Students honored for humanitarian work

With far-reaching work ranging from funding water wells in Ethiopia to working with children living in the Bolivian prison system to breaking down barriers to housing for local homeless people, 13 Florida State University students were recognized Wednesday for their commitment to making the world a better place.

The students, each representing a different academic discipline, gathered for the annual President’s Annual Humanitarian of the Year luncheon, where they shared their experiences and reflections on service.

Thirteen students were honored March 22 for their commitment to service.
One will be chosen as the President's Humanitarian of the Year at
Leadership Awards Night on April 11.

Many of the students have worked to improve life for people in other parts of the world.

Jena Martino, the honoree from the College of Engineering, has worked on projects in Central America since she joined Engineers Without Borders two years ago. She’s currently using her senior design project to design a schoolhouse in Guatemala that will hopefully be built next year.

“I’m really honored to be part of this organization,” she said. “It’s allowed me to take what I’m learning in the classroom into the global community, exposed me to two completely different cultures and use my engineering skills to help people at the same time.”

When Joe Pelt was a freshman, he started the organization Well Ride, which has raised more than $10,000 to build a water well. Now, the junior biology major said, the efforts have paid off with construction underway on a well that will serve 250 people in Ethiopia.

A catalyst for Pelt was learning that women and children often walk several miles to collect water and return it to their homes, a trip he attempted to replicate here in Tallahassee with a gas can and a walk to Lake Ella and back from his apartment.

“I was exhausted...Nobody wants to do this,” he said.

Then Pelt spent some time in Ghana and actually walked that walk with students collecting water, further increasing his drive for his water project.

His time in Ghana led to other passions, including make a high school education more affordable for residents of rural villages.

“Now we have 13 people who are being supported to go to high school, and they’ll graduate in a little under a year, and that’s so exciting to me,” Pelt said.

The students honored on Wednesday each receive help to further their humanitarian work, with $200 to be donated to the charity of their choice.

Each college or school at Florida State can select a student to nominate for the award, and the one who best exemplifies commitment to service will receive the President’s Undergraduate Humanitarian of the Year Award at Leadership Awards Night on April 11. That student will receive an additional $1,000 for his or her charity.

Calling the students some of Florida State’s finest ambassadors, Provost Sally McRorie said they exemplify the values cherished by the university: engagement, academic excellence and service to others.

“You saw a need, and you did something about it,” she said. “You didn’t wait for somebody else to do it. You didn’t wait until you got older, until you got a job, you’re out in the world. You did it now. That’s very inspiring.”


About the honorees:

Katherine May, College of Applied Studies
May is a senior from Greenwood, Florida. Much of her service has focused on providing meals and services to Greenwood community members through Chipola Christian Ministries, an organization that tirelessly works to eliminate poverty, neglect, abuse, and hunger.

Joe Pelt, College of Arts & Sciences
Pelt is a junior from Perry, Florida. He founded The Well Ride, an organization that raised funds to bring a water well to the Tigray Region of Ethiopia, and helped form Akadi Educate, an organization that sponsors student education, through graduation, in the Volta Region of Ghana.

Ramon Aleman, College of Business
Aleman is a senior from Miami, Florida. In addition to his work through the Global Peace Exchange in Haiti and Cambodia, Aleman founded Unhoused Humanity, an organization that shares stories and identifies partners, raising money for families experiencing homelessness.

Catherine Christine Timm, College of Communication & Information
Timm is a senior from Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. Her most meaningful service experience has been with Faithful Servant Missions, traveling to the community of Bajo Tejares, Costa Rica, and teaching children to speak English and adults how to write.  

Emilie Easton, College of Criminology & Criminal Justice
Easton is a junior from Temperance, Michigan. Through her Global Scholars experience teaching English in Bolivia, she learned about children and families in the prison system. Easton expanded her service to this population, helping socialize children and teach life skills.   

Brittany Sinitch, College of Education
Sinitch is a senior from Coral Springs, Florida. In addition to her service as President of the Council of Teachers of English, Sinitch has served with Dance Marathon for three years, working primarily with recruitment, uniting our campus community For The Kids.

Jena Martino, College of Engineering
Martino is a senior from Naples, Florida. She has been involved with Engineers Without Borders for three years, culminating in her current role as president. Through EWB, she has helped develop sustainable engineering solutions with communities in Panama and Guatemala.

Jocelyn Riedl, College of Fine Arts
Riedl is a senior from Lake Placid, New York. Riedl has bridged community needs, her passion for art, and her experience as a Navy veteran. Through the Peace Papers project, she helps military veterans pulp their uniforms, resulting in useful and meaningful paper projects.

Neil Sood, College of Human Sciences
Sood is a senior from Jacksonville, Florida. In addition to tutoring in math and science and mentoring pre-health students, Sood worked with Project Nepal as a part of the Global Peace Exchange, teaching English in a rural village in Nepal and contributing to sustainable community development.

Terry Beck, College of Motion Picture Arts
Beck is a junior from Navarre, Florida. After losing a friend to violence, he developed two documentaries, highlighting the grief process and working to end violence toward women. His own experience with arthritis motivates his service with children with autoimmune conditions.

Emma Harmon, College of Music
Harmon is a junior from Orlando, Florida. Her service includes working with elders as community ambassador for Project LOVE and mentoring youth via Capital City Youth Services. She bridges her passions for music and education at Leon County Schools, focusing on low-SES children.

Steve Lizano, College of Nursing
Lizano is a senior from Pembroke Pines, Florida. As a nursing student, he has applied his classroom knowledge to community needs, working with a migrant community in Immokalee to identify healthcare needs, advocate for patients, and provide health screenings.

Saleshia Ellis, College of Social Sciences & Public Policy
Ellis is a sophomore from Fort Pierce, Florida. Motivated by her own experiences, Ellis aims to empower low-income communities of color via youth mentoring at the Palmer Munroe Teen Center, free tax preparation with IMPACT America, and research on #BlackGirlMagic.