Carnegie Mellon University
Previous Winners

Previous Winners


Allison Perna and Cameron Breze, 2016 Gelfand Student Service Award Winners


  • David Baboolall
  • Kenny Joseph
  • Leslie Tay





  • Amy Badiani
  • Angel Gonzalez
  • Danielle Morse


  • Eda Akyar
  • Jana Diesner
  • Nathan Frank


Cameron Breze, Gelfand Student Service Award 2016

Cameron began working as a SciTech Tutor during the fall of his freshman year at Carnegie Mellon University. Over the past two years, he has developed a strong relationship with the teacher he works with, Dr. Edwina Kinchington, and with each of the students in her first period class. These high school juniors look to Cameron for help with concepts in biology because of his position as a tutor, but he also serves as a mentor, answering questions about finishing high school, moving on to college, and the "next steps." Cameron wrote, "This is my favorite part of my experience so far at SciTech. Also, I believe the time I have spent helping to teach these biology concepts has solidified my own core knowledge base, as well as having helped me improve my public speaking skills and confidence overall. It has been one of the most enriching and engaging experiences of my undergraduate education thus far.”

Allison Perna, Gelfand Student Service Award 2016

Allison tutored with the Gelfand Center and mentored younger students through Alpha Phi Omega and other avenues during her career at Carnegie Mellon University. It wasn't until her senior year though that she felt really comfortable saying that she had, "successfully achieved incorporating significant educational outreach and service activities into my educational experience at CMU, and the heart of this award truly resembles my work with Project Ignite." Project Ignite was something that enabled Allison to get involved with outreach in a managerial and advising role and it proved beneficial to her and the other co-founder of Project Ignite. Allison hopes to be involved in future outreach activities as she ventures into her professional career after graduating from CMU.

Jeff Cooper, Gelfand Student Service Award 2014

Jeff Cooper is a senior Computer Science major. Dedicated to outreach in his community, Jeff was president of the robotics club for two consecutive years, teaching the STU-CO course Introduction to Robotics, and orchestrating the formation of the Trinity Dublin College Robotics Club. During his time as a student, he spent numerous hours working with CMU Police and Health Services, eventually rising to become Executive Director of the Carnegie Mellon Emergency Medical Service. After completing his own training, he sought ways he could share his skills. When he became certified as an EMT, he began training others community-wide, expanding the accessibility of EMR courses to CMU affiliated persons, and students at CCAC. In addition, Cooper has been a dedicated tour guide & coordinator for the School of Computer Science.  Cooper wrote, “Personally, I’ve grown to be a confident public speaker, to be comfortable in front of a crowd, and to learn where I fit in to the larger CMU community as a Computer Science student.”

Niharika Singh, Gelfand Student Service Award 2014

Niharika Singh is the President and founder of ECE Outreach, which she directed from 2012 to 2014. Though her initial goals were to provide grade school students a chance to learn what engineering is really about through hands-on lab experiences, and to provide mentorship to these students via university students, Singh’s efforts also produced a wildly successful organization that expanded to include SPARK Saturday workshops, a series of five two-hour sessions that contain hands-on lab modules created and run by volunteers. SPARK has already received a grant towards future expansion, with corporate sponsors interested in funding future activities. Of her experience, Singh wrote, “Education has been the major formative experience of my life, and it has truly made me who I am. Because of this, helping others by providing educational opportunities to them has always been one of the major goals of my life. I believe that education can give people the tools they need to ensure their own happiness and make the world a better place.”

Ada Zhang, Gelfand Student Service Award 2014

Robotics Institute graduate student Ada Zhang has led TechNight as Graduate Student Organizer since 2012, conducting several workshops of her own, and organizing a tour for middle school girls to engage with six robots in different stages of production. Zhang is also a lead mentor for Girls of Steel, a prominent CMU outreach program that introduces high school girls to science, technology, engineering & mathematics. The purpose of TechNights & Girls of Steel is to provide safe, encouraging, and fun environments for girls to learn about STEM, connect with other girls who have similar interests, and meet women who are currently in STEM fields. Zhang has dedicated her time to leading workshops with topics such as fractals, DNA replication, and protein synthesis. Zhang also joined Outreach Roadshow to present computer science-related opportunities to K-12 students and their teachers.  As a young woman in engineering, Zhang hopes to serve as a role model who encourages young women to pursue STEM-related careers. 

Emily Feenstra, Gelfand Student Service Award 2013

Emily Feenstra studies International relations and Politics, and Policy & Management, and is currently the only Scholar in Service for Pennsylvania at the university. Her position as a part-time AmeriCorps volunteer allows her to work with PACE and Facilitation Opportunities for Refugee Growth and Empowerment (FORGE). Feenstra has been the president of FORGE from August 2009 to May 2013. As president, she planned and organized events, and coordinated student tutors to provide learning support to Bhutanese refugees who resettled to Pittsburgh. During her time as president, she doubled the number of members actively involved in the organization. In addition, Feenstra engaged in direct services, mentoring and providing ESL instruction for a family of eight. She has engaged in various community service projects abroad, including IXCHEN Centro de Mujeres, where she joined the consortium for the prevention of HIV/ AIDS in Nicaragua, and as Volunteer English Teacher in Peru. In 2012, she co-edited an undergraduate research journal for International Relations and Politics with a special focus on refugees. Feenstra writes, “My service with FORGE has taught me several underlying principles. Never make assumptions about what is obvious or given; a key to connecting with others is to start from a point of mutual understanding. There is always something to learn from those around you.”

Christian Andres Aponte, Gelfand Student Service Award 2013

Gobal Studies & Hispanic Studies major Christian Aponte served as ESL Instructor and volunteer at the Greater Pittsburgh Literacy Center from 2012-present. In 2012, Aponte also designed educational workshops for impoverished community in rural Nicaragua. He is currently the Assistant Director for CMU Strive for College, a grassroots mentoring organization that ensures that every willing low-income high school student has the information and support necessary to successfully enroll in a four-year university. The goal of STRIVE is to build mentees’ confidence to enhance their social capital while adopting a personal identity of ‘learner.’ As Assistant Director, Aponte worked with the Westinghouse School to increase the programming for the students and the mentoring experience for the CMU students, including resume and scholarship workshops.  Aponte’s determination and vision created a positive and effective program that meets once per week with 20 Westinghouse Academy students.  In 2013, Aponte won a Fullbright Award to travel to Brazil to teach English to Brazilians preparing to host the 2014 World Cup. He will also be promoting health, nutrition, and mentoring while conducting an ethnographic research project on affirmative action and the construction of racial identity among young adults.

Peeya Tak, Gelfand Student Service Award 2013

Peeya Tak is a Decision Science and Biomedical Engineering major, and president of East End Youth Project.  During her time as an undergraduate at Carnegie Mellon University, she transformed and led the tutoring/ mentoring program, organizing a partnership between East End Youth Project and Higher Achievement, a national organization that runs summer and after school programs for youth. During her time as president of this organization, she improved the CMU member retention rate, focused on forming strong connections and rapport between mentors and students, and established a warm, friendly environment. Tak also formed an executive board for East End Youth Project so that other members could become more involved, and she created an officer-transition period so the next president would be prepared to manage and further improve the organization. In addition, Tak visited the Mother Teresa Home, an orphanage in Northern India, to participate in volunteer work. Her visit influenced her to consider a career in the medical field. Tak states:  “I believe the most profound effect I have had on the Higher Achievement Homewood community is teaching the children simple skills that will help them succeed as a person, not just a student.”

Paula Levin, Gelfand Student Service Award 2012

Paula Levin, a graduate student at the Heinz College, first proposed a project to lay the groundwork for a nonprofit creative writing organization that would provide free workshops and homework help to youth in a unique space as part of her capstone project. She and her team discovery that there was widespread interest among Pittsburgh’s kids + creativity network to see an 826-inspired organization in Pittsburgh. They worked tirelessly to develop a network of partnerships and stakeholder support within the Pittsburgh community, meeting with more than 50 people and attending events and meetings related to afterschool activities, digital literacy, and non-profit management.  Her leadership and hard work helped to guide the team to several successes, including the award of a $15,000 grant from the Sprout Fund to launch a pilot project. Her team’s organization, The LAB, provides a space for collaboration, innovation and community engagement among youth, adults, and organizations focused on kids and creativity.

Julie Mallis, Gelfand Student Service Award 2012

An Art and Anthropology major in the BHA interdisciplinary program, Julie Mallis worked as a volunteer with Somali refugee children in collaboration with the MGR Foundation. She incorporated her art and anthropology to teach issues of culture, ethnicity, and identity through artistic expression in an after-school class for children. As part of her project, she traveled to the Netherlands to interview Somali refugees and to create a writing and art exchange between the Netherlands and Pittsburgh. She also helped to facilitate the Tolerance Toolkit Project, which brought "toolkits" to Pittsburgh Public Schools to raise awareness about tolerance. Her creativity, curiosity, and hard work allowed her to see her academic learning as part of a larger ethical commitment to understand and contribute to the community she lives in. During her time at Carnegie Mellon University, she also assisted at Propel Homestead, leading the Lawrenceville United Summer Camp workshops and helping to run programs at Shuman Detention Center.

Carmen Easterwood, Gelfand Student Service Award 2012

Carmen Easterwood began her experience with service work on an Alternative Break trip to teach English in the Dominican Republic. Her junior year of college, she became involved with FORGE, an organization that educates, empowers, and enriches the lives of refugees in order to catalyze sustainable social change, and began working with a Bhutanese refugee family, teaching English and other cultural skills. Over winter break 2011-12, Easterwood volunteered for two weeks at a school in Sri Lanka, teaching basic computer literacy and internet skills to children. The curriculum varied with the age of the children; older children learned to make PowerPoints and send emails while younger children learned how to use a mouse and type. She also provided one-on-one English lessons to younger children. In her senior year, Easterwood organized and fundraised in order to lead the OO@CMU trip to the Dominican Republic.

Devin Beahm, Gelfand Student Service Award 2012

Psychology and Global Studies major Devin Beahm has shared her leadership skills with the community on and off campus, including President’s Student Advisory Council, the Kappa Alpha Theta Executive Board, CMU’s Day of Service, and as a participant of The Fund for American Studies International Political and Economic Program in Prague.  Between 2010 and 2011, she volunteered for Project Sunshine, a nonprofit organization that provides free educational, recreational, and social programs to children facing medical challenges and their families. Beahm devoted three semesters to Strong Girls, Strong Women, a group-based mentoring program that uses the study of contemporary women role models, mentoring relationships between college-aged women and girls in grades 3-5, and activities focused on skill-building, to help enhance the lives of at-risk girls.