Giva Scholarship & Community Ambassador Award Winner Essay: Joseph Lee - Interview with Arthur Chen

Giva Student Scholarship and Worldwide Ambassador Award winner, Joseph Lee, interviews one of his heroes for social responsibility, Dr. Arthur Chen of Oakland, California:

Interview with Dr. Arthur Chen
by Joseph Lee

What are your thoughts on leadership?

Leadership is important, but the type of leader you are makes the difference between an effective leader and one who is not. The biggest key in leadership is getting your team to believe and commit to the mission with the same earnestness that you have. Only then can the team work and move together. When there is a disconnect with the passion of the leader and the passion of the team, very little will get done, the leader will get burnt out, and the team will fail.

Another important part of leadership is valuing your team. I mean really valuing them. Not just "how are you" and "thank you," but seeking out ways you can assist them. This type of leader gets people to move with them and builds a cohesive team.

A great leader also allows his or her team to both succeed and fail. What this means is that they are not always micromanaging the team, but instead allows autonomy, therefore instilling confidence in the team. There will be times when the team fails and that is ok as long as you are allowing them to fail and learn from their failures.

Why do you believe we have to help others?

There are too many people who need help in this world for us not to. We have been blessed and given so much that it would be an injustice for us to stand by and watch people suffer. As physicians, we are in such a position of influence, and our skills allow us to build intimate relationships with our patients and our communities. To use such a privilege to do good, to love others and to serve. It's quite simply rooted in the biblical principle that we must love and serve our neighbors. When they are ill, take care of them; when they are hungry, feed them.

Why should we advocate for the Asian-American community?

Of all the communities that need an advocate, it's the Asian American community. So often they are neglected and clumped together as a model minority. How then do you explain the thousands without health insurance, the students who are not graduating from high school, the business owners being cheated out of money? If we don't do it, no one will, and there is no better time to do so than now.

How should we deal with disappointment?

Disappointment is going to happen in your life. Whether it be because people have let you down, you didn't get the position you were hoping to get, or reach the goals that you set. It is inevitable. What is variable is how you learn from them though. Disappointment is valuable and may even be necessary in order for someone to really grow as a leader and human being. How are you going to respond? Are you someone who is going to shy away from future endeavors because you are afraid of failure? Or are you someone who is going to take a step back and reflect on what you can change about yourself and the lessons you can learn from the experience so that next time, whether you succeed or fail again, you will approach the project differently. It is also important to look at the bigger picture and greater plan that is in store for you. Focus on those things. Lastly, it's ok to feel hurt and grieve. Don't think you have to be so strong that you can't feel vulnerable or saddened. In fact, allow that to happen and be patient. In time, healing and growth will occur.

How are we able to serve without craving recognition?

This is an easy trap to fall victim to and many do. Remember to check yourself and ask yourself why it is you are serving? Why is it that you are trying to give back? This is a continual conversation and self reflection you must have. Don't shy away from it, but be honest with yourself and fight the good fight.

Reminder: Giva Fall 2014 Scholarship Entry Deadline December 1!

Giva's Corporate Student Scholarship and Worldwide Community Ambassador Award is for anyone attending a college or university worldwide. This scholarship grant is aimed at assisting undergraduate or graduate students further their education as well as expand their social responsibility and community service footprint in the world. There is no specific course of study or major required.

The deadline to apply for the next award cycle is December 1!  Please see our scholarships page for information about how to apply.

Giva Scholarship & Community Ambassador Award Winner Essay: Shila Vardell - Rewarding Experiences

Giva is proud to showcase the essays of its Student Scholarship and Worldwide Community Ambassador Award winners. Below is an essay from Shila Vardell, University of Phoenix. Giva's hope is to inspire others through these essays. We hope that sharing these essays will help others realize the joys and benefits of service.

Rewarding Experiences
by Shila Vardell

Have you ever wanted to make money and feel good about yourself at the same time? There are tons of jobs in the world but not all of them are rewarding. During my undergrad I needed to earn extra money to pay my bills but I didn't want to work in the retail or restaurant industry any longer. I was looking for something completely different. I really wanted a job that I found rewarding. Volunteering was something I found to be rewarding but it wasn't allowing me to pay my bills. One day I sat down and started brainstorming all of the things that inspired me and made me feel good about myself. My list was full of things; cleaning up the environment, feeding and clothing the homeless, caring for the elderly, and donating blood. The problem with my list was that none of these things generated a profit.

After much thinking and determination I finally thought of something. I was going to tutor children who were struggling in school. Not only was I going to tutor children but I was going to tutor less fortunate children at low cost. I would offer my tutoring services on a sliding scale. Meaning, parents who did not make a lot of money would get a discounted rate. This would be beneficial for me because I would make a little extra money. The parents would also benefit because they could pay a very low rate for my tutoring services and the children would benefit by getting extra help with school.

As soon as I figured it all out I went straight to Craigslist. I posted my services and immediately got responses. I had no idea there was such a high demand for tutors to help low income families. I started tutoring right away. The families were so appreciative that someone would take the time to tutor their children and for such a low cost. There were a few instances where I didn't even charge for my services because I knew the families could use the money more than I could. A few months into tutoring I noticed a significant improvement in the children's reading and mathematics skills. It felt so good to actually see an improvement and know that it was because of my help.

One of the parents called me one day and said that I helped save her child. He was in third grade and performing at first grade standards. She said that she and her husband dropped out of school at a young age and didn't know how to help him succeed. Her son's teacher told them that he would be held back if he didn't improve. I spent almost every day at their home helping him. All of my time and effort eventually paid off because four months later he was performing at his grade level and was no longer in jeopardy of being held back. It felt so good to make such an impact on someone's life. I have done many rewarding things in my life but tutoring children is by far the most rewarding thing I have ever done.

Giva Scholarship & Community Ambassador Award Winner Essay Series: Joseph Lee - My Life as a Teacher

Giva is proud to showcase the essays of its Student Scholarship and Worldwide Community Ambassador Award winners. Below is an essay from Joseph Lee, Rush Medical College. Giva's hope is to inspire others through these essays. We hope that sharing these essays will help others realize the joys and benefits of service.

My Life as a Teacher
by Joseph Lee

My second year of teaching has contrasted starkly with my first. The same parking lot, the same classroom (Room 312), and even the same kids greeted me on the first day. With that said, very few things came as a surprise. And while most teachers are presented with a new group of faces each fall, I was able to cycle with my 7th graders. Currently, serving as the primary 8th grade teacher, I am comforted in knowing that if I was to cease teaching at year's end, I would be able to leave with my students. And with such familiarity, I am confronted with new adventures and challenges each day, ones that at day's end are reminders of the lives that are changing. And this difference is in large part to all those who support my efforts and the larger efforts of Teach for America. You can rest assured that hundreds of thousands of student's lives are being positively impacted because of their compassion. And as the rhetoric of failing schools continues to dominate political arenas; it's hard to imagine a nation where all students are guaranteed a quality education. Nevertheless, we teach each day believing that the dream will become a reality.

Amidst all the optimism, however, numerous stains of frustration have diluted the entire experience. As a result of our school transitioning to a year round (Track E) school, summer vacation was shortened to five weeks. And as I recuperated in my parent's homeland of South Korea, much tension was brewing at Parkside Community Academy. The tensions were capped by the dismissal of our assistance principal, Mrs. J (a mother figure and mentor), who was let go due to undisclosed circumstances. This information crushed my spirits, pushing me to the limit, even questioning whether I would be able to take on another group of students. My negativity with the administration was clearly evident, and a journalism student who was curious about Teach for America was dismayed at my downtrodden attitude. She wrote a short piece on my experience and the following excerpt was taken from her corresponding paper.

"During his first year when he was still new to the system, Lee said, he went to work thinking that he could help every student. When asked how he gets through the days now knowing that he can't fix all problems, he said: 'This year is really different than last year because last year, if you asked me that I would've said no, that's why we're here, to close those cracks. But, just to be frank, it's broken me.'"

Upon reading the article I realized that unless I took on an entirely different approach to teaching, the school year would break my resolve again. The words of Helen Keller could not have rung more true than during those moments, a true test of character: "Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved."

With this new-found realization, I internalized new goals that I would strive to accomplish with my students this school year.

  1. Explore the city beyond the confines of our classroom.
  2. Provide a safe haven for my students in the classroom.
  3. Ensure that all 8th grade students will enroll in college preparatory high schools.

With nearly half the school year completed, we are well on our way to achieving these three goals. In turn, my students and I have established a sense of solidarity, which will propel us forward in the coming months.

The Museum of Science and Industry served as the first venue of many trips to come. Many students had never visited the museum, which is less than a ten minute car ride away from our school and offers free admission to my students. In addition to learning about the human body and natural disasters, some students mentioned that it was one of the best school experiences they had ever had. Additionally, through a Saturday trip to the library, I witnessed my students reading independently for a whole hour, an enormous, novel feat to say the least. Ten years from now, they may not remember my lesson on similes versus metaphors, but these experiences will be engrained in our memories forever.

In addition to physical safety, a classroom should serve as a safe haven for students, shielding them from the chaos that often fills their communities. In order to create such an environment in the classroom, we refer to one another as a family. This notion of family manifests itself in the way students help each other during class projects and remind each other to behave. Furthermore, we focus on the big ideas of being stewards and scholars, serving as examples for everyone else in the school.

Learning from my inability to see each of my 8th graders enroll in college preparatory high schools, I made that a high priority this year. We started the year completing mock high school and college applications and are well on our way to numerous acceptance letters in the near future. By attending a high school fair, visiting a high achieving high school, and having high school recruiters come speak in the classroom, my hope is that each student will be enrolled in a school that will dramatically increase the likelihood that they will thrive in the academic arena.

On that note, my students achieved 1 year gains on the ISAT last year (the standardized test for elementary students in Illinois). Of all our teachers, only 4 achieved that. Although it's not everything, it was nice to see that the hard work meant something, and that my students actually learned. I hope that this year will show even more growth, because students such as B. E. deserve it. It would be an injustice to you as a caring sponsor to end this reflection without any mention of B. E., and so I devote this paragraph to her. When I first met B. E., she had a terrible attitude about school, which stemmed from her struggles to read and write coherently. A little over a half year later, she still struggles with her reading and attitude, but has changed more than any other student I have come across. The transformation stems from my ability to earn her trust. She has openly written about my influence on her life, and trusted me enough to let me read a love poem she wrote for her then boyfriend. She explicitly instructed me to read it and revise, but not allow anyone else to do so. I obliged and she was pleasantly surprised with the final product. And while interviewing at a medical school, I had to miss a day of school. During my absence, she pestered other teachers about my whereabouts, asking if I was coming back the next day. They calmed her fears and told her I was, indeed, coming back. And upon my return, she stated that "if you (Mr. Lee) missed another day of school, I was going to slap the Korean out of you." Some people gasp when they hear this. My heart melted.

And with that, I want to again thank those who support me for all they do for my students and I. While our lives could not be any more different, we have come together as a cohesive unit, and our supporters have played an important role in forming the union. I invite you to join us on our journey. We will keep the doors of Room 312 open for you.

Scholarship Award Winner Essay Series: Shila Vardell - Experience With Past Volunteer Work

Giva Student Scholarship and Worldwide Ambassador Award winner, Shila Vardell, writes about her own past experience with volunteer work.

Experience with Past Volunteer Work

By Shila Vardell

Since I was a young child I have always enjoyed volunteering. I had my first volunteer experience when I was 10 years old. My uncle was a firefighter and he helped feed the homeless on the holidays. On Thanksgiving day he agreed to take me with him. I remember being so excited on the car ride to the homeless shelter. We walked into the kitchen and there was so much food and so many volunteers. I was shocked to see that so many people took the time out of their Thanksgiving to help the needy. A few minutes after we arrived, the kitchen doors opened and people flooded in. Hundreds of hungry people formed an assembly line and made their way down the food line. It was my job to put mashed potatoes on their plates. I gave each and every one of them the biggest serving of mashed potatoes that I could possibly get on my spoon. They were all so appreciative and at 10 years old it filled my heart to know that I was making a difference in their lives.

When I was in high school, I started volunteering for a local hospital. Volunteering at the hospital was such a fun experience. I volunteered every Saturday morning from 9am-11am. During that time I brought newspapers and breakfast to each patient. Some of the patients would ask me to read the paper to them or ask me to sit and talk with them. My main job was to deliver things to the patients but I would also socialize with them so they didn't feel alone. It brought me so much joy to see the patient's face light up when I brought them their morning paper.

During my college years I joined a group called CAVE, Community Action Volunteers in Education. They took weekend trips to different places to volunteer. We went to The Golden Gate National Park to help clean up litter and cut down trees. We also went to a Veterans home in Yountville to help care for veterans. I expected all of the people there to be elderly but to my surprise a lot of them were my age. They were living there because they had been wounded while fighting for our country. I talked to as many veterans as I could. I was so interested to hear their stories and they were so happy to be telling them. At the end of our trips I truly think they didn't want us to leave. It felt so good to be able to brighten their day.

While I was in college I started to notice that the number of homeless people in my community were multiplying. It broke my heart to watch them beg people for food and clothing. I was a college student at the time so I didn't have much but I wanted to help them in any way that I could. The first thing I did was go through my closet and gather every item of clothing that I didn't need. Then I went through my kitchen and gathered every item of food that I didn't need. I put all of my unneeded clothing and food into my car and started passing them out to every homeless person that I saw. My items weren't enough so I started asking friends and family for donations. Every time I received donations I would immediately give them to the homeless. It has been 6 years now and I continue to pass donations out to the homeless. It is a rewarding feeling and I don't think I will ever stop.

Giva Scholarship & Community Ambassador Award Winner Essay Series: Joseph Lee - Finding My Identity

Giva is proud to showcase the essays of its Student Scholarship and Worldwide Community Ambassador Award winners. Below is an essay from Joseph Lee, Rush Medical College. Giva's hope is to inspire others through these essays. We hope that sharing these essays will help others realize the joys and benefits of service.

Joseph Lee - Finding my Identity

Every day we make a decision about living for the betterment of ourselves or the betterment of others. It is not a simple decision, beginning with the discovery of our own identities. This path of self-discovery has led me to conclude that being Korean American is an unfathomable blessing, requiring that I grant that pursuit of happiness to others. Ultimately, this passion drives me into a career of service, which extends far beyond the reach of the hospital floors, and is a message that I hope to spread across the globe.

The moment I first realized I was different was in the gang-infested streets of Chicago, IL. Born to two Korean immigrant parents, my family was unable to find safer residence. And as a young boy, area bullies would harass me because I looked different. At school, students slanted their eyes and said "ching-chong," while teachers asked "where are you 'really' from." Consequently, I matriculated into high school feeling like a perpetual foreigner. Slowly, I started to wish I was not Korean, refused to speak the language, and even tried make my eyes bigger by stretching them. Two trips to my motherland, however, would change my life forever, and lead me toward a path of identity creation as author Thomas Szasz stated "...the self is not something one finds, it is something one creates."

Prior to my freshman year of college, I visited South Korea for the first time. From the moment my feet touched the grounds of Incheon Airport, I experienced a completely novel sensation: belongingness. Over the next month, I began to realize the privilege of being Korean American, embracing both my Korean heritage and my American upbringing. With such newfound devotion, I enrolled in Korean language immersion classes, earned an Asian American studies minor; and wrote a Senior Honor's Thesis on bicultural Asian Americans while at Northwestern University.

Nevertheless, the best was still to come through a conference titled Young Generation Forum in Daegu, Korea hosted by the Korean American Scientists and Engineers Association. It was through learning of the Hyundai and POSCO Corporations that I grasped the extent to which our Korean forefathers sacrificed, and it was then that I realized that I, too, must serve the Korean community. And I have and continue to do so through my work with the Korean American Community Services, Korean American Chamber of Commerce of Chicago, Asian Americans Advancing Justice and the Asian Health Coalition. Further, I educate young people about the journey of finding ones Asian American identity through avenues such as the Young Generation Technical Leadership Conference (YGTLC) in San Francisco, FOB: Reflections of an Asian American Life Beyond Northwestern in Evanston, and Illinois Lieutenant Governor Candidate, Steven Kim's Fundraising Gala in Chicago.

With that said, we must not limit our impact on society to the Korean Community alone, but look beyond our own people and the borders of our nation as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. stated, "Everybody can be great. Because anybody can serve.... You don't have to know the second theory of thermodynamics in physics to serve. You only need a heart full of grace..." I have tried to instill such truths of service in my life, first as a teacher to poor, Black 7th and 8th grade students at Parkside Community Academy in the south side of Chicago, Illinois. And while teaching has been the most difficult endeavor I have embarked on in my life thus far, it has also been the most valuable. Every day I wake with a new sense of purpose in life - to aid others in times of distress. This ambition has motivated me to pursue a career as a physician who treats people in impoverished communities with care and compassion.

Locally, Habitat for Humanity has enabled me to provide affordable, adequate housing to those in need. And through the non for profit I created, the Road Less Traveled Fund, I am able to purchase vehicles for community changers in need of safe transportation. At an international level, organizations such as Invisible Children in Uganda, the Good Shepherd's Orphanage in Haiti, and the Health Development Initiative in Rwanda have provided a means to which my efforts can impact lives outside the comforts of my own home country.

Mere words cannot begin to capture all that has happened in my journey of self-discovery as a Korean and American. And while I have learned many lessons along the way, the one I wish to implement and share is this: "The purpose of life is not to be happy – but to matter, to be productive, to be useful, to have it make some difference that you have lived at all" (Leo Reostein).

Giva Student Scholarship & Worldwide Community Ambassador Winner Essay Series: Shila Vardell

Giva is proud to showcase the essays of its Student Scholarship and Worldwide Community Ambassador Award winners. Below is an essay from Shila Vardell, University of Phoenix. Giva's hope is to inspire others through these essays. The Essay question was, "How will you use your talents and education to make the world a better place for future generations? What are your career and personal goals and why?" We hope that sharing these essays will help others realize the joys and benefits of service. Congratulations to Shila Vardell!

Giva Scholarship Winning Essay

By Shila Vardell:

First let me take a moment to thank Giva for the scholarship that I was awarded.  Giva's scholarship program has the backing and full support of Ron Avignone, founder of Giva.  Mr. Avignone called me to congratulate me and we had a long and thoughtful conversation on why volunteer service has been so important to his personal development. The objective of writing about my service experiences is to influence others to realize the very tangible personal benefits of volunteerism. In Ron Avignone's words, he says, "You really can't give anything away", meaning that the benefits of volunteerism are that the work we do teaches us valuable life lessons and also benefits us in ways that are often multiplied many times over!!  I'm also grateful for working with a dedicated group of Altruism and Community outreach leaders at Giva who are committed to changing the world in impactful ways.

The following is my essay:

Have you ever taken the time to sit back and think about the future? I think about the future quite often. It is scary to think of what the world will be like in a decade or so. There is so much violence and hate going on all over the world. If people would just stop and think about how this violence and hate are going to affect our children they may consider changing. I am a twenty-five year old female and I know that I cannot change the world. However, I know that I can influence the youth in my community and making that little bit of difference is one step closer to making the world a better place.

Over the past six years I have made many life changes. Instead of going out with friends during my spare time, I started focusing on bettering the world and the environment. I did not have a lot of money but I had more motivation than anyone could ever imagine. The first thing I wanted to do was help the less fortunate in my community. I did not have any money so I had to come up with a way to get the people in my community to come together and help. Every day I would post ads on Facebook, Craigslist, and Instagram trying to influence people to donate food and clothing so we could give it to the less fortunate. I collected over 500,000 articles of clothing and over 600,000 canned goods within the past six years.

Once I figured out how to collect donations I wanted to find a way to involve the youth in my community. The majority of the children and teens in my community were involved in gangs. I knew that if someone did not do something, these children would end up on the wrong path in life. I started spreading the word about wanting to get the youth involved in helping me to help the less fortunate. At that time, I had a few family members who were in their teens. I knew that they could help me spread the word at their school. I made fliers for them to pass out at school. After two weeks of constant passing out flyers at schools and malls I actually had teenagers showing up at my door step wanting to help. Every Saturday morning we would make 100 lunches for homeless people and spend the day driving around and handing them out. I would keep my trunk full of clothing so I could supply people with the clothing that they needed in order to survive. This type of volunteer work was a full time job but every time I saw a hungry person get to eat or a cold person get to put on a warm jacket I remembered why I did it. Not only did I get to help the less fortunate, but I also got to keep the youth off the streets and motivated them to be better people.

Currently, I have over 60 teenage volunteers that help me every day. We continue to get donations and pass out food and clothing. It feels so good to be able to say that I am 25 years-old and I am making such a huge difference in my community. These teenagers are on a better path in life than they once were. Instead of being involved in gangs they are involved in helping make their community a better place. In the future, these teenagers will hopefully continue to help others. It is an honor to say that I am helping build a better environment for the future. Our community will no longer be filled with gang violence. It will be filled with motivated individuals who are willing to sacrifice their time to help people in need.

In the past six years I have recruited teenagers from three different cities to help us pass out food and clothing to the needy. It is my goal to expand my donation service to a larger region. We are receiving more donations as more people hear about what we are doing. It would be such a great feeling to be able to influence more teenagers to help us in our fight to make the world a better place.

My career goal is to someday open a non-profit organization where teenagers can come and help the community. I realize that there are many non-profit organizations for teenagers but I want mine to be different. I want teenagers to feel that they are helping the community and doing good for themselves and others. This will inspire them to continue on the right path in life. I enjoy helping others so this is a win win situation. I will help the teenagers get on the right path in life and at the same time we will be helping the less fortunate in our communities.

Giva Student Scholarship & Worldwide Community Ambassador Winner Essay Series: Joseph Lee

Giva is proud to showcase the essays of its Student Scholarship and Worldwide Community Ambassador Award winners. Below is an essay from Joseph Lee, Rush Medical College. Giva's hope is to inspire others through these essays. The Essay question was, "How will you use your talents and education to make the world a better place for future generations? What are your career and personal goals and why?" We hope that sharing these essays will help others realize the joys and benefits of service.

Giva Scholarship Winning Essay

By Joseph Lee

I am honored to have been awarded a Giva Scholarship. There are many successful companies like Giva that offer scholarship programs. However, Giva has a commitment to this program which begins with the senior leadership. After I was notified that I won the scholarship, I was told that the Giva founder wanted to have a phone call. I was very surprised!  Ron Avignone, Giva founder, took a strong interest in my journey from teaching to medical school and my accomplishments in volunteer projects. He understood the difficulties my parents faced as immigrants as he recounted the difficulties that his grandparents experienced in coming to America. Mr. Avignone explained the importance that service and volunteering plays in his life and at Giva. Giva is a new breed of corporate citizen; the kind of company that has ideas, solutions and practical ways to make an impact on the world. Thanks and gratitude to Ron Avignone and the Community Volunteerism Team at Giva for having this vision and commitment.

Here is my winning essay:

“Are you coming back tomorrow?”

This was the question my 7th and 8th grade students at Parkside Academy asked me on my first day of teaching. Scarred by teachers who had quit midyear, my students expected the same from me; and as the day progressed, I overheard students hypothesizing how long I would last. Despite the emotional burdens of my 34 students, the heat of an unventilated classroom, and the gaffes of being a first year teacher, I felt an overwhelming sense of hope. This hope was rooted in the belief that through difficult circumstances and the disappointments of failure, there would be a better tomorrow.

President Barack Obama spoke of this hope when he stated, “That is why we fight -- in hopes of a day when we no longer need to.” And in Room 312 at Parkside, continue to fight we did. We fought the failures of a school system that provided insufficient materials. We fought the apathy of parents, victims to the brutal injustices of society. We also fought our own fears of the vulnerability that accompanies loving relationships. It is this love between teacher and student; however, that ultimately inspired us till the end. And while it was a grueling journey, the result was the change of every individual involved.

Unfortunately, the growth of both my students and I through two school years could not overcome the stifling feeling of being unable to impact the lives of my students outside of the classroom or even the teachers they would have in coming school years. I wanted to impact more students which shifted my focus from improving educational outcomes to improving the health outcomes through the field of medicine. And as I continue my training to become a pediatrician, I know that my decision to become a doctor will allow me to continue the work I started in Room 312.

The incredible journey began over 30 years ago, when my newlywed parents immigrated to the United States from South Korea with hopes that their children would experience the “American Dream.” With such idealism in mind, they were not prepared for the immense difficulties they would experience as foreigners without a community to embrace them, a language to empower them, or resources to sustain them. And yet, not only did they survive, they thrived. They thrived through sweat and tears and the kindness of a few guardian angels, who graciously supported my mother and father. And through such generosity, my parents came to the conclusion that helping others was the most important objective in life, a lesson they have tried to instill in my older brother and I our entire lives. Whether it be through allowing immigrant families to live in our home while they got settled in the United States, babysitting sick children whose parents were unable to get days off work, or volunteering to speak to teen moms in jail, my parents go above and beyond in giving of themselves to benefit others. And through their example, my brother and I have striven to do the same.

Initial interest in the medical profession was stirred in high school through a volunteer experience at Northside Learning Center, a school serving students with cognitive disabilities. Students partook in a strenuous schedule of occupational therapy and classroom responsibilities relying heavily on compassionate educators and health professionals. The importance of compassion in healthcare was further exemplified in a medical mission’s trip to Panama and a volunteer stint at the St. Louis Effort for Aids. Traveling through a remote village in Panama, our team was able to treat suffering patients. The gratitude of these villagers revealed the true healing power of medicine. While my eyes were opened to the difficulties of obtaining medical care in Panama, one does not have to cross oceans to behold such troubles. A car ride to St. Louis provided a similar experience of destitution and inadequate treatment of those affected by HIV/AIDS. As I volunteered and conversed with patients and community members, I noticed a similar absence of basic care and education and concluded that caring medical professionals could resolve such circumstances.

Transformed by my students and armed with a new fervor to fight inequality, I see myself at the beginning of a long path of serving the under-served. I strive to become more than just another pediatrician who works in a low income community. Instead, I intend to be a medical professional who understands and cares for the innumerable challenges that confront such communities every day. With that said, I continue to stay involved in the lives of my former students and the community they live in through a non for profit I founded called the Road Less Traveled Fund, which provides safe, reliable modes of transportation for students from low income homes that are investing their time and efforts to better the lives of others. Furthermore, being in medicine has opened more doors to bring about meaningful change, both physically and socially: allowing me to becoming a school council member of a local high school, work for a public health organization in Rwanda, travel with a relief team to Haiti and sit on a board with the CEO of my hospital to increase minority enrollment. By working with families as a health professional, I am now able to offer the assistance articulated in Matthew 25:36 and exemplified by my parents so well, “...I was sick, and you cared for me…” From the suffering villagers in Panama to the poverty-stricken students of Room 312, our communities are sick and left to fend for themselves. Yet, hope persists. Hope persists in the lives of those devoted to service and those that refuse to let life’s circumstances subjugate them to mediocre lives. My aspiration in becoming a pediatrician is to keep that hope alive.

2013 Giva Student Scholarship and Worldwide Community Ambassador Award Winners

Giva is pleased to congratulate Joseph Lee and Shila Vardell, 2013 recipients of Giva's Student Scholarship and Worldwide Community Ambassador Award.

Joseph Lee is an MD candidate attending Rush Medical College. "I am truly honored to be chosen as the recipient of the 2013 Giva Scholarship! I believe that there is no better time to give back to the community and those in need than now. I hope that through this scholarship, I can gain inspiration from the commitment of others and serve as an example of the change one committed, passionate individual can make. Thank you again for the amazing opportunity!" said Mr. Lee on receiving the scholarship.

Shila Vardell currently attends the University of Phoenix working towards her Master of Business Administration (MBA), Accounting and Business/Management degree.  When asked about her reaction to the scholarship award Ms. Vardell responded, "Thank you so much for selecting me as the Giva scholarship recipient!  I am overwhelmed with appreciation and excitement. This scholarship is going to help me in so many ways and I cannot express enough how appreciative I am for Giva's generosityand support of this scholarship."

"Giva is excited and proud to engage with and support these students who truly exemplify the absolute best and brightest of this generation in not only their scholastic endeavors, but also in their personal vision and self-motivation to change the world around them. In short, they are the change they want to see in the world," said Ron Avignone, Founder of Giva, Inc.


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