows her dedication to a systemic solution for education inequality to permeate her entire life: it decides how she spends 20-30 hours a week of extra curricular time, how she spends her summers, what classes she picks (she asks herself, what will provide me the information to further contribute to a solution? To further help the kids, classrooms, and families in under-served communities?), and how she engages professors, classmates, and friends on a day to day basis.

The nominee is passionate about fighting against educational inequalities and gives selflessly to the students, parents, schools, and communities affected by these injustices, while also actively engaging fellow Georgetown students. Whether it be a second grade summer school student, Ms. Johnson (the principal of Kenilworth ES), a professor at Georgetown, a fellow student, or a community member at a DC Promise Neighborhood Initiative Dinner, the nominee recognizes that each person is important and only through a broader community effort can educational inequalities be addressed. I am so inspired by the nominee's leadership in expressing and executing DC Reads initiatives.

The nominee gets the coordinating staff on board with her ideas, creates systems of accountability, emphasizes building partnerships with other organizations, and is unafraid to make tough decisions. The nominee constantly works to provide and improve the mediums for other Georgetown students to become meaningfully involved in and engaged by social justice work. The nominee relentlessly strives to convey the true purpose and value in the work that she does, in both the Ward 7 communities and on Georgetown's campus, encouraging other students to critically think about their involvement in pursuits of social justice.

"The children and families I get to work with bring me back to the community because it is due to them that our work makes an impact--they are the greatest partners and despite the obstacles we face, make every day worthwhile." -- Lindsey Dooner, on her service to Ward 7

Nominated by Elisa Manrique COL ’14.

comments powered by Disqus