Each year, the Honors College recognizes students who have demonstrated exceptional commitment to service—an integral part of our mission. Please join us in congratulating and thanking this year’s outstanding Changemaker Award recipients, who have served in their communities in New Brunswick, New Jersey, and beyond:
Assata (‘21, SAS/HC) actively seeks out opportunities to effect positive social change through connection and communication. Through the Petey Greene Program, she has been a dedicated academic tutor at Mountainview Youth Correctional Facility since the beginning of her college experience. The summer following her first year at Rutgers, Assata became the first undergraduate intern to work at The Hatchett Firm in Atlanta, Georgia, where she worked closely with Judge Hatchett after being inspired by her legal representation of the family of Philando Castile. In addition to helping provide legal support for the community and driving forward social justice projects such as advocating for the Preventing Maternal Deaths Act of 2018, Assata also aided in cases concerning the opioid crisis and had the opportunity to research and speech-write on cases of police misconduct. Motivated by this experience, she plans to earn her own JD degree in the future to obtain greater power to protect human rights. On-campus at Rutgers, she is an Honors College Ambassador and a Global Ambassador. She also served on the executive board of both the Rutgers Black Law Student Association pre-law division, for which she connected students of color with pathways into the legal field, and the Rutgers Women’s International and Multicultural Association, where she worked to promote women’s financial literacy. With a passion for languages, Assata has been a volunteer interpreter for Spanish-speaking families since high school. She also took on a volunteer English teaching assistant position at a local school while studying abroad in Spain this past fall. For her outstanding commitment to service, Assata was selected to be one of four Rutgers institutional nominees to apply for the national Truman Scholarship. She is currently an intern at the National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, where she is assisting with the organization’s advocacy and education work.
“Service is important because true change doesn’t come unless people choose to pursue it, rather than stay with what is easy and familiar,” said Assata, who is majoring in political science and minoring in Spanish, Arabic, and entrepreneurship. “Most important to me is my ability to listen and use my voice in order to protect and uplift others, and I believe these are key components in productive service.”
Wamia (‘21 SEBS/HC/DRC) has made use of her passion for science to make a difference in society. She is a co-founder of the Rutgers chapter of Amnesty International, a nongovernmental organization dedicated to promoting human rights. With Amnesty, Wamia has traveled to Washington, D.C. to lobby legislators about issues related to international dealings and human rights. Her personal focus is advocacy regarding refugee and immigrant rights and healthcare. Her work with Amnesty has made her think about healthcare as not just a professional field based in biological sciences, but also a social right that is often inaccessible to marginalized populations. During her sophomore year, Wamia spent her weekends interning for BioBus, a nonprofit science organization aiming to literally bring science education to underprivileged areas of New York City with a mobile laboratory in a bus. She was also a tutor for the Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) program, which helps K-16 students in areas lacking access to educational opportunities learn professional development skills and good study habits to prepare for college and careers. As a member of the Douglass Residential College STEM Ambassadors, a club with the mission to promote and empower women and non-binary individuals interested in STEM fields, she created STEM outreach kits and brochures to allow local middle school students to become cognizant of the resources and opportunities available to them. Wamia has experience as a research assistant at the Rutgers Institute for Health, Health Care Policy and Aging Research, where she analyzed trends in clinical data from the historical North Carolina eugenics sterilization program to help survivors of the program receive restitution. Currently, she is interning at the Libertas Center for Human Rights, working with survivors of human rights violations, many asylum-seekers or refugees, to assist them in navigating the healthcare system and connect them to community resources such as food pantries, ESL classes, and now personal protective equipment.
“Service helped me find my way to make an impact on the world,” said Wamia, who is majoring in public health and biology. “It helped me realize that even though I’m only one person, I can make a difference, and even though it might seem like a lot of the world’s problems are huge issues, you can chip away at social inequities, bit by bit.”