Students Honored With Ever to Excel Awards for Volunteer Efforts

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On Monday evening, 14 awards were presented to Boston College students in recognition of their contribution to the University, their growth, and their involvement in campus life. Two awards were also given to faculty, staff, or administrators to recognize their contributions. The awards were presented by the Office of Student Involvement, and each award recipient was nominated by members of the BC community.

Joseph Nano, MCAS ’20, won the Nicholas H. Woods Award, which is given to a freshman who demonstrates initiative, motivation, and potential for continued student leadership within the University.

Nano arrived in the United States in 2012 with his parents and brother to visit his uncle and cousins. Because the crisis in Syria had become more dangerous, his father decided they should stay in the States. His father, however, had to return to Syria due to his job as the Dean of the Architectural Faculty at Damascus University.

Starting high school, Nano did not speak English while enrolled in ELL classes, French, science, and math. During his junior year, he took the regular English III class, where he learned to write poetry.

In my senior year, I decided to challenge myself by writing a book of poetry that would craft images that would challenge people to look at life from a different angle,” Nano said in an email.

Last semester, his book Flowers are People, Too was published. In his book, he describes his experience as a Syrian refugee—what it feels like to live with no father, experiences in his high school, homelessness in Syria, and the importance of mothers and family.

Nano is a Biology major on the pre-med track and involved in BC-EMS. He hopes to return to Syria, equipped with an education, to help his native country.

“…in Aleppo, Syria there are only a couple doctors in the whole city,” Nano said in an email. “Most of the doctors were either killed or immigrated to different countries. Today, there are terrorists in Syria and they forbid schools for the kids. I think that I can fight terrorism by getting educated here and then come back and help people.”

Nano feels that EMS has both given him a community that supports each other and taught him more about how to love, care for, and sympathize with a patient—skills that he feels are very important in the medical field.  

“Today, this awards means a lot to me,” Nano said. “First, it makes me think of how people around me appreciate my hard work. Second, it motivates me to work harder. Boston College is very challenging. However, there is nothing that can stop me from reaching my goals.”

Sean O’Rourke, MCAS ’17, won the Congressman John Joseph Moakley Award, which is given to a student who most clearly demonstrates a passion for faith through international service and volunteer work.

O’Rourke was homesick when he first came to BC from Ireland, but since he arrived, it seems he has been travelling everywhere but back home.

He transferred to BC in his sophomore year and found it difficult to adjust to the fast-paced East Coast culture and the stark difference in the academic environment.

“I wasn’t really expecting the culture shock I got,” he said.

O’Rourke didn’t think it would be such a change for him since Boston has quite a large Irish population, but nevertheless, he struggled at first. He soon found his home in service work.

He joined Arrupe and traveled to Ecuador in his junior year. The experience was transformational for him, as he enjoyed working with children in the community.

“It gets you out of your own head,” he said. “It puts all of life in perspective.”

He also went on a trip with the Appalachia Volunteers to Kentucky over his Spring Break. The 22-hour drive was the longest period of travel he had done, but in that moment, he wasn’t homesick.

He said the experience meeting the local people taught him about the value of faith. His group helped an old couple on top of a hill, who, he said, had a faith and trust in God that permeated everything they did. He was inspired by their willingness to love and accept the BC student volunteers in their community.

“It was a really special place and definitely somewhere I felt was home,” he said.

Service played a large part in making O’Rourke feel at home at BC.

He was recently accepted to the Jesuit Volunteer Corps International Program and will be working in Belize for two years starting in July.

Stephanie Madzey, MCAS ’19, won the Welles Remy Crowther Award, which is presented to a student who demonstrates selfless sacrifice and determination in serving the needs of others. Madzey was given the award by the Volunteer and Service Learning Center.

Madzey has been involved in several service organizations on campus. She travelled to Mexico on her Arrupe trip and helped a women’s cooperative, which was created and run by women who teach young girls how to weave. The girls sell the baskets and can become financially independent.

“Service has always been a part of me,” she said. “It has always been a big part of my life, which has grown into more than just volunteering.”

She said service is about more than giving back—it is about forming relationships with people.

While on a tour of BC, Madzey liked how she saw a community of students who actually enjoy serving, not just for a spot on their resume.

She is also a volunteer at St. Joseph’s Project, where she makes and delivers meals and clothing to Boston’s homeless.

“The first time [I served] was definitely startling and upsetting, especially in the way that people can just pass by others without caring,” she said.

She said she and her friend would get strange looks from passersby as they interacted with homeless people in Boston. Despite this, she continues to strike up conversations with people on the street because she believes they matter and deserve to be acknowledged.  

Madzey also volunteers through 4Boston tutoring children of Somali refugees. She admits that her work is extremely challenging, but earning the children’s trust is a satisfying feeling.

“It showed me how rewarding perseverance is, and you might not see the fruits of your work, and that’s okay,” she said.

Featured Image by Alex Gaynor / Heights Staff