University News

2012 Charles E. Young Humanitarian Awards go to three outstanding UCLA students

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Three UCLA students have been honored with 2012 Charles E. Young Humanitarian Awards for their outstanding commitment to public service. The awards ceremony, a private event for family and friends, took place May 3 in the Charles E. Young Grand Salon at UCLA's Kerckhoff Hall.
 
The Young Humanitarian Award, established by UCLA in 1986 as an annual tribute to recognize and encourage projects that address communities' social needs, is one of the most prestigious honors given to UCLA undergraduates. Each student received $700, to be donated to a public service project of their choice.
 
The three students are:
 
Kendra Knudsen, 22, of Pleasanton, Calif., a psychobiology major who will graduate in winter 2013, developed the Creative Minds Project at Step Up on Second, a nonprofit organization in Santa Monica that serves people with mental illness. The project utilizes creative art therapies to foster change and progress toward recovery, stability and reintegration into society.
 
In particular, Knudsen is an art teacher and coordinator of "Julie's Room," Step Up on Second's art studio, where she is bringing together UCLA undergraduate and graduate students to facilitate creative art therapy groups.
 
"Kendra's attentive listening skills, sensitivity and thoughtfulness are a great help to our members," Aaron Criswell, director of supportive services for Step Up on Second, said in recommending Knudsen for the award. "Many of our members are not only fighting the stigma of mental illness but homelessness as well. Kendra's sincere acceptance of the members and her promotion of dignity and compassion make 'Julie's Room' a popular haven."
 
Knudsen plans to pursue a doctorate in clinical neuropsychology to investigate how creative thinking may yield health benefits for both mentally ill and healthy individuals. She will use the humanitarian award to buy art supplies for "Julie's Room" to help implement the visual art therapy component of the Creative Minds Project.
 
Priscilla Mapelli, 20, of Antelope, Calif., an international development studies major who will graduate in June 2013, received the humanitarian award for her work with the UCLA chapter of U.S. Global Medical Brigades, a student-led global health and sustainable development organization.
 
She has made four trips to Honduras and one to Ghana to foster community and women's health, particularly when it comes to recurring intestinal parasite problems. Her work has focused on preventable measures, including personal water filtration devices that help prevent water-borne diseases and illnesses.
 
"Cultural respect and the ability the make the community's voice be heard are what make our programs effective and, most of all, sustainable within the community," Mapelli said. "Medical Brigades provides a space and actual hands-on experience in producing sustainable community service projects and solutions that can later be used in students' own communities."
 
Solomiya Teterichko, the medical and dental program adviser for Global Brigades Ghana, said Mapelli's leadership helped "inspire, mobilize and organize over 50 students" to assist in Ghana last December. "The students of this group not only brought about health awareness to community members but also continue to inspire our staff to push cultural limitations within health care to better the populations of under-resourced communities in central Ghana," Teterichko said.
 
Mapelli plans to use the humanitarian award to purchase personal water filtration devices to aid in the prevention of water-borne diseases.
 
Andrew Moncada, 22, of Novato, Calif., a political science major who will graduate in June, was given the humanitarian award for his work with Writer's Den, a group of UCLA students that teaches creative writing to students in inner-city schools.
 
"Too often, writing is not seen as something that can be exciting or fun," Moncada said. Writer's Den works with middle school students to write short stories, poems and plays and also to create a final product: a bound book that they can each have and share.
 
"We empower middle school students by turning them into published authors. The skills from creative writing — conveying ideas clearly, communicating — are not only important for their current schoolwork but will also prepare them for college applications, higher education and future jobs."
 
Moncada earlier this month was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to teach in Korea, in large part due to his work with Writer's Den. He plans to use the humanitarian award to assist with transportation, internal development and strategic planning to help Writer's Den expand to new school sites in Los Angeles.
 
UCLA is California's largest university, with an enrollment of nearly 38,000 undergraduate and graduate students. The UCLA College of Letters and Science and the university's 11 professional schools feature renowned faculty and offer 337 degree programs and majors. UCLA is a national and international leader in the breadth and quality of its academic, research, health care, cultural, continuing education and athletic programs. Six alumni and five faculty have been awarded the Nobel Prize.
 
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