The award, given to a UW Tacoma graduating student, provides an opportunity to give to the community through philanthropy. The student will select a University of Washington Tacoma approved non-religious charity for a one-time award. In addition, the student will receive an award equivalent to the philanthropic gift.
2021-22 Recipient: Andre Jimenez
Graduating this June with his bachelor’s degree in Law & Policy along with a minor in Global Engagement, Andre Jimenez followed a path that was a bit unexpected, and as a first generation college student, also uncharted. Raised primarily by his grandparents, both of whom were lifelong public servants, he noted that “[S]ervice has always been in my blood … I think I’m just the first one to do it in such a public setting.”
To him, in the most basic sense, philanthropy is “[g]iving back to the community.” But more importantly, it is also “[u]sing money, influence, power and the resources that I gain along my journey to help others do the same.” Prior to his attendance at UW Tacoma, his career goals were dead set on becoming a prosecutor, Jimenez wanted to change the experience of justice-involved individuals. And as someone with justice-involved parents, Jimenez noted the only prosecutors he experienced were, “[I]nequitable arbitrators who contributed to the destruction of families … I wanted to sit at that table and help decide who gets grace,” he said.
Back in 2013, after graduating from high school with his AA, he decided to get a job. Unsurprisingly drawn towards non-profits, he joined the staff at Sound Outreach. As Jimenez recalls, the people who came in looked like friends, like neighbors and like people he grew up with. “People were coming in broken after being churned through systems that weren’t designed to serve them,” he said. “I felt like I wasn’t doing enough … but I didn’t know where to start.”
Then, about 3 years later when his first daughter was born, things began to evolve; “Your worldview changes [when you have children], it becomes less about finding your place in the world. For me, it changed to making the world a safer place for my young Black daughter,” he said. “I could see the world differently.”
Since then, Jimenez has served as chair on the Human Rights Commission for the City of Tacoma, where he led the effort to amend Tacoma Municipal Code 830A and also worked with the committee to draft an internal memo entitled “Tacoma DV Needs Assessment.” Additionally, while working at Tacoma Community College, Jimenez joined the Justice-Involved Action Committee, where he dedicated his efforts towards minimizing law enforcement on campus in order to help students feel safer.
Then, in the fall of 2020, when he came to UW Tacoma, his goals still included attending law school and becoming a prosecutor, but during his time in undergrad - during which he has served as both ASUWT President and as co-chair of the Global Honors Student Leadership Council - he realized he could make a difference without sitting at that table with other prosecutors.
This realization illuminated his affinity for policy work and changing systems. “I realized if I could help the workforce, the economy, education, healthcare, then that would prevent people from going into the criminal justice system,” he said.
Often guided by the Toni Morrison quote: “When you’re free, it’s your job to help others find that freedom. When you find some power, it’s your job to empower others.” Jimenez will attend Princeton University to pursue his master’s degree in Public Affairs. And as he continues to serve our community, and others in the future, he told me this about his journey:
“It’s not just about creating the systems I want for my children and others, it’s also thinking back to that 9-year-old visiting his mom in the Pierce County jail behind a piece of glass and thinking, ‘What did he need? What type of person did he need? What type of leader did he need in his community that wasn’t there?’ That’s also what grounds and guides the work I do.”
2020-21 Vincent Da
When he began his college career at UW Tacoma back in 2017, Vincent Da explained that, as a first generation student, he didn’t know what to expect. After beginning to venture down a bio-med path, he ultimately decided that working in the sciences wasn’t something he wanted to do — but recognized that he still wanted to be in a position where he could help people. This realization surrounding alternative ways to serve the community through engagement and research is what led him to major in Healthcare Leadership.
When he first began volunteering in high school, and after graduating and moving on, these experiences motivated him to become more involved on campus. From his work at the Center for Equity and Inclusion, working in the Pantry and with Nourish Pierce County to moving from ASUWT senator to the sitting president, his time at UWT exemplifies this.
Growing up with a father in the military, Da explained how these experiences allowed him to understand first-hand what selfless service is from a young age:
“I was able to live in different parts of the world, having that global perspective of different communities and the things I experienced, I’m privileged. That’s one of the things now I kind of understand more,” he said. “Selfless service to me is making sure that you do something without any expectation of return or recognition — something my dad kind of really taught me growing up.”
During his early college career, Da noted that he experienced food insecurity. And by working in the Pantry alongside Dr. Christine Stevens, Da was inspired to get involved and continue working in the community. “It was through [Dr. Stevens’] research that she found one third of UW Tacoma students were food insecure, which brought about the creation of the Pantry … Without her work I think I wouldn’t be here today,” he said.
The two regularly work together on leadership projects across campus, one of which garnered a grant that allowed them to provide culturally relevant food to students on campus. Continuing their work throughout the pandemic, Da expressed the ways in which it has highlighted the inequities our community faces — from financial insecurity to accessibility gaps with technology.
Following graduation this coming June, the UW Tacoma Healthcare Leadership major will begin his career with MultiCare working in their Health & Equity Wellness division to provide more access to healthcare in underserved communities. Looking back on his time as a volunteer and his community involvement, Da said it urged him to self-reflect and move forward.
“Not everyone has the same access to resources as you or has the same upbringing or same opportunities. Making sure that you use your platform, of whatever your platform is, to just uplift others that might need it is important.”