Yu Huang, Martínez Sánchez Selected for 2021 Chester Gillis Award

headshots Chester Gillis Winners

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Each year, the College Academic Council (CAC) recognizes two students who embody the values of a liberal arts education in the Jesuit tradition through the Chester Gillis Award. This year, Heather Yu Huang (C’23) and Jennifer Martínez Sánchez (C’22) were selected from a pool of 95 applicants for this honor. 

Heather Yu Huang

A double major in Justice & Peace Studies and sociology, Yu Huang studies the intersection of cultural and educational inequities, which she hopes to apply to the legal industry and non-profit work post graduation. 

“As a first-generation student from a low-income, single-parent household, I know firsthand that communities like mine are denied basic necessities, and I have developed a passion for helping students on their educational journeys,” Yu Huang says. “I plan to work towards enabling disadvantaged communities like my own through our education system, and I also want to elevate the issues surrounding other areas of our governmental system and find feasible solutions for these crises.”

On campus, Yu Huang is a member of both the Georgetown Scholars and Georgetown Community Scholars programs. She is also involved with cultural and religious affiliations, AASA, VSA and BuSA in addition to her work as an intern for Pierce Law Firm in Houston, on-campus work and a private tutoring position. Outside of school, Yu Huang mainly focuses on work in the field of law having worked at Pierce Law Firm, Johnson Law Group and other Houston-based firms.

Yu Huang spends the majority of her free time working or volunteering. She is an English tutor for the Houston-based organization Momentum Education and volunteers in DC middle schools with her CBL class. Yu Huang also serves as an advising fellow for the Matriculate Fellowship, a nonprofit that pairs high school students from underserved communities with college students in preparation for their college applications. 

The sophomore says that the Chester Gillis award will enable her to  continue working with first-generation students around the country and help to create an official Matriculate Fellowship on campus. She hopes that the development of this fellowship will empower other Hoyas in giving back to students nationwide.  

After graduation, Yu Huang plans on working with Teach for America before attending law school. 

“Georgetown’s giving nature and my studies have pushed me to better recognize the many inequalities that surround us today, specifically in understanding how these inequalities are misinterpreted and mishandled in solution creation,” Yu Huang says. “I plan to continue on my path to fighting inequity in our education system both during my time on and off campus and I hope to leave a positive impact on the Hoya community and beyond.”

Jennifer Martínez Sánchez

Martínez Sánchez studies sociology and public health, but as an activist, she “views these disciplines through an intersectional lens—one that relates the issues of race, gender, class, sexuality, disability, and citizenship—inside and outside the classroom.”

“Immigrants’ rights are my passion, motivation, and empowerment, and so my goal at Georgetown has always been to fulfill my life mantra: #undocumented, #unafraid, and #heretostay,” she says. “I also strive to elevate the voices and concerns of my undocumented community. Now, I seek to combine these questions of status, health, and migration as I study how acculturation shapes attitudes towards mental health and treatment for documented and undocumented Mexican immigrants as part of my thesis research.”

The junior says that the university’s core values encourage her to seek justice everywhere, which is how she came to teach ESL and computer literacy skills to undocumented adults, prepare DACA and citizenship applications, create an UndocuAlly Training seminar and co-sponsor UndocuWeek earlier in her Georgetown career. 

But, Martínez Sánchez also hopes to carry forth these same values and stories beyond Georgetown, which is why she participated as a fellow at Harvard University’s Public Policy Leadership Conference and as a panelist for College Board’s Prepárate Conference. 

Today, Martínez Sánchez works with the medical school at the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion “to empower and uplift underrepresented voices in medicine.” 

In addition to her other roles, Martínez Sánchez is a member of the Georgetown Scholars Program and the Community Scholars Program, where she served as a peer mentor and teaching assistant. She also participated in Georgetown University’s Student Association and Hoyas for Immigrant Rights alongside her peer advisorship with the College Dean’s Office. 

Last summer, she completed an op-ed and capstone presentation on the effects of COVID-19 on undocumented essential workers at Georgetown’s medical school. She also completed problem-based learning cases, clinical simulations and a project proposal for UCLA’s medical school as she studied substance abuse and its relationship with food and housing insecurity. 

These experiences encouraged Martínez Sánchez to establish an UndocuHealth project, which aims to promote health awareness by creating a guideline for her community to access and navigate healthcare.  

Martínez Sánchez says that the Chester Gillis Award will allow her to focus on developing the UndocuHealth project further as she plans to collaborate with local community health centers and non-profit organizations to share and improve the project’s design and framework.   

“I would be able to give back to the community that raised me once more so that one day mi gente will receive basic health and social services without fear, judgment, prejudice, or retaliation.”

After graduating, Martínez Sánchez hopes to earn an M.D./M.P.H. and open her own free clinic designed to support and provide for undocumented individuals and families. 

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