FSU students honored for humanitarian work

Florida State University's Humanitarian of the Year nominees were honored at a ceremony on March 22, 2024. Pictured, from left, are Lucy Lawrence, Nadia Rassech, Lauren Morris, Emma Summers, Mia McSheffrey, Halie Hornsby, Kennedy Joy Foristall, Julia Moffa, Bridget Gorder, Andres Gil Arana and Alondra Munoz. Not picture are Keith Cohen and Sierra ElDeiry. Winner Nadia Rassech will be honored at Leadership Awards Night on Tuesday, April 9. (Center for Leadership & Service)

Nadia Rassech, a senior in the College of Social Sciences and Public Policy, has been named Florida State University’s 2024 Humanitarian of the Year for her commitment to serving refugee communities. She was among 13 students nominated for the award by their colleges and honored at a celebratory brunch March 22. 

Rassech has conducted extensive service and research endeavors over her three years at FSU, engaging with the Tallahassee Afghan population, working with the International Rescue Committee, studying international human rights at Oxford University and tackling refugee protection issues in Germany. She credits Darasa, the Middle East Center, and the Middle Eastern Studies department as having transformed her personal, professional and service journeys. 

“I’m so grateful for (Assistant Dean for Academic Affairs at COSSPP) Tanya Perry and all the work she has done to help me get here,” Rassech said. “I’m inspired to be here with all the other people who were nominated … We’re all out here doing this work and making this impact, and it means a lot to be recognized. It’s so great to see all the other awardees’ work, and I’m excited to see what they continue to do.” 

Rassech is the 37th FSU Humanitarian of the Year. Launched in 1988, the award emphasizes Florida State University’s mission to service on campus and beyond. Each academic college nominates one student each year in recognition of their service efforts. The Center for Leadership & Service selects an overall winner, who is then recognized at the university’s Leadership Awards Night in April. 

“These students are shining examples of the Florida State experience — excelling beyond the classroom and offering their strength, skill and character to engage with communities to make the world better,” Associate Vice President for Student Affairs Brandon Bowden said at the ceremony. 


About the nominees:

College of Arts & Sciences, Andres Gil Arana

Andres Gil Arana is a senior majoring in cell and molecular neuroscience. He combines research and advocacy in his work as a mental health team manager on the Global Health Collaboration Project, which seeks to address health care concerns in Honduras. Born in Colombia, Gil Arana is inspired by his background, seeking to support those born in underserved communities who do not yet have access to the educational experiences he received upon moving to the United States. Gil Arana will be pursuing a Ph.D. in population health at the NYU Grossman School of Medicine after graduating in the spring. 

College of Business, Lauren Morris

Lauren Morris is a junior accounting major who credits her volunteer experiences as having shaped her into the person she is today. After volunteering in Hawaii the summer after her freshman year, Morris and her friends founded GIVE at FSU, an initiative seeking to bring cultural perspectives learned in global volunteer experiences to sustainability-centered service in the Tallahassee community. With one summer having impacted her life so significantly, Morris emphasizes the importance of small efforts for change. 

College of Communication & Information, Emma Summers

Emma Summers is a senior majoring in communication disorders. A combination of service and research made her realize that she wanted to pursue a career in speech-language pathology. Summers served for three years as camp manager for Friendship Journey, an organization dedicated to connecting neurotypical and neurodiverse young adults. Her service has helped her recognize how much of a privilege communication is, and she seeks to help others find their voice as a speech-language pathologist specializing in augmentative and alternative communication. 

College of Education, Health, and Human Sciences, Julia Moffa

Representing the School of Teacher Education, Julia Moffa is a senior majoring in elementary education. Moffa has worked to increase the accessibility of education for all through tutoring students, organizing school supply drives and funding a summer camp experience for children impacted by a parent’s cancer. Her service experiences have taught her how socioeconomic status impacts literacy, and she prides education on its ability to make the world a better place. After graduation, she will pursue her master’s degree in curriculum and instruction at FSU. 

College of Medicine, Mia McSheffrey

As a senior majoring in clinical professions, Mia McSheffrey is dedicated to making health care more equitable. Having volunteered and researched public health both locally in Tallahassee and abroad in Peru through the Global Scholars program, she acknowledges the barriers that limit access to high quality health care for people around the world. She cites her younger brother as her main motivator; his experiences with a rare genetic disorder have shown her firsthand the importance of health care access for all. She will continue her journey with the FSU College of Medicine as she enters medical school in the fall. 

College of Motion Picture Arts, Keith Cohen

Keith Cohen, a senior majoring in Motion Picture Arts-Production, believes strongly that art is one of the greatest catalysts for change. As an aspiring writer and director, Cohen’s student Emmy-nominated documentary, “Healing Paws,” showcased the work that facility and therapy dogs perform daily. Cohen’s second project focused on developing sustainable water distribution and recycling systems that can be used on movie sets throughout the College of Motion Picture Arts. These films have shown Cohen that one spark is all it takes to light a fire for change. 

College of Music, Bridget Gorder

Inspired by the music educators who guided her in her childhood, Bridget Gorder is a senior majoring in choral music education. She is driven by a call to help others, which she carries out in her role as coordinator on the Board of Advisors at the College of Music. Gorder seeks opportunities to mentor first-year and transfer students, citing their evolution as testaments to the impact she is making. She hopes to serve as a music educator specifically for a nonprofit music organization to reciprocate the work that served her as a child. 

College of Nursing, Halie Hornsby

Senior Halie Hornsby’s service is rooted in friendship. Through inspiration from her childhood friend Cali, Hornsby formally developed the Hair Fairy Project to provide children enduring pediatric cancer with moments of joy. In the style of the tooth fairy, the Hair Fairy Project has provided craft kits, toys and treats to patients with hair loss at Golisano Children’s Hospital, the hospital that treated her friend Cali. The Hair Fairy Project is thriving at FSU, where it is on its fourth round of partnerships. As an aspiring pediatric cancer nurse, Hornsby hopes to continue the work of the Hair Fairy Project in the hospital that becomes her professional home later this year. 

College of Social Sciences & Public Policy, Nadia Rassech – Winner

Nadia Rassech is a senior majoring in international affairs and Middle Eastern studies. Her work with the International Rescue Committee and engagement with the Tallahassee Afghan community has amplified her passion for refugee protection and humanitarian work. This passion has led to opportunities to study international human rights at Oxford University, research refugee protection issues in Germany and organize service initiatives with the Arabic Honor Society. Rassech serves because her love for her family’s home country opened her eyes to the necessities of advocacy, connection and empathy. She also serves out of respect for and the honoring of human life and dignity, especially when it feels that others have forgotten you. 

College of Social Work, Lucy Lawrence

Lucy Lawrence, a senior majoring in Social Work and Theatre, believes in working for change. From fostering community connections to establishing mutual aid and support, Lucy has always heeded her mother’s advice to look out for those around her, especially those with no one else to depend on. Lawrence’s unwavering hope for humanity is what drives her to ensure that everyone she serves can enjoy their inherited right to security, stability and joy. 

Dedman College of Hospitality, Sierra ElDeiry

Engaging in community service and humanitarian activities has been the most significant aspect of Sierra ElDeiry’s academic journey. For the senior majoring in hospitality and tourism management, serving with Best Buddies gave ElDeiry a deeper understanding of the significance of embracing diversity. ElDeiry’s service has deepened her understanding of the importance of empathy, patience and a compassionate approach to fostering connections. Volunteering with children at the Littlest Lamb Orphanage in Cairo, Egypt, offered her insight into the challenges faced by the children and staff at the orphanage and the importance of having a nurturing home environment. ElDeiry’s service endeavors have taught her lessons in leadership, collaboration and social responsibility. 

Jim Moran College of Entrepreneurship, Kennedy Joy Foristall

For senior commercial entrepreneurship major Kennedy Joy Foristall, FSU’s Service Scholar program and the Jim Moran College of Entrepreneurship helped her blend her passion for service with the power of entrepreneurship to create positive change in communities. In addition to her business, a peer-to-peer clothing rental app for FSU students aimed at reducing clothing waste and enhancing environmental sustainability, Foristall has spent her time mentoring her peers and partnering with small businesses and charitable organizations. 

The Center for Leadership & Service transforms lives through leadership education, community engagement, and self-exploration, helping students develop skills and knowledge to become more effective leaders and engage responsibly with communities. To that end, the center fosters and sustains collaborative relationships among students, campus, and the broader community.  

Learn more at thecenter.fsu.edu/HOY.