Dylan Heyden, James Bennett and Alicia Pina are students at the University of San Diego. Heyden is a senior, Bennett’s a junior and Pina is a sophomore. They’re spread out academically by the year in school, but they’re among 23 USD students who are united beyond the school they attend.
Twenty-three students were recently awarded a USD Student Changemaker Scholarship, one that, through a generous $75,000 gift by the Bill Hannon Foundation, provided four students with $4,000 each and 19 more with $3,105. Nearly 100 students at USD, a designated Ashoka U Changemaker Campus, applied for the scholarship hosted by the USD Changemaker Hub. A four-person panel picked the winners.
“I was amazed, not only at the amount of applicants, but also the quality of the applicants,” said Juan Carlos Rivas, USD Changemaker Hub assistant director. “The range of USD experiences that students gave us as examples of their dedication to making change happen is a true testament to the changemaking spirit on our campus.”
Heyden (pictured, right), an International Relations and Spanish double major, said his approach involves educating himself as much as possible about issues facing countries in different parts of the world. Heyden is currently working on a project to see how sustainable surf voluntourism projects can increase positive peace among developing coastal communities, specifically, Gigante, Nicaragua.
“I hope to identify the significant impact that travelers can have when they chose to patronize organizations that are highly geared towards community development as opposed to profit margins and traditional business practices,” he said.
Heyden was thrilled by the Changemaker scholarship recognition: “For most of my life I’ve taken an interest in positive social change and how it has manifested itself in different ways. Whether it’s the study of different popular sociopolitical movements in history or volunteering and immersing myself in communities that have the capacity to create change, the Changemaker scholarship is a perfect fit. It recognizes both the path I’ve tried to set myself on and encouragement to proceed.”
Bennett, an English and Spanish double major and Theology and Religious Studies minor, said the scholarship is more than an award. “Although I often work to improve the social situation in which I find myself and the community as a whole, owning the label of Changemaker adds a higher level of responsibility. It’s easy to look back on past achievements and submit an application declaring myself as someone who instigates change, but to actually win it has raised my self-awareness tremendously. In every situation now, I find myself asking, ‘How can I add value to this?’ I truly believe the moment I stepped into this new role I assumed a duty that will inspire me to challenge the status quo wherever I go.”
Bennett’s outlook widened while studying abroad in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
“I had a 30-second interaction that fundamentally changed how I perceive my obligation to others,” he recalled. “My friends and I were finishing up at a restaurant and the waiter brought the change from our bill. He handed me the pesos and I attempted to give him a tip, but he refused to accept it. Instead, in Spanish, he said, ‘Give it to someone on the streets, they need it more than we do,’ and walked away. I was taken aback at first, but when we left the restaurant, I handed my change to a man begging on the sidewalk. I realized then how much I really have compared to most and how a little gesture possesses a lasting impact for those in less-fortunate situations. Now I always try to carry spare change so I can pass on the favor to others. It’s a small act, but it carries enormous weight in my identity as a Changemaker.”
Alicia Pina, a first-generation Mexican-American, is a business finance and political science major. Education, she believes, is the pathway to her success. She also wants others to follow her path. Education is a key ingredient to help children in low-income families and in neighborhoods where the idea of attending college is a dream, not necessarily a reality. Pina aspires to implement methods to change that perception.
Pina is a volunteer and mentor with MANA de San Diego, SAY San Diego and she provides literacy support for K-6 students at the public library in Barrio Logan. She’s been a research and law clerk volunteer for a National City-based law firm and last summer worked as a Latina campaign organizer for President Barack Obama’s election campaign in California, Colorado and Nevada.
“I plan to continue my Changemaker journey by creating and establishing a state-level program that supports and encourages children of incarcerated parents to apply for and obtain a college degree,” she said. “I plan to pursue a PhD/JD and produce research to contribute in the areas of state and national legislation.”
Meanwhile, the Changemaker scholarship supports Pina’s development: “Knowing USD supports my efforts by offering me this scholarship demonstrates and ensures me of the many positive ways that my educational institution is committed to both my education as well as my personal endeavors.”
Here’s the full list of USD Changemaker scholarship winners: James Bennett; Courtney Boyer; Alina Calva; Kristen Campbell; Sophia Carrillo; Danielle Chung; Kevin Cipriano; Alexandra Herweck; Dylan Heyden; Taylor Kilpatrick; Yasamin Mahallaty; Pilar Malim; Taylor Miller; Eliana Navarro Gracian; Kevin Pelaez; Alicia Pina; Haydee Rojas; Patrick Smith; Ruby Sutton; Eilish Thompson; Ashley Vigil; Brian Wisdom; and Hannah Wolf.
— Ryan T. Blystone