UCLA Spotlight




A passion for compassion: Humanitarian Award winners

  • By Bethany Powers
  • Published May 26, 2009 8:00 AM

It's no secret that outstanding Bruins can be found on any corner of UCLA's campus. But the four recipients of this year's Young Humanitarian Award have each found something in our Los Angeles community that needed a helping hand, and they went above and beyond to make an exceptional difference.

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Frank Rodriguez - Day Laborer Project

Honoree Frank Rodriguez, a double major in political science and Chicano studies and a double minor in civic engagement and labor and workplace studies, became a leader in the Proyecto de Jornaleros (Day Laborer Project). He has spent his Fridays and Saturdays with the service organization, working to equip day laborers with the English and computer skills they need to look for jobs and better communicate with their employers.

Rodriguez, the son of immigrants from Jalisco, Mexico, says the best part of the project is working with the day laborers on a more personal basis, and seeing the "laborers help each other, exchanging ways of thought."

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Laura Petry - Bruin Partners Project

English major Laura Petry has also found a group of people that she has helped to empower - middle schoolers at Marina del Ray Middle School. She is one of the leaders of the Bruin Partners Project, an organization that allows UCLA students to mentor a middle school student. Petry has also begun "parent nights" for the mentee's parents, to show them that their child can thrive in school and attend college- often difficult for disadvantaged students.

Although the project's goal may be to help students succeed, Petry says she and other mentors have also been impacted. "Bruin Partners and other community service projects forge strong communities and have helped me, and others, grow as leaders," she says.

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Jonathan Lee - Swipes for the Homeless

Recipient Jonathan Lee became a leader with his innovative idea that allows any dorm resident to help the homeless in Los Angeles. He saw so many students with unused meal plan "swipes," trading them in at the end of the quarter for drinks or pizza that often went to waste.

In 2006, Lee began offering students a chance to do something more productive with their leftover swipes, asking them to buy sandwiches and drinks from Bruin Café so he and a couple friends could take them to skid row and distribute to the homeless. A political science major with a minor in labor and workforce studies, Lee saw an opportunity for students to serve their community, and jumped at the opportunity to do something positive.

Wendy Tseng also saw an opportunity to make a difference with the homeless on Skid Row. She created a program called HOPE 4 Homeless, which takes UCLA students to skid row to tutor homeless individuals to help them pass the GED so they can get off the streets.

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Wendy Tseng - HOPE 4 Homeless

She has helped the program grow to over 40 members, and continues to expand the project's goals. Tseng, working towards a bachelor's and a master's in physiological sciences, says HOPE 4 Homeless has opened the eyes of its volunteers. "Part of the UCLA experience, besides getting a great education, is to mature and learn about society by interacting with others and sympathizing with other people's experiences," Tseng says.

A private ceremony for the students and their families was held May 6 to honor their hard work and dedication. Honorees each received $700 to donate to the public service project of their choice.

Read more about these outstanding students in the UCLA Newsroom.