The Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life recognized the service and leadership of 19 undergraduate and graduate students with Presidential Awards for Civic Life at an April 22 ceremony in Breed Memorial Hall. Amber Asumda, Claudia Guetta, Emma Downs, Jay-Miguel Fonticella, Leanne Loo and Maycon Santos, all seniors, are this year’s undergraduate winners. Ricardo Moreno, Delia Burns, Lark Escobar,Avis Carrero, Logan Schwartz, Iris Montes, Joshua McLinden, Qimei Liu,Cora Evans, Charles Christopher Hines III, Anshelle Reen Tucker, Tara Ahmadi and Alex Coston are this year’s graduate winners.
University President Anthony Monaco opened the event by congratulating all 64 nominees.
Following Monaco, Pierre and Pamela Omidyar Dean of Tisch College Dayna Cunningham spoke directly to the awards recipients, hailing them as a new generation of leaders who will bring about a multiracial democracy.
“We know we will be a multiracial society, but will we be a multiracial democracy?” Cunningham asked the audience. “That is the question for us. Looking around this room, and learning about all of your incredible accomplishments, the depth and breadth of your service learning, your community engaged research, your campus leadership and your far-reaching social impact, it's clear to me that you are the core of this mission.”
Cunningham noted that the award celebrates Tisch College’s core values as an institution.
“At Tisch we work to create new knowledge, to cultivate a generation of leaders in our students who can solve the complex problems of an emerging multiracial society and to work with communities to catalyze the institutional changes needed to support a multiracial democracy,” Cunningham said.
“Your achievements are indicative of one of the essential beliefs at Tisch College, that there are countless pathways to getting involved in civic life,”Cunningham added.
The 19 recipients come from a variety of Tufts schools, disciplines and civic experiences.
During the ceremony, students were presented with their awards by the person who nominated them. Each nominator gave a brief speech about the recipient and their accomplishments.
John Wescott, associate director of campus life, nominated Asumda.
“[Asumda] embodies the values of Tufts University — the excellence in the areas of leadership, public service and academics,” Westcott said. “I cannot think of anyone more deserving.”
Tisch Scholars program administrator Brianda Hernández nominated Loo.
“Leanne co-created a resource guide to support undocumented Asian communities,” Hernández said. “I really could go on and on about Leanne’s accomplishments. … She sprinkles joy and humor into her work, and listens compassionately to the needs of those around her.”
Ellise LaMotte, associate dean of diversity and inclusion, nominated Fonticella.
“Jay-Miguel continues to demonstrate their commitment to social justice by actively improving access to resources for historically marginalized populations,”LaMotte said.
Cunningham nominated Emma Downs.
“After discovering that Massachusetts had the biggest increase in food insecurity in the country due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Emma created JumboSwipes, a group on campus that helps mitigate this issue in the greater Boston area by repurposing students’ extra meal slots,”Cunningham said. “Emma also interned for Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz in 2020. Continuing her championing of accessibility, [Downs] created … a directory of free Massachusetts legal services.”
Hilary Binda, senior lecturer in Visual and Critical Studies and founding director of the Tufts University Prison Initiative of Tisch College, nominated Guetta. Binda recalled meeting Guetta for the first time through TUPIT.
“I knew this was someone with the courage and curiosity that it takes to care about others,” Binda said. “With each week during her first semester, Claudia’s understanding of justice and the extensive health impacts of the criminal legal [system] grew exponentially. … She is currently the program coordinator, and in many ways, the co-director of TUPIT, a full college in prison program that offers associate's and bachelor’s degrees to incarcerated students.”
Dawn Geronimo Terkla, associate provost for institutional research, assessment and evaluation, nominated Santos.
“During the first summer when we were all dealing with COVID, [Santos] worked with scholars at 14 institutions across the world to develop videos using a rhinoceros to provide educational content to underprivileged students around the world,” Terkla said.“With hard work, determination and perseverance, he’s survived and excelled and exemplifies the Tufts spirit.”
The ceremony continued for graduate students, featuring students from The Fletcher School, the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine and more.