Spotlight Award

Spotlight Award Photo

Spotlight Award Winners

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Jesse Ramirez

SPRING 2017 SPOTLIGHT AWARD WINNER

Jesse Ramirez joined the United States Armed Forces after graduating from high school. His six years of military service began with the Air Force for two years at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas; after which he transitioned to the Army, where he was stationed in Fort Bragg, North Carolina. During this time, he was deployed overseas in combat with Operation Iraqi Freedom and experienced firsthand the harshness of war. Placed miles away from my family and friends, he realized the importance of support system both at home and abroad. Inside his camp, they had to rely on each other for matters of life and death. These lessons made him decide to dedicate his life to helping those who lack similar support systems—economically, socially, and politically. At the end of his deployment, the desire to bring aid and justice to those on the margins of any political arena followed him home. For the past two years Jesse has been working as a valuable part of the Warrior-Scholar Project (WSP)—an intense “academic boot camp” for enlisted military veterans who are transitioning away from military service and preparing to enter college. WSP works in cooperation with top universities across the U.S., and in August 2015—thanks in a very large part to the leadership of Jesse—was able to come to the USC campus for the very first time in 2015. Since that first cooperative program, the USC-WSP partnership has only strengthened, thanks in large part to Jesse’s hard work and dedication. Click to see the full post

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Kayla Soren

SPRING 2017 SPOTLIGHT AWARD WINNER

Kayla Soren is the Founder and Executive Director of the International Student Environmental Coalition (ISEC), an organization that engages 20 countries and hundreds of youth from around the world in environmental activism. She developed it as a solution to the feeling of apathy and helplessness among youth for doing their part to minimize climate change. The organization was recently recognized as an official partner of the UN, and she represented ISEC at the UN in mid-February. ISEC will now be representing youth voice in all major climate negotiations. Click to read full post.

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Maya Carter

FALL 2016 SPOTLIGHT AWARD WINNER

At a time when our nation seems more divided than ever, by party, race, religion, national origin and region, it is refreshing and inspiring to select as the Fall 2016 Semester winner of the Schwarzenegger Spotlight Award a USC student who created an organization whose focus is bringing people together. The Motivate & Empower non-profit organization created by USC Undergraduate Maya Carter-Gressel serves as a catalyst and support network for students committed to creating sustainable change. This mission is fulfilled through a three-part framework, Think.Impact.Change. Their model addresses the impact potential of college students through socio-cultural discussions and challenges them to unite with their community both on and off campus and use their talents to solve communal problems.

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Shawn Rhoads

Spring 2016 Spotlight Award Winner

As the founding Executive Director of the Environmental Student Assembly (ESA) at USC, Shawn was able to help cultivate the expansion of environmental action and presence by transforming an initial $5000 budget into spending of $50,000 across more than 85 original programs, sparking a movement at USC that has resulted in many initiatives including an annual Earth Month series of programming, a $90,000 Green Engagement Fund for sustainability projects, a Zero-Waste Coliseum, and a comprehensive sustainability plan for the university. After leaving ESA with an incredible successor, Shawn began to help pioneer a new movement on climate change with non-profit organizations, Cool Globes and the Climate Reality Project. “Know Tomorrow” was a synchronous day of action with students on 70 college campuses across the nation to amplify a message for our nation’s leaders to combat climate change in preparation for the 2015 Paris Climate Conference.

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KEVIN KASSEL

FALL 2015 SPOTLIGHT AWARD WINNER

Kevin Kassel founded Club H2O a year and a half ago with the mission to provide clean water to those in need, such as citizens in a developing country or a victims of natural disaster. The club distributes water filters by sending the filters with groups and individuals who are traveling to developing countries and other areas in need. This distribution platform eliminates all shipping costs and potential issues with corrupt governments. Kevin and Club H2O has made it possible to give clean water to over 30,000 people, and that is just the beginning.

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Yash Gupta

SPRING 2015 SPOTLIGHT AWARD WINNER

Yash founded Sight Learning, a non-­‐profit organization that to date has collected and distributed more than $1,100,000 worth of used eyeglasses, equivalent to more than 22,000 pairs, to students in Mexico, Honduras, Haiti, India, and the United States. Furthermore, Sight Learning has organized and run several international eye-­‐clinics that provide free eye-­‐care to these students and their families and allow for personalized attention that they may otherwise lack.

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Lauren O’Neil

FALL 2014 SPOTLIGHT AWARD WINNER

Swipes for the Homeless at USC has become one of the most successful chapters in that it has donated over $60,000 since Spring of 2012. With Lauren at the helm, the chapter has grown in its size and continued its incredible fundraising and in her first semester as president donated $20,000. She single handedly led the group and increased donation-pledging participation from students by 73% this past semester. In a city like Los Angeles with over 50,000 homeless individuals on a given night, Lauren is leading an incredibly essential movement.

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Daisy Policarpo

FALL 2014 SPOTLIGHT AWARD WINNER

Through Daisy Policarpo's interactions with a variety of students identified as homeless under the McKinney-Vento Homeless Education Act, foster youth and those with behavioral concerns, she recognized external factors impairing students from focusing on their academics. Once she identified the socio-emotional needs of these students, Daisy placed her efforts in linking them to accessible mental health services.

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Austin Roy

FALL 2014 SPOTLIGHT AWARD HONORABLE MENTION

For the past four years Austin Roy has been working with the Lineage Performing Arts Center to create and constantly improve the Dancing Through Parkinson’s and Inspired Movement class - a dance class for stroke recovery patients and senior citizens. Austin’s work has harnessed the power of dance and has shown how it can create community for and provide relief to those suffering from chronic physical conditions that are oftentimes very isolating. Austin’s work is best explained in the words of one of the class’s dancers, Sandy Horn: “ Austin Roy doesn't just volunteer time to Lineage Performing Arts Center, he gives of himself. He brings out the best in students of all ages and abilities, and wants the best for them. His enthusiasm is contagious, his commitment exceptional and his kindness an ongoing source of support.”

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David Liberman

SPRING 2014 SPOTLIGHT AWARD WINNER

David Liberman came to USC looking for volunteer organizations that traveled to developing countries and offered dental services to under-appreciated populations. When he could only find organizations that offered medical services rather than dental services that did this he took it upon himself to create a way for him and other USC students to have international outreach through dentistry.

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Zade Shakir

FALL 2013 SPOTLIGHT AWARD WINNER

There isn’t a doubt that Zade has made an impact on so many people’s lives when he started this organization, and it has shown with all the families and children that keep returning every week for Kicks for Kids.

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Surbhi Agarwal

FALL 2013 SPOTLIGHT AWARD HONORABLE MENTION

My role as President and founder of TPCC and Executive Director and founder of All Things Pink has allowed me to promote the importance of cancer education and prevention to hundreds of people as well as grow my passion for this cause.

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Joshua Hwang

FALL 2013 SPOTLIGHT AWARD HONORABLE MENTION

Joshua Hwang is the founder and president of a new USC student organization called SpeechEmpowerment. Its goal is to teach high school students in Downtown Los Angeles the fundamentals of public speaking and debating.

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