The University of California Haiti Initiative, a student-run organization partnered with the State University of Haiti in Port-au-Prince, received the third annual President’s Award for Outstanding Student Leadership from University of California President Mark G. Yudof, Wed., May 16. On behalf of the organization, co-founders Nicolas Pascal and Noah Stern accepted the plaque and $5,000 grant at the UC Board of Regents meeting from Executive Vice President, Nathan Brostrom. With the presentation of this award, Yudof and the UC administration recognize UCHI as a remarkably operative student-initiated organization that demonstrates commitment, leadership and innovative thinking from the involved UC students.
Pascal and Stern initiated the organization as a relief effort to aid Haitian students in rebuilding their country through collaboration with each of the 10 UC campuses. UCHI creates a system of commissioning available UC resources to Haitian university students who are developing sustainable projects to benefit their communities. Through this partnership between university students at the UC’s and UEH, UCHI strives to foster an environment in which the talents and skill sets of UEH students are supported and legitimized. The reception of the President’s Leadership Award demonstrates an approval of the efforts of UC students in addition to providing a kind of intangible affirmation from the UC administration that helps UCHI continue as a proponent to the rebuilding of Haiti.
“Not only does [receiving this award] reflect how far UCHI has come as a student-founded organization, but also where it can go. With the proper organization and support, the UC system can be one of the most powerful development clusters in the world,” said Pascal.
According to Sierra Griffith, the UCSB chapter director of UCHI and third-year global studies major, the acknowledgment of the hard work put into the development and operation of UCHI enthralls its members, despite the modest reaction to receiving the award. Still, Griffith agrees with Pascal and Stern that the award
assures a promising future for the organization.
“We only hope that receiving this award can keep Haiti at the forefront of discussions and action,” Griffith said. However, Yudof’s remarks delivered by Brostrom at the Regents meeting demonstrated the UC commitment to supporting public service initiatives and the standing behind the leadership exemplified by students through UCHI.
“As befits a President’s Award winner, the UC Haiti Initiative is an example of a ‘promising practice’ not only within the UC community, but within the global community,” said Brostrom on behalf of President Yudof.
While Haiti still has far to go in terms of reestablishing a network of functioning and stable communities, the unique partnership of students involved in UCHI will continue to help the nation on its way with full UC support.