In recognition of her high-impact commitment to diversity and service, Jennifer Paz, a student in the University of Denver’s Graduate School of Professional Psychology, has been given the 2014 Mountain West Engagement Award for Excellence in AmeriCorps Service.
Paz was selected out of 3,500 other students in the program to receive the award. She was formally recognized May 1 as part of the 20th anniversary celebration for AmeriCorps’ Campus Compact of the Mountain West (CCMW).
“AmeriCorps is honoring my commitment to these roles, to these communities, to diversity and to making an impact,” Paz says.
The CCMW hosts the AmeriCorps program Compact Service Corps, which has been connecting students and communities since 1993. Thirteen Colorado universities are part of the program, which enables college students to serve with local nonprofits and government agencies.
The award recognizes Paz for her campus and community leadership, as well as her personal, professional and academic growth. Paz has been involved in the CCMW division of AmeriCorps since 2011.
“Jennifer is a natural relationship builder, and her commitment to her community is made clear in her actions and in the way she engages others,” says Ryan Hanschen, program coordinator of DU’s Center for Community Engagement and Service-Learning.
Before connecting with AmeriCorps, Paz worked for a year with Denver Hospice. The facility’s only Spanish-speaking volunteer, she served more than 158 patients and helped start a diversity training session.
“She has a very long and consistent history of making an impact in the community,” says Stephanie Schooley, executive director of the CCMW. “All of these components come together to show an exemplary individual that really fits what we’re looking for in service.”
Paz has logged two AmeriCorps Terms of Service with the CCMW program – two years at Denver Hospice and two years at Children’s Hospital. She worked with families and children at the hospice, and at Children’s Hospital, she was part of an outpatient provider team and gave neurocognitive evaluations to child patients.
The daughter of a Colombian mother and a Peruvian father, Paz traveled extensively as a child. This exposed her to different underprivileged cultures all over the world. Seeing how little some communities had inspired her commitment to serve others, she explains.
Paz intends to continue with AmeriCorps through an internship with the Mental Health Center of Denver after she graduates from the professional psychology program in 2015. She will work at the Child and Family Services location for a year, beginning in August.
“I want to find my niche,” Paz says. “Right now I’m drawn to grief or loss and that kind of work, but anything I do will be with underserved populations.”