Steffi Kong, Winner of the Sullivan Award at Converse College, “Excels at Everything She Does”

Shi Qing “Steffi” Kong, a senior at Sullivan Foundation partner school Converse College, is no stranger to deadly viruses. As a child in Singapore, she survived SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) at the age of 7 and the H1N1 virus (better known as the swine flu) when she was 10.

“Of course, I am worried about getting [COVID-19],” she told in early May. “But I joke with my friends: Third time is a charm. Either I become a victim or maybe I potentially become superhuman.”

Related: Honors student who fed thousands and rape survivor advocate earn Sullivan Awards at The Citadel

We’re betting the latter. But whatever happens with the coronavirus – and here’s hoping she doesn’t get it – Kong will likely become a big success. Now a standout student-athlete and the Converse tennis team’s No. 1 singles player since 2016, Kong is also the recipient of the Sullivan Foundation’s prestigious Mary Mildred Sullivan Award for 2020. With her degrees in biochemistry and psychology in hand, Kong plans to attend medical school and ultimately practice psychiatry in the U.S.

“She’s a gem,” Katie Mancebo, Kong’s tennis coach at Converse, told “I’ve never met someone who is harder-working or more disciplined. She just excels at everything she does. She’s probably every coach’s dream as a student-athlete.”

In April, Kong became the first student in Converse history to win the Murphy Osborne Scholar-Athlete Award, the highest academic award for a student-athlete in the Conference Carolinas.

“I am grateful to be given the opportunity to study in the United States and be able to have a different experience outside of continuing my education in Singapore,” Kong said. “It’s because of generous scholarships that I am able to attend Converse and accomplish great milestones.”

Related: Imani Belton, Gabriel Dias receive Sullivan Awards at Winthrop University

Sullivan Award winner Steffi Kong has presented her research at two national conferences and one international conference.

Kong has presented her research and publications at two national conferences and one international conference—a rare privilege for an undergraduate student. She made biophysics presentations at the Materials Research Society Fall Meeting & Exhibit in Boston in 2019 and the South Carolina IDeA Networks of Biomedical Research Excellence Science Symposium in Columbia, S.C. in 2020.

She also presented her psychology research at the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies Annual Convention in Atlanta in 2019. Dr. Marie LePage, one of Kong’s psychology professors at Converse, collaborated with her on the presentation. “On our way driving home from the Atlanta conference, she just lit up like a Christmas tree,” LePage told Conference Carolinas in a profile on Kong. “That’s special for a student to get that jazzed about therapy. She’s just genuinely passionate about it. She wants to be the best she can be. I’ve taught thousands of students, and she ranks among my top five in terms of being an advanced scholar. But when it comes to passion, she absolutely ranks No. 1.”

Related: UA Sullivan Award winner Malik Seals on a quest to cure multiple sclerosis

After her freshman year at Converse, Kong returned home for the summer and volunteered at a mental health institute. After her sophomore year, she interned at the Kidney Foundation in Singapore. Her senior honors thesis was titled, “Stress, Depression and Anxiety: The College Student Dilemma,” with a strong focus on the differences between student-athletes and non-student-athletes.

“I know she is very interested in medicine,” LePage said in the Conference Carolinas interview. “Whether she goes into psychiatry or general medicine … she will be exceptional.”


Honors Student Who Fed Thousands and Rape Survivor Advocate Receive Sullivan Awards at The Citadel

Sullivan Foundation partner school The Citadel has named two recipients of the prestigious Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award: An honors student who has provided thousands of meals to the food-insecure and stood up for Native Americans and a professor who has advocated for survivors of rape and domestic violence.

Cadet Olivia Jones (pictured above) is an Honors Program student at The Citadel majoring in political science with a concentration in military affairs. Jones also serves as the Papa Company Commander, maintaining company morale while adhering to the highest ethical standards. Jones has demonstrated her commitment as a servant leader throughout her time at The Citadel, creating a Summer Food Service Program providing 3,700 meals to low-income families. She also has promoted quality of life initiatives for Native American families in New Mexico, providing community training for the most vulnerable in those communities.

Related: “The Beloved Community”: Alexus Cumbie’s poetry, policy and passion for changemaking

this photo shows a smiling Kristen Hefner, who won the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award for faculty members at The Citadel

Dr. Kristen Hefner received the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award for her work in the areas of victim advocacy and domestic violence education.

Dr. Kristen Hefner, a professor in the Department of Criminal Justice, has distinguished herself as a teacher-scholar, spearheading community outreach initiatives in the areas of victim advocacy and domestic violence education and creating rich service-learning opportunities for her students. For her service-learning project with People Against Rape, a community non-profit, Hefner and her student were awarded the Good Citizen Award by the Charleston County Sheriff’s Office. Sheriff Al Cannon and community victim advocates seek to continue Hefner’s humanitarian work, with her students having created over 200 uplifting and encouraging cards for survivors who have been impacted by violence.

In partnership with the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Foundation, the Citadel presents the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Awards annually to a student and faculty member in recognition of high thought and noble endeavor.

This story has been edited from the original version on The Citadel’s website.

Related: Ole Miss honors five changemakers with Algernon Sydney Sullivan Awards


Davidson College Bestows Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award on Student With a Heart for the Homeless

A Davidson College graduating senior with a heart for helping the homeless and people in crisis received the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award for 2020.

Emily Duval earned her degree in Literacy and Multilingual Education at Davidson College, a Sullivan Foundation partner school. During her time at Davidson, Duval helped homeless women and children at the Crisis Assistance Ministries and the Salvation Army Center of Hope in Charlotte, N.C.

Related: Paxton Peacock, Natalie Conboy and Chris Nunn receive Algernon Sydney Sullivan Awards at Auburn

She also befriended and treated people in financial crisis “with dignity, listening to their struggles with compassion,” the nomination letter read.

Duval was a Bonner Scholar, a Davidson College honor based on a student’s commitment to enriching the community through volunteering. She was also a QuestBridge Scholar and helped raise awareness on campus about socioeconomic diversity while providing support for high-achieving low-income students.

Additionally, Duval taught children in the LEARN Works after-school program at the Ada Jenkins Center and as a summer servant leader intern with Freedom Schools. She has volunteered at the Lula Bell Houston resource center and was co-coordinator for Be the Match/Project Life and for Room in the Inn.

Related: Sullivan Scholar Sara Busaleh: Serving others “gave me hope when I was hopeless”

She also served on the leadership team of the Davidson ecumenical weekly college worship service, leading prayers and reflections and using “her amazing voice to lead music and to build a spiritual community of inclusion, kindness and grace,” a nominator wrote.

Among her many accolades, Duval received the George Gladstone Memorial Award in 2019. This award recognizes rising seniors “exhibiting high potential for service to mankind as indicated by leadership, service and academic record.”

Rose Denor, Tanner Shivley Earn Algernon Sydney Sullivan Awards at Carson-Newman University

Sullivan Foundation partner school Carson-Newman University announced that Rose Denor and Tanner Shivley are recipients of the 2020 Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award. The recognition is the highest honor the University presents to students.

Scroll down to watch the video presentation of the awards.

A resident of Chattanooga, Denor has pursued a major in history. A Bonner Scholar, Denor has also served as a student development intern this past year for the University’s Center for Community Engagement. The opportunity allowed her to lead the Bonner Scholars Program. An immigrant from Haiti, Denor has had a heart for also helping immigrants and refugees in the community.

photo of Rose Denor, recipient of the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award at Carson-Newman University

Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award winner Rose Denor “cares about making sure that all the people she knows feel seen, loved and valued.”

“[Rose] is a servant leader,” said Bonner Scholars Coordinator Gabby Valentine. “She cares about making sure that all the people she knows feel seen, loved and valued. She goes the extra mile, not because it makes her look good, but because it needs to be done.”

Shivley (pictured at top) is a youth athletics and recreation management major from Fall Branch. “Tanner is one of our hardest working students in our Faith & Justice Scholars Program,” said Dave McNeely, coordinator of the program. “Over the four years he’s been here, he’s always exemplified what it means to just jump in when something needs to be done.”

Related: Sullivan Scholar Sara Busaleh: Serving others “gave me hope when I was hopeless”

Shivley has also helped with tutoring and after-school recreation for elementary school children through the WOW Ministry at First Baptist Church of Jefferson City. A Niswonger Scholar, he’s been credited with always being quick to help those in need.

Both Denor and Shivley have also been active in Jefferson County’s Journey Program, which offers extra support and intervention for high school students.

“We are grateful for Rose and Tanner and all the ways they have represented our university,” said University President Charles A. Fowler. “In their time at Carson-Newman, they both have truly demonstrated what it means to be servant leaders.”

Related: University of Alabama Sullivan Award winner Malik Seals is on a quest to cure multiple sclerosis

The New York Southern Society established the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award in 1890 to honor Sullivan, an Indiana native and Manhattan attorney who was considered a living example of genteel spirit and Christian compassion. The awards, which are donated by the foundation that bears his name, are granted at 68 colleges and universities to graduating seniors, one female and one male, who “excel in high ideals of living, in fine spiritual qualities, and in generous and unselfish service to others.”

This article was edited slightly from the original version appearing on the Carson-Newman University website.

Paxton Peacock, Natalie Conboy and Chris Nunn Receive Sullivan Awards at Auburn

By Neal Reid

An alumnus with more than two decades of community leadership and a pair of accomplished students recently were tabbed as the 2020 recipients of the prestigious Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award at Sullivan Foundation partner school Auburn University.

Community leader Chris Dernard Nunn, animal sciences and pre-vet major Paxton Wade Peacock, and biomedical sciences and psychology double-major Natalie Elizabeth Conboy are the 2020 recipients of the Sullivan Award, which is given annually by Auburn University to individuals who embody high qualities and nobility of character.

Related: “Service is a lifestyle I live by”: Meet the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award winners at the University of South Carolina

The Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award has been presented at Auburn since 1951 as a reminder of the noblest human qualities exemplified by Algernon Sydney Sullivan, a prominent humanitarian and first president of the New York Southern Society, now the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Foundation. Each year, Auburn bestows the honor on one male and one female student from the graduating class and this year also has honored Nunn as an exemplary alumnus.

photo of Sullivan Award winner Paxton Peacock with a prize pig

Paxton Peacock (left) shows off a prize NBC Showpigs hog.

Paxton Wade Peacock
Paxton Peacock, from Wicksburg, Alabama, serves as a leader not only in the local community, but also within the state, nation and world. He is the founder of NBC Showpigs, which raises, shows and sells elite show hogs. He also founded an international service organization called Chick-Chain Project, which sends chickens and chicken coops to third-world countries.

Peacock has traveled on a medical mission trip to Guatemala, where he established a library in a rural African community by donating more than 1,000 books, and has helped to rebuild a church for the homeless in Paris. In addition, he supervises his family’s Peacock Farms and works as a healthcare policy intern for the Healthcare Leadership Council in Washington, D.C., and he also managed horses at the Auburn University Equestrian Center.

Related: “The Beloved Community”: Sullivan Award winner Alexus Cumbie’s poetry, policy and passion for changemaking

Peacock is a student in the Honors College, an Undergraduate Research Fellow and is active in the Student Government Association, Undergraduate Research Ambassadors and the Collegiate Board of the National Society of High School Scholars.

After graduation, Peacock will attend medical school at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

photo of Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award winner Natalie Conboy at Auburn University

Natalie Conboy, a winner of the 2020 Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award at Auburn University, is also the President’s Award winner for Auburn’s College of Sciences and Mathematics.

Natalie Elizabeth Conboy
Natalie Conboy, a resident of Birmingham, takes helping others to new levels. Since she was a freshman, she has volunteered as a tutor at the Esperanza House, a local nonprofit that serves low-income Hispanic children and families. She supports academic and personal growth of more than a dozen children in the program through workshops and recreational events.

She is president of the Student Association for Mentoring, where she helps to train and match student mentors with local school children. She also has been part of a number of research projects, including screening community and student participants for traumatic experiences.

Conboy—who also is this year’s President’s Award winner for the College of Sciences and Mathematics at Auburn—has presented her research at national conventions in Washington, D.C., and Atlanta and was named a Fulbright Scholar semifinalist. After graduation, she plans to attend medical school.

photo of Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award winner Chris Nunn of Auburn

Chris Nunn has led Project Uplift at the Lee County Youth Development Center for 20-plus years.

Chris Dernard Nunn
A 1990 graduate from Auburn’s College of Liberal Arts, Nunn upholds the meaning of the Auburn Creed in every way. For more than 20 years, he has served as executive manager of community services for Project Uplift at the Lee County Youth Development Center. He has led the community and university project that has placed more than 10,000 volunteers and children together. To improve the overall experience, Nunn developed a more careful screening process, expanded services the program offers and grew communication and data keeping efforts.

Outside of Project Uplift, Nunn has served on a number of community boards, including the East Alabama Medical Center, the City of Opelika Zoning Board of Adjustments, the Opelika Chamber of Commerce, and the Lee County Department of Human Resources.

A former gospel music radio announcer and juvenile probation officer, Nunn also has been involved with area churches as a youth and young adult choir director, Christian education director and youth minister. He currently serves as pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Hurtsboro, Alabama.

This article was edited from the original version appearing on the Auburn University website.

Related: Ole Miss honors five changemakers with Algernon Sydney Sullivan Awards

Grace Smith, Christopher Kelsey Receive Sullivan Awards from Duke University

Sullivan Foundation partner school Duke University bestowed the prestigious Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award for 2020 upon a medical school professor and physician who has touched the lives of numerous cancer patients and a student who has volunteered with genocide survivors in Rwanda.

Each year, Duke recognizes one graduating senior and one member of the faculty, staff or graduate student body for their outstanding commitment to service to others by awarding them the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award. This year’s Sullivan Award winners are Dorothy Grace Smith, a senior studying neuroscience at Trinity College, and Dr. Christopher Ryan Kelsey, a radiation oncology specialist and faculty member of Duke’s School of Medicine.

Both honorees received a framed certificate and medallion from Duke University Provost Sally Kornbluth during a virtual ceremony held April 23.

Related: Imani Belton, Gabriel Dias receive Algernon Sydney Sullivan Awards at Winthrop University

While the Sullivan Award was established in 1925 to honor the memory of Algernon Sydney Sullivan—a prominent lawyer, businessman and philanthropist in the late 19th century—the values the award seeks to honor are timeless. The Sullivan Award recognizes individuals who exhibit qualities of selflessness, generosity of service, nobility of character, integrity and depth of spirituality.

Both of this year’s award winners embody these characteristics in both their professional and personal lives.

Dorothy Grace Smith
Few people may be as aptly named as Grace Smith, the 2020 student recipient of the Sullivan Award. “She exhibits a spirit of love and service to others more than any 22-year-old I have met,” says Libby Boehne of Duke’s Campus Ministry. “It is rare to find a person who deeply cares for other people by asking questions, actively listening and being with others in their most difficult times. Grace is that person.”

A Benjamin Newton Duke Scholar, Grace will graduate from Trinity College this May with a bachelor’s degree in neuroscience and minors in both psychology and religion. Much of her undergraduate work has focused on the impact of trauma and how it affects the communications and recovery needs of its victims.

a photo of a smiling Grace Smith, winner of the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award at Duke University

Grace Smith

This focus has led to numerous volunteer activities, such as assisting with programs sponsored by Reality Ministries for adults living with developmental disabilities; providing emotional support and resourcing advice for the National Alliance on Mental Illness; working with the South Carolina Coalition Against  Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault; and helping to shape the Duke Presbyterian Campus Ministry+. In the latter capacity, Grace helped found a support network of students who reach out to one another for support on the important issues affecting their lives.

One of her most profound volunteer experiences involved serving as a summer intern for Solace Ministries, a nonprofit founded by and for survivors of the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi. In May of 2018, Grace boarded a plane to Kigali, Rwanda, with the hope of serving survivors of the genocide and studying post-traumatic stress disorder.

Related: Sullivan Scholar Sarah Busaleh: Serving others “gave me hope when I was hopeless”

True to form, in looking back on this experience, Grace chooses to downplay the value of her own efforts in Rwanda and instead speaks about the gifts that the survivors gave to her—praising their resilience and spirituality. “They showed me a service that creates spaces for joy and sadness, for anger and disappointment, for doubt and confidence … reaching out with hope and faith,” she says. “This is a service which I hope to dedicate myself to continuing to discover, articulate, and embody.”

By all accounts, Grace is doing just that.

Dr. Christopher Ryan Kelsey
Dr. Christopher Kelsey is a man who makes the world a better place each and every day. His nomination for the Sullivan Award includes testimony after testimony as to his ability to balance his many responsibilities with compassion and integrity: “There is a quality about Chris that does not compartmentalize his beliefs and his public/professional life,” said a colleague who nominated him for the award. “He always lives as if his values are part of every decision and action.”

“He is a genuine, unassuming person who has a special way of setting his anxious patients at ease,” another said. “He deeply cares about the well-being of those who have put their trust in him.”

As an associate professor in the Department of Radiation Oncology within the Duke Cancer Institute, Chris treats patients, presents lectures as chief resident and is a prolific researcher who has published numerous papers on lung cancer, radiology, and other related topics.

Related: University of Alabama Sullivan Award winner Malik Seals on a quest to cure multiple sclerosis

He also trains future doctors with skill and patience. “I have witnessed him mentoring many medical students, residents and younger faculty,” one colleague wrote about him. “He is always patient and kind when he is interrupted with a request or question. He is willing to help others at any time and gives his full attention as if there were no other matters competing for his time.”

Dr. Christopher Kelsey

As remarkable as his service in the field of medicine is, that’s only part of his deep commitment to others. Over the past decade, Chris has also served in two prominent unpaid ecclesiastical roles within the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, where his roles have included pastoral counseling, organizational oversight and financial decision-making that is often focused on how to distribute church resources to those in need.

He also regularly visits people in their homes, hospitals and at the church, making a lasting and profound impact on their lives, his nominators said: “Dr. Kelsey made numerous visits to our home and to Duke Hospice Hock Pavilion during the last days of my husband’s life,” one recalled. “I feel like Dr. Kelsey walked with us, right by our side, during this devastating time… I am so grateful for Dr. Kelsey’s love, compassion and service.”

Related: Hailey McMahon: Meet Berry College’s first Sullivan Scholar

“I have personally witnessed him help the poor, bless the sick and afflicted, and help those burdened and pained with life’s burdens,” another nominator said.

How can one person give so much of his time and energy to those around him? Perhaps his colleague in the Department of Radiation Oncology, Dr. Grace Kim, explained his inspiration best. “The foundation of his character—his kindness, gentleness, respect, humility and generosity of time—are all rooted in his love for others,” she said.

This article has been edited slightly from the original version appearing on the Duke University website.

Imani Belton, Gabriel Dias Receive Sullivan Awards at Winthrop University

Sullivan Foundation partner school Winthrop University recognized two graduating seniors—Imani Belton of Simpsonville, South Carolina (pictured above), and Gabriel Dias of Joinville, Brazil—for their service to the campus and community with prestigious Sullivan Awards on May 6.

Since Winthrop’s campus is closed due to the pandemic, the award winners were announced on Facebook.

“We are extremely proud to present these awards each year,” said Shelia Higgs Burkhalter, vice president for student affairs at Winthrop. “Even though we could not celebrate these recipients in person, we still wanted to acknowledge their hard work, service, commitment and leadership that positively impacted Winthrop. These students have left their mark on our university, and we are very grateful for each one’s contributions.”

photo of Imani Belton, winner of the Mary Mildred Sullivan Award at Winthrop University

Imani Belton

Imani Belton, an integrated marketing communication major, received the Mary Mildred Sullivan Award. Belton is the outgoing chair of Winthrop’s Council of Student Leaders (CSL). During her tenure, she regularly gave student body updates to Winthrop’s Board of Trustees. Belton has served as an Academic Success Center tutor, Diversity Peer Educator, Peer Mentor and as a member of the Leadership Institute for First-Timers (LIFT) conference planning committee. She previously served as the CSL’s public relations committee co-chair. Belton also received the division’s Diversity and Student Engagement Award.

Belton is a first-generation college student, and Winthrop was recently recognized by the Center for First-generation Student Success for its efforts to create a positive, productive experience for students like her. “Throughout my time at Winthrop, I’ve been able to connect with first-generation faculty, staff and students, which has made my collegiate experience 10 times better because of bonds we’ve created,” Belton said at the time. “Being a first-generation student is a point of pride for me and other Winthrop students who have benefited from learning on a campus that provides outreach and services for students like us.”

photo of Gabriel Dias, winner of the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award at Winthrop University

Gabriel Dias, winner of the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award, is captain of the men’s tennis team and a noted scholar-athlete.

Business administration major Gabriel Dias captured the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award. A member and two-time captain of the men’s tennis team, Dias displayed leadership on and off the court. He represented Winthrop and the Big South Conference on the student advisory group for the NCAA. The highly selective group consisted of just 32 student-athletes from across the country. Dias also served as president of Winthrop’s Student-Athlete Advisory Council and as a member of the CSL. He stood out in the classroom, earning a spot on the Big South Conference All-Academic Team during his junior year.

This article has been edited from the original story appearing on the Winthrop University website.

Ole Miss Honors Five Changemakers with Algernon Sydney Sullivan Awards

Sullivan Foundation partner school the University of Mississippi honored several faculty, staff and students were honored with Algernon Sydney Sullivan Awards recently for their service within the community and beyond.

The annual Sullivan Awards were presented by the university’s Division of Diversity and Community Engagement in conjunction with the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Foundation to recognize students, faculty, staff and community members who demonstrate selfless service to others.

Related: “Service is the lifestyle I live by: Meet the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award winners at the University of South Carolina

The Sullivan Awards are among the university’s highest honors recognizing service. To be considered for the award, individuals must be nominated by others.

“During the disruptions and uncertainty brought about by COVID-19, it is all too easy to feel disconnected from one another and forget that connectedness and interdependence are essential elements of community,” said Cade Smith, UM’s assistant vice chancellor for community engagement.

“The Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award reminds us that connectedness and service to others are in the fabric of community by recognizing students, faculty, staff and community members who place service to community and others above self.”

Related: Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award winner at University of Alabama is on a quest to cure multiple sclerosis

Savannah Day and Neely Griggs, both majoring in public policy leadership, were presented the Student Awards. Mohamed Ali Ibrahim, a research scientist in the UM National Center for Natural Products Research, received the Staff Member Award. The Faculty Member Award went to Michael Raines, instructional assistant professor of applied linguistics. The Community Member Award was given to Zach Scruggs, executive director of Second Chance Mississippi in Oxford.Excerpts from the honorees’ nomination letters reveal why they were chosen to be recognized:

Neely Griggs

Neely Griggs
According to one of Griggs’ nomination letters, Neely’s internship with the Department of Human Services “is perhaps the most prominent example of her selfless service to her community. She would talk to me often about the aid applicants that she would interview and assist day-to-day, expressing genuine empathy/desire to help these people in whatever way she could. This experience helped her gain a better understanding of the underserved in the Oxford community and only increased her desire to do whatever she could to improve these people’s lives.”

Another nominator added, “She is my role model. I am just one the many people in the community whose life she has touched in a positive way, and I am absolutely sure that she will only broaden her outreach in the pursuit of her goals, which all center around community development. She is determined to improve the state of affairs in her home state of Mississippi.

Savannah Day

Savannah Day
Day has made a difference at Ole Miss through leadership with the Columns Society, the Center for Inclusion and Cross Cultural Engagement’s iTeam, and her sorority, her nominator wrote. “Her work has been intentional about making a difference. As a journalism student, she could have pursued work with major news networks to pad her resume, but she chose areas of passion where she could make an impact. From the time we worked together in D.C., I knew that Savannah would leave our campus and community better than she found it … She’s a remarkable young woman and someone that would represent this award program very well,” the person wrote.


Mohamed Ali Ibrahim

Mohamed Ali Ibrahim
Ibrahim is “an outstanding model of honesty, morality, ethics, integrity, responsibility, determination, courage and compassion,” a nominator wrote. “He was able to implement … essential moral ethics through his serving at the Integrity Time program at the Oxford Elementary School for two years [where he taught] the children many lessons about the importance of ethics … what is true and good and right and how to apply that. [This] makes him as an ambassador of morality [and] ethics.”

Ibrahim is also a member of the Kiwanis Club and has organized various fundraising projects and supported several other charitable organizations in the Oxford/Ole Miss community.


Michael Raines

Michael Raines
A nomination letter for Raines praises him as “a tireless helper in the communities around northern Mississippi and southern Tennessee.” The letter goes on to describe how Raines and his family meet on the first Saturday of each month at Golden Living Nursing Home in Ripley to give out snacks, sing and provide companionship to the patients. Additionally, he has personally, without pay, helped two students—one Korean, the other Panamanian—reach acceptable scores on the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) exam.


Zach Scruggs
The letter for Scruggs’ nomination spoke highly of his dedication to supporting others committed to bettering themselves. Explaining how Scruggs supported a young mother who had dropped out of high school and was involved in selling drugs, the nominator wrote, “When she made the first step to put that life behind her, Zach made sure she had a weekly stipend to put food on the table and gas in her car as long as she attended class. He paid her tuition and, once she completed her coursework, made sure she had a cash bonus to get a good jump start on her life.”

“These individuals represent the UM legacy of service to others and have made a tremendous impact within our community,” said Erin Payseur Oeth, project manager for community engagement at Ole Miss. “We are thankful for their dedication to serve, their inspiring leadership and their example.”


“Service Is a Lifestyle I Live By”: Meet the Sullivan Award Winners at the University of South Carolina

By Page Ivey

A pair of highly accomplished seniors at the University of South Carolina, a Sullivan Foundation partner school, have been honored with the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award for the 2019-20 school year. The Sullivan Award is given each year for outstanding achievements, campus leadership, exemplary character and service to the community.

The Sullivan Award is the University of South Carolina’s highest undergraduate honor. It’s awarded annually to two graduating seniors. Here’s a closer look at this year’s recipients:

Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award winner Sophia Bertrand (center) with her parents

Sophia Bertrand
While earning her bachelor’s degree in experimental psychology and participating in research, including a neuroscience project at the university’s Institute for Mind and Brain, Sophia Bertrand also managed a 3.9 GPA and even squeezed in a study-abroad experience every year of her college career.

In addition to her neuroscience project, Bertrand, who came to South Carolina as a Capstone Scholar from Roswell, Georgia, has received the Magellan Apprentice and Mini-Grants to conduct her own research evaluating the development of “Theory of Mind”—the ability to see someone else’s perspective and relate to them emotionally—in hearing-impaired children. She conducted her research at the Hearts for Hearing Institute in Oklahoma and presented her results at Discovery Day 2018.

Related: Sullivan Scholar Sara Busaleh: Serving Others “Gave Me Hope When I Was Hopeless”

But it is in study and service abroad that Bertrand has found her calling. “I studied abroad every year at USC because I have a deep appreciation for understanding different cultures,” Bertrand said. “This widened my perspective, and my coursework began to translate to service abroad because service is a lifestyle that I live by.”

She received the Excellence in Service-Learning Award from the UofSC Leadership and Service Center this past fall in recognition of her extensive service projects both locally and internationally.

Bertrand has also participated in UofSC medical service-learning trips to Nicaragua and Guatemala and a public health intervention in Costa Rica. In the U.S., Bertrand has participated in programs to feed the homeless in Columbia and Atlanta and was a math and English tutor for Gamecocks Aiding Refugees in Columbia.

Also during her time at South Carolina, she has helped connect the university community with the international service organization Rotary. She even established a mentor program that connects students with Rotarians. “The goal is to give students the opportunity to network and find mentors in their fields of study, in support of their professional development and success after graduation,” Bertrand says.

Bertrand, who also is a member of Phi Beta Kappa, is planning a career in healthcare and would like to work outside the U.S.

Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award winner Kevin Gagnon

Kevin Gagnon
While earning his bachelor of science degree in computer science, Irmo, S.C., native Kevin Gagnon used his computing skills to help a historically black community near the university tell its story.

“Coming into USC, research was not something that I expected to be involved in,” wrote Gagnon, a first-generation college student and a member of the South Carolina Honors College, in his award nomination essay. “However, with the guidance of some amazing professors and research-heavy honors classes, I realized that it was not only something I could achieve but also something that I could excel at.”

Gagnon helped build a mobile application for the Ward One community of Columbia to share its story of oppression. The project also helped connect the neighborhood to the university.

In addition to serving as a College of Engineering and Computing peer mentor, Gagnon worked on projects looking at subjects as varied as neural network architectures and the detection of altered mental status in emergency department clinical notes.

“My work has also led to several publications in many different subject areas, each referencing my education at USC,” Gagnon said.

Related: Sullivan Award winner Alexus Cumbie’s poetry, policy and passion for changemaking

Last year, he teamed up with a biology student and others to develop a stroke identification application that won the 2019 Siemens Healthineers Innovation Think Tank’s annual external exhibition in Germany.

Gagnon’s non-academic interests focused on broadcasting: He worked at the student-run campus radio station WUSC for all of his four years as a student, serving two years as news director. He also was a producer and host of the On Campus podcast. And he was a creator and curator of the Mobile Museum Exhibit for the university’s Museum of Education.

“I am grateful to USC for the opportunities it has afforded me, and I hope to continue to give back in every way that I can,” Gagnon said.

The University of South Carolina presents the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award each year to the most outstanding senior female and male student. It recognizes college students of noble character who have acted as humble servants to others by putting service to others before self-interest.

This article was compiled and edited slightly from two separate stories appearing on the University of South Carolina website.

Sullivan Scholar Sara Busaleh: Serving Others “Gave Me Hope When I Was Hopeless”

Sara A. Busaleh is the recipient of the 2019-20 Sullivan Scholarship at Sullivan Foundation partner school Berea College. In this thoughtful and moving essay submitted with her scholarship application, Sara reflects on her life in service, how she came to be involved with the nonprofit La Casita Center—and how serving others gave her hope when she was otherwise hopeless.

I always say that the best way to spend your free time is through service. I immersed myself in community service as soon as my circumstances allowed me to. I was 12 when I volunteered for the first time ever with an organization.

To give a little backstory, my dad is from Saudi Arabia and my mom is Mexican raised in the U.S. When I was 11, my parents separated, and we (my four sisters, my single mother, and myself) moved from Saudi Arabia, where I had grown up alongside my father’s family, to Louisville, Kentucky. Upon our arrival to the U.S., my family and I lived in a community house called Casa Latina with other families who were like us—with no money, no job, and no safety net. I was terrified and shocked by the fact that I never would return to my homeland, Saudi Arabia.

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Nevertheless, things got better. La Casita Center is a non-profit neighboring the house we were staying in, and the individuals there helped us with many basic necessities like clothes, food and resources to find jobs. The mission of La Casita Center was aimed at serving others, especially the Hispanic and Latino population, and was done out of pure intentions. I was so humbled to know that there are truly good people who dedicate their lives for the well-being of others, for ​my well-being.

Here we were, my family and I, afraid of our past (in addition to my parents’ separation, there were personal circumstances that put us in a risky situation when we moved) and hopeless at times. I felt like I had nothing to fall back on. Everybody in my family was going through the same emotional roller coaster I was going through. Close family friends, my teachers, and my support system were all left behind in Saudi Arabia. I was lost.

It was almost oxymoron-ish when I started volunteering with La Casita Center. For one, I was one of the recipients of the many benefits they offered. I was being helped by La Casita while at the same time volunteering with them to help others. I was inspired to become a volunteer, plus I was not comfortable enough to join any after-school activities or social groups at my new school. After school, I would go to La Casita’s office to do homework and help them sort out donated food and clothes in the designated banks and closets.

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As I grew older and continued to live in Casa Latina, I became more involved with the nonprofit next door. Many of my weekends were spent in the kitchen cooking for their fundraising breakfast events or weeding the yard around La Casita Center’s office. I always get emotional when I mention my journey of starting community service because I feel like that was when I was enlightened (no hyperbole intended). I remember when large Hispanic and Latino families would come with their starving infants (some probably had been without food for a couple of days), and, for me, another child at the time, this would break my heart. These children and these families who came with nothing were my motivation to want to give all the time I could to help La Casita. I fostered a passion for community service through volunteering with La Casita and filled a void that I had when I first moved to the U.S. with compassion and an essence for humanity.

Eventually, my family and I had to move out of our temporary stay at Casa Latina and found our own space. We moved out to another part of town when I was 15. It was devastating for me to have to leave because spending my evenings at La Casita would not be so easily reachable anymore. I was losing a part of me that was dedicated to service, especially the kind of outreach service La Casita Center did and one that I was accustomed to. Regardless, I was ​not going to stop volunteering because this was what gave me hope when I was hopeless. Service was what ​made me​ when I felt broken and when I left my home in Saudi Arabia to come here in search of a new one.

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If I had to feel one thing for the rest of my life, it would be gratitude. I am grateful that each day I wake up and can give back to a world that has given me more than I could have ever asked for. I work with children at local elementary schools, teaching them about global issues and empowering them to feel confident in serving this global community. At the local public library, I teach adults Spanish classes in hopes that they gain the knowledge they need to connect with the broader community.

As a recipient of the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Scholarship, my development and commitment to service will be embraced and expanded. My goal for my upcoming summer breaks is to get involved in a wider range of community service activities and to implement this as much as possible. The only obstacle that could arise, preventing me from this involvement, is having to work in order to save money for the upcoming academic years. This scholarship will facilitate my academic journey at Berea College so that service, along with academics, can become my priority. I am grateful for this opportunity to apply and would be incredibly honored and humbled to become a Sullivan Scholar.

Sara A. Busaleh is a freshman at Berea College. She has not declared a major yet, but she is on the path for a double major in Psychology and Spanish and a minor in Sociology.