This annual event highlights the amazing work of our students, faculty and community partners in service to communities in Los Angeles and around the world.  Please read on to learn more about each of the awards and awardees.

Watch the recording of the ceremony here:

Thank you to the Community Service Awards Committee Members:

Desiree Benson Award:

Paul Dieken, Tina Koneazny, Chris Llovera, Jackie Turner

Extraordinary Community Service Award:

Anna Gard, Sherell Lanoix, Brenda Pesante, Officer Roy White

Grace Ford Salvatori Scholarships:

Gilbert Radillo, Emma Rendón, Sable Manson, Jacqueline Whitley

Dick Cone Award:

Samantha Bernstein-Sierra, Susan Harris, Sable Manson

Barbara Seaver Gardner Award:

The JEP Staff

Special thanks:

USC Dornsife Technology Services: Jesse Fair

USC Dornsife Advancement

USC Private Events: Staci Samadani and the hospitality staff

USC Transportation: Tony Mazza

Southern California Trophy Company

Friends and Supporters of JEP

Congratulations to the 2022 award winners!

  • Portrait of JasminThe Extraordinary Community Service Award was established in 1981 by Grace Ford Salvatori to recognize one graduating senior or progressive Master degree student for their significant service to the communities surrounding both the UPC and HSC campuses.

    This year’s winner is Jasmin Sanchez, a first-generation Latina studying Health and Human Sciences with a minor in Occupational Science. Jasmin–who grew up within walking distance of USC–has dedicated her entire college career to giving back to her community. She started working with JEP’s STEM Education programs as a freshman, teaching hands-on science lessons in the same classrooms she had once sat in as a student as part of the Young Scientists Program. She also worked on cancer education for second graders through the Medical STEM Program.  And in her junior year, Jasmin started playing an essential role in with Wonderkids–an afterschool program that focuses on making STEM careers more tangible for k-5 students. Additionally, as part of a “STEM Activities for Early Education” workshop, she helped teachers learn more about how to teach a science lesson to children in Spanish and English.

    But Jasmin’s dedication goes far beyond her work with JEP.  She has worked to increase accessibility at the Califomia Hospital Medical Center.  She has volunteered at the John Tracy Center, which is a preschool and education site for children with hearing impairment.  She has served with the SOLA Peace Camp, which focuses on social emotional learning skills and occupational reconstruction with children from the local community.  Jasmin serves as an advisor for the Neighborhood Academic Initiative, has hosted a symposium with Research Gateway Scholars and – last but certainly not least – has recently written a children’s book on what it is like to be an aspiring occupational therapist — based on her own life — to encourage others like her to believe in themselves and pursue the careers they are passionate about.

    Jasmin is a fierce advocate for her community and anyone who is facing systemic barriers in education or health care, writing in her application: “It is incredibly hard to speak out when there are injustices, especially when through my culture I was taught to stay quiet. Being able to help or assist other people achieve their goals or simply complete a task has truly impacted me because I know how hard it can be difficult to ask for help sometimes. Being involved in my community is a rewarding experience because I see myself in the community. I see the child who didn’t understand English but had a love for school. I see the person who had difficulties understanding all the technical jargon of legal and medical documents. I see myself as a person I wish I had in my life when I was younger.”

  • Portrait of LourdesThe JEP Award for Community-Engaged Teaching and Research was established in 2019 to recognize USC faculty who meaningfully integrate community engagement into their teaching and/or research.

    This year’s winner is Dr. Lourdes Baezconde-Garbanati, who has centered community engagement in her work for decades. She is a Professor of Preventive Medicine at the USC Keck School of Medicine and serves in many other capacities, including heading the Community Health Equity Solutions Initiative, serving as the Associate Director for Community Outreach and Engagement at the Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center, collaborating with the Office of Community Engagement at the Southern California Clinical Translation Institute (CTSI), and serving as the founding Director of the Center for Health Equity in the Americas.

    Dr. Baezconde-Garbanati’s research focuses on cancer, health disparities, tobacco use among vulnerable population groups and in underserved communities. She uses innovative, participatory approaches to communicate about science and health, working with community partners to develop interventions that promote healthy behaviors and reduce risk factors.  One such project – the “Tamale Lesson” — utilized storytelling (a short-form videoclip) to reach an important community (Latinx women) about a life-saving subject (the importance of cervical cancer screenings), resulting in increased screenings among the targeted population. She has contributed to the Vaccinate LA initiative that works to facilitate access to COVID vaccines. Dr. Baezconde-Garbanati enlisted the support of “Community Vaccination Navigators” or “Promotoras”– members of communities who are trained to help their neighbors identify misinformation and learn more about the benefits of getting vaccinated by going from house to house and knocking on doors.

    le Dr. Baezconde-Garbanati’s work has been widely recognized and is a model for community-engaged researchers around the world.  Congratulations Dr. Lourdes Baezconde-Garbanati!

  • Portrait of Tracy

    The Dornsife Award for Exceptional Service is awarded annually to extraordinary individuals or organizations that have contributed their time, talent or treasure to support communities in Los Angeles. Established in 2015, winners of this award have contributed financial support and/or hundreds of volunteer hours to supporting or extending the work of JEP’s programs.  Others have shared their expertise with communities as professionals or public servants.  All have made a significant impact on the communities they serve.

    The 2022 recipient of the award is Tracy Nordbak, who has been the Director of Volunteer Services at the California Hospital Medical Center (CMHC) since 2011 and has been working in volunteer management for more than two decades. Her partnership with the USC Joint Educational Project’s Trojan Health Volunteers (THV) program was one of the first institutional partnerships she established after joining CHMC.  Tracy she has been an invaluable resource for the students in her programs through her creativity and talent for creating mutually beneficial service-learning assignments.

    One of the programs, the Physician Mentor program, allows THV (pre-med) students to observe a physician’s medical practice and receive mentoring from the doctor for an entire year. Another program, the Beside Arts Program, acts as a creative outlet for patients and students alike. The “Getting to Know You” volunteer program facilitates informal conversation with patients, particularly those experiencing homelessness and/or those who lack family support.

    During the COVID-19 pandemic, Ms. Nordbak created the first remote volunteer program at CHMC, enlisting JEP Trojan Health Volunteers to follow up with recently discharged patients to ensure they have adequate resources, medication, follow up appointments scheduled, etc. This program was not only a great opportunity for students, it also decreased the number of readmissions of patients.

    As a former JEP tutor herself who volunteered at Vermont Elementary in the 1980s, it is easy to appreciate the passion Tracy has for her work: “What I do is a gift; I have a gift to share with people.  It’s a gift to be able to walk the halls of a hospital and be part of a team, to be able to impact people’s future, to be given this extraordinary opportunity. I am humbled to be able to do that [for JEP students].”

  • Portraits of Alex and JessNamed in honor of Richard “Dick” Cone, the Dick Cone Award for Graduate Engaged Scholarship is intended to honor and recognize the efforts of graduate students who bring advanced awareness and skills to address specific needs in the community.

    Dick was the beloved director of the USC Joint Educational Project from 1980-2002 and a pioneer in the field of service-learning and community engagement. Driven by a deep commitment to social justice and education, Dick effectively pushed universities to reconsider the role they play in their communities and he was instrumental in bringing national recognition to USC’s K12 partnerships.

    This year’s winners of the Dick Cone Award are Jessica Stellmann and Alexander Tron.

    Jessica has dedicated seven semesters as a JEP graduate Teaching Assistant.  As a TA, she wrote and revised a reflective curriculum designed to guide undergraduate JEP participants towards greater understanding of the community and their experiences within it.  Even when she on fellowship in her second year and was not funded through JEP, she remained a presence in the JEP house, spending several hours each week volunteering with the STEM Education Programs. There, she developed a set of lesson plans designed to teach K-5 students the science of climate change, led a teacher professional development session on that curriculum, and successfully applied for a grant for JEP that helped the STEM Education Programs receive $10K to build and install Augmented Reality sandboxes in our partner schools — an initiative intended to increase students’ access to emerging technology and provide a unique earth science education tool. Jessica also stepped up to lead JEP’s STEM Education Programs when Director Dieuwertje “DJ” Kast went on maternity leave in the summer of 2021.

    Beyond JEP, Jessica has also built relationships with dozens of local families through her work with the non-profit organization Project Scientist. Project Scientist is an informal science education program serving girls ages 4-12, with the aim of increasing their confidence and interest in STEM. Jessica served as a Site Director for Project Scientist for three summers, running their Summer Academy at USC in 2019, as well as their Academy in Irvine (2019) and West LA (2018). For the 2020 Academy, in addition to leading the virtual Central Los Angeles session, she aided in developing the shift to virtual programming.

    Alex, having experienced first-hand the difficulties that marginalized citizens face in today’s world, has dedicated their entire graduate career to their community engagement and service. Alex has been an essential contributor and executive board member of the Barbara F. Bice Public Interest Law Foundation (“PILF”) – a student-run, non-profit organization that promotes social justice lawyering, equal access to the law, and the empowerment of marginalized and underrepresented communities by providing pro bono clinic opportunities at local organizations.  Through their work with PILF, they have recruited and trained law students interested in public interest law and hosted lectures on key issues. As part of their work, Alex promoted student involvement in state-by-state research regarding expungement for the National Expungement Week and other expungement clinics. They have also developed interdisciplinary reentry workshops with USC’s Prison Education Project. Additionally

    When the shift of the pandemic happened, Alex was determined to continue their work virtually and reached out to the California Rural Legal Assistance (“CRLA”) to learn about the virtual clinics that they were hosting, ultimately assisting over 22 clients with clearing their records, and helping to plan, coordinate, and host virtual clinics themselves. Currently, Alex is working to help overpoliced communities go beyond just clearing individuals’ criminal records and helping them create a positive narrative for themselves to empower life-changing transformation.

  • Portrait of Stacey

    The Barbara Seaver Gardner Award was established in 2008 by then Vice President of Civic and Community Relations, Samuel Mark, who wanted to honor JEP’s founder and first director, Barbara Seaver Gardner. Barbara was a visionary. At a time when there was great animosity between the university and its surrounding neighbors, Barbara recognized the power of people coming together to work toward a common goal — in this case, the need to build a strong, vibrant  community and strengthen relationships between “Town and Gown.” Her idea was that most people can come together around what’s good for children. Barbara had a few friends who were principals of local elementary schools and others who were USC faculty members, so she thought why not place university students in the schools as mentors, teaching assistants etc. where they can assist in providing children with a quality education, while learning about the community they would call home for the next four years.

    This award recognizes one graduating senior, who through successful participation in JEP (over several semesters) has demonstrated steadfast commitment to community service, with an emphasis on the community surrounding the University Park Campus.

    The winner of this year’s Barbara Seaver Gardner Award is Stacey Lau.

    Stacey is a first-generation double Trojan. During the pandemic, she graduated with a B.S in Global Health with a minor in healthcare studies and will be graduating this year with a progressive M.S. degree in Global Medicine-Management. Her life goal is to provide equitable care, either in her backyard or across the globe.

    Stacey has been absolutely integral to JEP’s ReadersPlus program over the last few years. She has served in every role a student can have at ReadersPlus, having served as a math and literacy tutor, an assistant coordinator, a site coordinator, the central coordinator, and finally the graduate math director! But Stacey has not only been an asset to ReadersPlus – she has stepped up to help other JEP programs, as well, and facilitated cross-program collaboration and community.

    Beyond this important work, Stacey has volunteered with  several organizations that address food insecurity, like the LA Foodbank, Shepherd’s Pantry and Project 29:11. In addition, and as part of her work with the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association (CCBA), she provided musical entertainment to seniors living in Chinatown during their monthly community dinners, and performed the national anthem for large community events. She also helped with the bi-weekly produce and grocery delivery in their elderly care program. Stacy has also used her creative talents to spend time with bedridden senior citizens and make knotted blankets and cards as a care package through her work with the First Indonesian Baptist Church.

    When reflecting on her work, Stacey shared, “Being able to give back to a community that has given so much to me and my peers is gratifying. COVID has shed a brighter light on the resource disparity we see within Los Angeles County. Through service, I have gained a better understanding of inequity and injustice and how I can play a role in combating these problems. It has given me a more urgent sense of agency.”

  • Portrait of Grace

    The Desiree Benson Award is a very special award that was graciously established by our USC Financial Aid Office in the year 2000, to honor the life of a dedicated and inspired work-study student, Desiree Benson– a member of the USC ReadersPlus program who passed away unexpectedly in the middle of her senior year. The Desiree Benson Work-Study Grant was created that spring to pay tribute to the contributions to our community and dedication to service demonstrated by this promising young woman, and to recognize students similar to her: work-study students committed to making a difference and eager to use their skills and talents to inspire others.

    This year’s Desiree Benson Award Recipient is Grace Scheg. Grace is a junior studying Quantitative Biology. She has been tutoring with ReadersPlus at 32nd Street School since her freshman year. Grace is also a Program Coordinator and volunteer with Project Sunshine, through which she has planned and led virtual game sessions with pediatric patients.

    Last year, she was able to volunteer at a holiday toy event at the Orthopaedic Institute for Children and has since begun in-person volunteering at that site through Project Sunshine. Grace’s experiences with Project Sunshine and Readers Plus have encouraged her desire to pursue a career in medicine, where she can use her love of biology to continue serving local communities.

    She shared about her journey, “My community service with Readers Plus and Project Sunshine has also reaffirmed my desire to pursue medicine, especially the more human side of medicine. I’m naturally a more introverted and shy person, so I often find myself questioning whether a people-centered career in medicine is right for me. But in these past three years of service, especially through leading tutoring sessions and Teleplays every week, I’ve grown into a more confident, self-assured person who better communicates my thoughts with others.”

  • Kyana Portrait

    Kyana is a current third-year undergraduate student  pursuing a Bachelor of Science degree in Health Promotion and Disease Prevention and a minor in Health Care Studies.

    She leads undergraduate volunteers and teaches weekly science experiments to local LAUSD elementary schools as an Outreach Coordinator at USC Science Outreach. She is a member of Alpha Phi Omega, a professional leadership and service organization, which has allowed her to work closely with the underserved communities in Los Angeles. She also serves as a Design Lead by illustrating medical graphics for Everyday Responders Project, a nonprofit organization aiming to teach bystander medical intervention to the greater Los Angeles community.

    Outside of campus, she works as a medical assistant at a dermatology clinic and an optometry clinic where she enjoys interacting with patients of different backgrounds.

    From setting up makeshift hospitals in Ensenada to hosting educational workshops for local students, Kyana’s involvements have fueled her academic pursuits as a Health Promotion and Disease Prevention major.

    Kyana shared the following about her work, “My most influential lessons from serving the community are accumulated through USC Science Outreach, an organization that I have wholeheartedly been involved in for the past three years. I am able to learn so much about the Los Angeles community including the children, their cultural backgrounds, and their families. Serving them has taught me the importance of compassion and personal growth, as many of the students that I work with have so much potential in their lives to impact the world positively. Perhaps the greatest reward that I have received through this experience is witnessing the genuine sparks of curiosity for science that our students have.”

    Portrait of Kelly

    Kelly Nguyen

    Kelly is a a third-year undergraduate student with an intended Bachelors in Health and Human Sciences and Masters in Global Medicine on the pre-medical track. Her goal as an aspiring physician is to travel abroad and apply scientific investigation to expand her understanding of disease prevention, cross-cultural communication, and poverty alleviation.

    In high school, Kelly faced immense difficulty navigating the college admissions process as a first-generation student. She persisted and filtered through the continual influx of information by asking thoughtful questions and maximizing available resources, thus fostering a sense of independence and pride. Aware that her experience may not parallel those of other students, she became inspired to initiate “askScholars,” an in-progress nonprofit organization that offers free advising, financial aid walkthroughs, and essay revision tips to students internationally. But Kelly’s passion for change-making did not stop there.

    During her time at USC so far, Kelly has volunteered for the LAC+USC hospital, assisting ~20 patients per day in Los Angeles County. Through Alpha Phi Omega, a service and leadership organization, she explored a wide range of ways to provide support for the community. Through her participation in Trojan Health Volunteers (THV), she engaged in discussions about the healthcare field, focusing on demographic disparities in access to healthcare, and contributed to important research on mental health effects of the pandemic. As outreach director of Stemnova, Kelly inspired high school students to implement sustainability projects at middle schools. In her role as advocacy and social media intern for Asian American Community Involvement she spread awareness about mental health, COVID-19 safety protocols, and tips for cold weather. Last but not least, Kelly has been a tutor for elementary and high school students both in JEP’s ReadersPLUS program and through Scholars Leading Scholars.

    Speaking about her own work, Kelly remarked: “Ultimately, service has become an integral part of my growth as an individual, student, and aspiring physician. Volunteering at nursing homes, leading bingo game days and afternoon movies, and at hospitals, welcoming new patients and escorting them to their rooms, remains a learning experience. I have stepped into these healthcare environments, timid and nervous, and aware that I currently lack the knowledge and confidence to perform extraordinarily well. […] A few shifts and a thousand questions later, I have seen myself take on more responsibility and embrace my roles in these high-stress environments, learning how to maximize help for the community and alleviate any burden patients may feel.

    Portrait of Kati

    Kati Wedekind

    Kati is a sophomore and a Health and Human Sciences major on the Pre-Physical Therapy track. She plans to pursue a Masters in Health Administration to be able to enact changes in policy, DEI, and health disparities in the health organizations she serves.

    Kati has been involved in many service organizations within the last 4 years, serving the local USC community, the greater LA area and communities in Mexico.

    Starting in high school, Kati has engaged in diverse areas of community service such as volunteering as a soccer coach, girl scout leader, and in an orphanage abroad. During her recent college years, she has acted as a volunteer for the Keck Hospital of USC, has been a “flying samaritan,” and a Wealth by Health clinic volunteer.  Kati recently completed her Gold Award project for the Pediatric Therapy Network, which is a therapy/support organization for children with developmental issues and their families.  She also taught anatomy lessons in a classroom close to USC as part of a Joint Educational Project service-learning assignment.

    Kati said about her work, “I have gained as much as I have given through community service, and cannot emphasize enough the value of the service experiences I’ve had. Many of the populations I’ve worked with have shaped my career goals and my extracurricular pursuits. Working with children specifically  has taught me how to meet them where they are at, make them feel valued, and pointed me  towards a career in pediatric physical therapy.”