Public Service Celebration 2017

By Connie Cheng

screen-shot-2017-05-30-at-12-38-12-amMembers of the Class of 2017 receive a round of applause at the 16th annual Public Service Celebration.

Students from PBHA’s 80 programs convened in Quincy House for the 16th annual Public Service Celebration (PSC) on April 28th. Though our service and advocacy regularly garner acclaim, ranging from local news coverage to national recognition, PSC provides a much awaited opportunity to celebrate the people behind the work.

Seniors kicked off the evening with toasts to the Class of 2017 at a rooftop reception hosted at the Quincy Faculty Deans’ residence. Afterwards, the celebration moved to the dining hall for the main program, which this year featured speeches by Michael Leonard ’17, Ezinne Nwankwo ’17, and Isabelle Yang ’17.


Members of the Class of 2017 at the senior reception with PBHA staff.

For Mike, looking ahead to the challenges facing the country first requires looking back on his four years with PBHA, which included working with Keylatch Afterschool (and almost quitting after his first semester as a director!), volunteering at Y2Y Harvard Square, and serving as PBHA’s Programming Chair. Through these experiences, he learned that service is a radical act that demands persistence.

To him, PBHA’s mission to “strive for social justice” entails service integrated with advocacy, such that it “works toward a more equitable vision of our communities and the world […] to ensure that the struggle is easier for those who come after us.” He concluded, “This path [of service] is difficult and active. But it also holds a lot of power—whether that power is changing a law, someone’s attitude, or a person’s life.”

Isabelle shared a powerful moment from her own service, recalling a difficult moment from her work with Y2Y Harvard Square. She remembered feeling first surprise, then gratitude and community when guests and staff members made sure to check in with her about her own well-being after the fact.

It was only natural for Ezinne, as PBHA’s former Assessment and Evaluation Chair, to remind us all about the importance of numbers in fully capturing the impact of these micro moments in our day-to-day work—beginning with the number 113.

Ezinne Nwankwo ’17 sharing words of senior wisdom at PSC.

“It has been 113 years since the Phillips Brooks House Association formally came to be, which is what brought us all here in the first place […] We need to know that we serve over 1,000 low-income youth in the Cambridge and Boston area, with 80 diverse programs in housing, education, and adult services and 1,500 student volunteers. That’s 1,500 student leaders being cultivated and well over 1,000 members of the community with whom we are working. Those are huge numbers, way larger than 113.”

Throughout the evening, outstanding first-year volunteers and legendary seniors alike were recognized for their contributions to PBHA’s collective impact this past year.

In recognition of “moral leadership and extraordinary volunteer commitment,” with a particular focus on “unsung heroes” who have made long-term impact on the lives of constituents, the Neil J. Houston Public Service Award was presented to Ana Carell ’17, Ioana Dobre ’17, Jen Hao ’17, Isobel Green ’17, Luisa Masclans ’17, Anthony Thai ’17, and Isabelle Yang ’17.

The Donald W. Moreland Public Service Award, which recognizes “selflessness, generosity, and work to ensure a caring society in the future” with a particular focus on those who have worked to better the lives of children and families, honored Alejandro Ashworth ’17, Nick Cashion ’17, Kate Hoffman ’17, Michael Leonard ’17, Amanda Mozea ’17, and Luisa Nilan ’17.

The John Culver Award for Service and Politics, awarded jointly by PBHA and the Institute of Politics to one senior for strong commitment to both direct service and political engagement, was awarded to Sossina Gutema ’17.

The Spirit of PBHA Award, which commends one senior for outstanding organizational contributions allowing members of PBHA to better serve the community and making possible the student-run spirit of PBHA, honored Ezinne Nwankwo ’17.

The Stride Undergraduate Service Award, recognizing sustained service to a community, was presented to Khal Gabriel ’17, Bushra Guenoun ’17, AJ Protin ’17, and Itzel Vasquez-Rodriguez ’17.

In addition, the recipients of this year’s Stride Postgraduate Fellowships were announced to be Zainub Dhanani ’17, Marwa Harp ’17, Kevin O’Donnell ’17, and Rina Padua ’17.


As Stride Postgraduate Fellows, Zainub Dhanani ’17, Marwa Harp ’17, and Rina Padua ’17 will pursue community-based projects in healthcare access, youth advocacy, and housing justice.

Nominated by their directors, this year’s outstanding volunteers included: Amma Ababio ’19, Tasnim Ahmad ’17, Kariss Alcorn ’18, Sahana Bail ’19, Samantha Berman ’19, Emily Boyk ’18, Cengiz Cemaloğlu ’18, Connie Cheng ’18, Molli Goetz ’19, Lucy Golub ’20, Alejandro Gracia-Zhang ’20, Jang Lee ’19, Flora Li ’19, Kay McGarrell ’18, Payal Nanda ’20, Karely Osorio ’18, Maria Park ’19, Lexi Smith ’18, Akshay Swaminathan ’19, Carmella Verrastro ’19, Ellen Xiang ’19, Jonathan You ’18, Casey Zhang ’20, and Ellen Zhang ’19.

As we celebrate the students who made this past year possible, PBHA looks forward to our 114th year of doing good well.


Special congratulations to our newly minted alumni in the Class of 2017!