Please read on to learn more about each of the awards and awardees. You can find the photos from the dinner here: 2023 JEP Community Service Awards Gallery
Congratulations to our 2023 JEP Community Service Awardees:
The 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.
Kyana Huang is a senior majoring in Health Promotion and Disease Prevention with a minor in Health Care Studies. She has won the Extraordinary Community Service Award due to her outstanding volunteer work with various organizations. At the USC Science Outreach (SCout), she has served as a student teacher, Public Relations Coordinator, Co-Outreach Coordinator, and Session Leader. In those positions, Kyana created and taught science experiments to LAUSD elementary students as well as new SCout volunteers. Kyana has also volunteered to transport medical supplies and direct patients at Los Angeles Christian Health Centers (LACHC).
Kyana has participated in two service-learning assignments with JEP; she has taught local elementary and middle school students about science and health subjects. As a member of Alpha Phi Omega, the largest co-educational service organization at USC, she has volunteered within different communities around Los Angeles. She also serves as the Design Lead for the Everyday Responder Project (ERP), a 501(c)(3) organization. At ERP, Kyana designs and curates educational materials and illustrates originally scripted modules. As a Tapestry College Ministry Volunteer, she has organized fellowship events, promoted service opportunities on social media and arranged transportation for USC students.
Kyana believes that service means using what she has and putting forth her care to aid those who may be disproportionately impacted. In her application, she stated that “providing a helping hand goes beyond the gesture and includes being a true advocate for better services in their community. Holding these beliefs true to my heart, my efforts in the surrounding neighborhoods of Los Angeles throughout the past four years have opened a door of possibilities for others to live a life filled with more joy, meaning, and sustainability.”
Willis Tang, the Chief Executive Officer of Everyday Responder Project, has praised Kyana for her dependability, hard work, and strong capacity to work with others. “Kyana is a dependable and hard-working individual who demonstrates a strong capacity to work with others, both in a team environment and with our students,” Tang said. “She is the head illustrator for our medical education modules and consistently demonstrates great communication skills and openness to feedback from our medical advisers and executive team. Kyana always shows up to meetings with a can-do attitude and regularly challenges herself to take on ambitious projects and produce consistent, high-quality work.”
The 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 Zoë Corwin, a research professor at the University of Southern California in the Pullias Center for Higher Education. She serves as the Principal Investigator for the Promoting At-promise Student Success (PASS) Project and the USC Skate Studies for the Pullias Center of Higher Education. Additionally, she collaborates with faculty from Washington University’s Brown School of Social Work on the Proud and Empowered project.
The main focus of Dr. Corwin’s research program is to improve college access and success for students who are considered “at-promise,” as well as to explore different college pathways available to those who have experiences in foster care. Additionally, she examines the impact of social media and games on postsecondary access and completion as well as the impact of skateboarding on communities. Dr. Corwin also oversees the Digital Equity in Education project.
Dr. Corwin ensures that the community itself is the foundation of all of her research. She has created a variety of educational materials such as monographs, briefs, videos, games, and learning activities, as well as publishing academic articles. She has also co-edited two books titled “Diversifying Digital Learning: Online Literacy and Educational Opportunity” and “Postsecondary Play: The Role of Games and Social Media in Higher Education.”
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.
Nelly Cristales is a K-12 educator and LAUSD second grade teacher. She has been recognized for her exceptional community service, particularly for her role as a JEP coordinator at 32nd Street School for over twenty years. Nelly goes above and beyond her role as a coordinator, volunteering to host JEP events, providing insights into partner school needs, and creating new projects. She is also a media champion, spreading awareness about the programs she works with and advocating for her community.
During the pandemic, Nelly continued to step up for her students, implementing daily treasure hunts and riddles and making every unexpected screen glitch into a game to keep her students engaged. She also revised her curriculum and availed JEP as a support system to increase engagement and as a workaround for unstable internet connections. She individually reached out to students’ families to ensure they have the right resources to participate in the virtual space.
Nelly’s relationship with JEP and USC started early. She enrolled in kindergarten at the 32nd Street School in 1975, where she teaches now while her own children attend the same school. Nelly graduated from USC in 2001 with a bachelor’s degree in general studies and a minor in Spanish and received her preliminary teaching credential from the Rossier School of Education. She coordinates the various programs that bring USC students to the 32nd Street campus, something she remembers from her time at the school.
Aside from her work with JEP, Nelly is also an extraordinary volunteer at a local homeless shelter and with the local soccer team. She also aligns herself with the California Teachers Association to remain aware of changes in the education field. Nelly takes pride in watching her students grow and achieve; Nelly helped one of her pupils who arrived in her class unable to read or write – the student made great strides and achieved what he once thought was impossible by the time he graduated.
Nelly’s colleagues at JEP describe her as a die-hard Trojan who goes above and beyond for her 32nd Street student scholars, bringing positive energy and encouragement to her classroom. She supports JEP students, Young Scientists Program TAs, ReadersPlus tutors, and is a strong advocate for all JEP programs. Her colleagues appreciate her compassion, dedication, and willingness to place college students.
Nelly Cristales’ exceptional community service and dedication to her students and community make her an outstanding recipient of this award.
Named 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.
Blanca Ramirez is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Sociology at the University of Southern California. Blanca received her Masters of Arts degree in Sociology from USC, and her Bachelor of Arts in Sociology from California State University, Fullerton. Blanca’s research focuses on Sociology of Law, race, gender and class, Latinx sociology as well as International migration.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Blanca joined the Orange County Justice Fund (OCJF) aiding the team with research, grant applications and developing the programming for the nonprofit. She used her position as co-editor of the Equity Research Institute Blog to uplift the OCJF and issues of social justice.
At OCJF, Blanca collaborated with others on a report titled State of Immigration Enforcement in Orange County. For the report, she worked tirelessly in information gathering and data analysis on Orange County immigration enforcement in order to illustrate the specific issues that Orange County residents face within the system. Blanca used her expert knowledge of the immigration system and the sociological impact it has on families and individuals to the report.
Blanca has also worked on the development and facilitation of the Cafecito Contigo program, a support group for women who have been detained by immigration. Blanca was a key contributor to a grant proposal for Cafecito Contigo, as she used her research to provide depth and facts for the grant.
Blanca’s extensive work for and within the Orange County community and beyond make her the perfect recipient of the Dick Cone Award.
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 Trinity Yang.
Trinity Yang is a senior at USC majoring in Health Promotion and Disease Prevention. She has been recognized for her outstanding contributions to the community, working tirelessly to empower and strengthen the voices of those around her.
As an active member and leader of the large professional leadership and service organization Alpha Phi Omega (APO), Trinity has been instrumental in organizing large-scale service events, establishing new partnerships with local non-profit organizations, and serving as a volunteer with almost ten different organizations. In her roles as VP of Service and President of APO, Trinity has demonstrated exceptional leadership skills and a deep commitment to making a positive impact on the community.
Trinity has also participated in JEP mini-team assignments and supervised other mini-teams in her role as program assistant. She volunteered with the local Orthopedic Institute for Children as part of JEP’s Trojan Health Volunteers, and offered to lend a hand whenever needed in any of JEP’s programs.
Aside from her involvement with APO and JEP, Trinity has accumulated over 150+ hours of service in various organizations. Some community outreach Trinity participated in includes mentoring and assisting twenty high school students during their college application process through online college prep service “Hey Mentor,” contributing to important public health research focused on empowering LGBTQ+ students and students of color as a research assistant for the LA Children’s Hospital (CHLA), as well as developing and facilitating workshops on allyship, LGBTQ+ identity, and sexual health resources with the LA LGBT Center.
Trinity’s work has been praised by her recommenders, who highlight her advanced understanding of complex societal problems, her remarkable ability to bring others with her as she rises to every challenge, and her skillful social entrepreneurship. She is passionate, thoughtful, and disciplined in her approach to community work, and her dedication to serving others has inspired positive change in many lives.
Through her community work, Trinity has gained a sense of connection with those she serves. Trinity has been able to recognize biases and the harm they can cause, and is committed to mitigating them. Her own experiences growing up in a lower-income school district have motivated her to uplift the education of others and inspire a passion for learning.
Trinity’s achievements and offerings go far beyond a resume or application. Her work has left a lasting impact on those she has served, and she leaves the USC community primed to continue making positive shifts in the future.
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 Aisling Covell. Aisling is a sophomore majoring in Human Biology with a minor in Addiction Science.
Aisling has served in various roles within Team Awareness Combatting Overdose (TACO) Inc., a non-profit organization that was created by USC students in response to opioid-related deaths. Currently, Aisling is the Project Manager and President of the USC chapter of TACO; one of her goals is to expand TACO Chapters across the country, as well as increase distribution of fentanyl test strips and nasal Narcan to prevent opioid overdoses.
Academically, she conducts neuroscience research on substance use and addiction to create educational resources for the community. Through MEDlife, a student organization at USC that seeks to help low-income communities improve access to medical care, Aisling volunteered with Water Drop LA – an organization dedicated to providing drinking water to the unhoused population in Skid Row –, raised over $400 for MEDlife’s mission abroad, and traveled to Peru to assist medical professionals in providing care in mobile clinics.
Aisling has also volunteered at the St. Francis Center, a food bank near USC, through her involvement with the American Medical Women’s Association (AMWA). Aisling’s dedication to harm reduction, addiction awareness and community outreach has made her the perfect recipient of the Desiree Benson Award.
Anish is a first-year student with sophomore standing majoring in Applied and Computational Mathematics. Since February 2023, Anish has worked as a volunteer at JEP. Anish tutors 4th-grade students in computer science and coding at John Mack Elementary School. Anish’s goals at JEP are to share his passion for STEM with others, and to encourage interest in math and science in young students.
Anish is also a member of the executive cabinet of the USC Undergraduate Student Government (USG). As a cabinet member, he holds weekly meetings with students and USC administrators to organize campus events. His role is to help improve the student experience as well as bridge the gap between the USC community and the surrounding neighborhood.
Additionally, Anish volunteered at the USC Shrine Peace Garden. There, he helped develop a sustainability-focused garden – enabling the garden to grow different vegetables through plant basins. Anish assisted in furthering the creation of greenhouse infrastructure at USC as well as fulfilling some of USC’s sustainability goals.
He also ran the SMILES Charity; an organization that provides educational resources to different communities globally. Anish worked with local community members and leaders to collect and pack donations as well as to create a global network to send and receive care packages. The SMILES Charity impacted 5000 students in over 20 countries. In August 2022, Anish stepped down from the packing initiative to prioritize his education at USC. However, Anish still remains on the project, serving as an advisor to young students.
Anish’s ability to lead, dedication to community enrichment and hard work have greatly impacted the USC community and beyond.
Mythili is a third-year undergraduate student double majoring in Cognitive Science and Health & Human Sciences and minoring in Gender & Social Justice and Mind-Body Studies.
Mythili is a ReadersPlus program tutor at JEP. She is currently working with a 5th grade student at the Alexander Science Center School to improve his word recognition, fluency, vocabulary and reading level. As a tutor, she puts together lesson plans with books and exercises appropriate for the student’s reading level.
She also works as a Voluntary Clinical Intern at the Koreatown Youth and Community Center, which mainly serves the low-income immigrant communities in Koreatown. As an intern, Mythili provides administrative support to their clinical services unit. She takes client calls, organizes case files, prepares reports and attends clinical meetings. Mythili is currently working on developing a list of Asian mental health resources in the Los Angeles area to be publicly available to the community.
At the Korean Youth and Community Center, Mythili has also developed and executed a grant for a mindfulness and yoga after school program for elementary school students. The program will also train high school students as mental health ambassadors. The project is ongoing; she is working with the KYCC afterschool program and high school volunteer group to begin lessons.
Mythili serves as the Trojan Family Outreach chair at USC Helenes, the oldest service and spirit club at USC. As the Outreach chair, she coordinates and oversees community service events with other organizations.
Mythili’s passion for youth outreach and mental health awareness is reflected in all of her community work.
Zimeng (Fifi) Wang
One of this year’s Grace Ford Salvatori SCholarship recipients is Zimeng “Fifi” Wan. Fifi is a third-year undergraduate student at USC double majoring in Human Biology and Health Promotion & Disease Prevention. Since December 2022, Fifi has worked at JEP as a Teaching Assistant for the Young Scientists Program (YSP). As a YSP Teaching Assistant, Fifi works with two fifth-grade classes at Weemes Elementary School as well as a Special Day Class at Vermont Ave Elementary School. She designs and teaches hands-on science labs that encourage students’ curiosity about the different STEM fields of study.
From September 2021 to August 2022, Fifi volunteered as an Educational Consultant for the AcceptED USC club – accumulating almost 250 hours of volunteer time. She provided support to high school seniors as they applied to college. She thought that the most rewarding part of her role with AcceptED was the one-on-one guidance she provided for students as they searched for scholarships and worked on application forms.
Fifi has also worked as a volunteer at the Emergency Department at Cedars Sinai Medical Center since November 2021. As an Emergency Department Volunteer, she has provided emotional support to patients and their families in the reception and treatment areas of the Emergency Department. Fifi has also participated in the Tender Loving Care (TLC) program at Cedars Sinai Medical Center’s Senior Care Unit. In that role, she provides emotional support to elderly patients, some of whom have Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, as well as assistance with distributing meals and medication.
Fifi’s professors and supervisors describe her as an intelligent, empathetic and organized person. Fifi Wan’s dedication to service and the field of science and healthcare makes her the perfect recipient of the Grace Ford Salvatori Scholarship.
Special Thank You To:
The Award Committee Members:
Carmen Lopez, Chris Llovera, Debbie Williams, Gilbert Radillo, Jasmine Mencias, LaTesha Knighten, Nelly Cristales, Officer Roy White, Sarah Elmashat
USC Dornsife Technology Services
USC Dornsife Advancement
USC Private Events:
Staci Samadani and the hospitality staff
Southern California Trophy Company
CJ Matsumoto and Sons
Friends and Supporters of JEP
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