Andrew Carnegie Society Scholars give back to the Carnegie Mellon community

Credit: Valene Mezmin/ Credit: Valene Mezmin/ Credit: Ally Sokolowski Credit: Ally Sokolowski

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the Andrew Carnegie Society (ACS) Scholars Program. Since its inception in 1975, the program aims to recognize academic intelligence, excellence in leadership and volunteerism, and involvement in student organizations, athletics, or the arts in students from the Carnegie Mellon community. Each year, the deans and department heads from each college at Carnegie Mellon choose a select group of students that they believe embody the long-standing goals of the ACS Scholars program. To this date, approximately 1,000 students have been recognized by this program, and this year a new group of 41 students has the honor of joining the ranks of past and future ACS Scholars.

As ACS Scholars, this group of students not only has the privilege of being distinguished from the rest of their class, but they are also allotted $5,000 to give back to their community — in addition to an undisclosed monetary award for themselves. “By empowering the Scholars with an award to support their academic growth and with the opportunity to give back to the Carnegie Mellon community as a group, the Andrew Carnegie Society continues to share the philanthropic spirit of its namesake with future generations,” said Allison Sokolowski, a University Advancement staff member who works with the ACS scholars group.

While being entrusted with $5,000 provides a great opportunity for the Scholars to give back to their community, figuring out how to divide the money proved to be somewhat of a challenge for the students. On Jan. 23, this past Saturday, available scholars gathered in the boardroom of the Posner Center to engage in a discussion on how they wished to allocate the money to student organizations who applied for this funding opportunity. When asked about their motivation in selecting the few organizations they would be giving the money to, Christopher Herrera, a senior civil and environmental engineering major, said “[The deans] all picked students that were willing to help, and we all wanted to make impacts individually to people’s lives and the campus community. We always went back to that whenever we had a discussion or an argument.”

After almost four hours of a very thorough, intense, and at times heated discussion, the Scholars were able to arrive at a final decision. They all gathered together in the Posner Center to present their decision to the deans, ACS board members, and University Advancement staff.

Herrera represented this year’s ACS Scholars along with Danae E. Paparis, a senior design major. Reflecting on the goals of the group when deciding on the organizations they would give back to, as well as the amount of money they would allot to each organization, Paparis said “We were focused on outreach, high impact, and impacting the lives of the community in positive ways.” To do this, the scholars zoned in on organizations that were not able to get the funding they needed, while also focusing on the size of each organization and their ability to reach the goals they were advocating.

While dividing the $5,000 evenly would be welcomed by each organization and would provide them with the additional funding needed to achieve their respective goals, Herrera felt it important to repeat the sentiment of this year’s Scholars by noting “we can’t save the world with $5,000.” He points out that instead of giving minor support to a large number of organizations, it was their mission to make a direct impact on a few organizations.

Herrera went on to list the seven organizations that the ACS Scholars decided upon. The first organization, with the largest donation of $2,000, was Camp Kesem, an organization that focuses on supporting children whose parents are struggling with cancer. Camp Kesem helps to motivate these children through the struggles they are facing at home by providing them with an environment where they can cope with these issues. The money given by the ACS Scholars will help the organization continue their mission of providing these children with the positive environment they need.

The next organization was The Zahra Center. The ACS Scholars will be donating $575 towards the production of a play based on the novel Surviving Zahra. “This play is a product of attempting to meet needs across cultural communications, Muslim narratives, and the performing arts,” Herrera said. The Scholars believe this production will allow Carnegie Mellon to get more involved with other cultures, adding to the diversity of the arts being produced at the school.

Next was CMU in Haiti, which seeks to strengthen the ties between Carnegie Mellon and Haiti via cultural exchange and provide education to people in Haiti. The Scholars will be donating $500 to this organization to help pay for the expensive travel costs that allow members to travel to Haiti. Herrera repeated the sentiment that the money they were allotted cannot save the world, but will rather allow ACS to have a positive, direct impact on these organizations. In this instance, the money will provide a concrete benefit by funding students traveling to Haiti.

Along with CMU in Haiti was Project Rwanda, which will be receiving $500 dollars from the Scholars directed towards their Pen Pal Program. This money will help further connections between the Carnegie Mellon campus in Pittsburgh and the Carnegie Mellon campus in Rwanda.

The Carnegie Mellon Astronomy Club will be receiving $400 from the scholars to help fund their light pollution outreach program in Pittsburgh. This program seeks to develop light shields for streetlights, among other things. “We felt like giving money to this organization would definitely help the Pittsburgh community as a whole,” Herrera said.

The Global Medical Brigades will receive $375 from the scholars, which will be directed mainly towards getting medication for their global health outreach program. Last but not least was Inter·punct, an architectural journal run by members of Carnegie Mellon’s School of Architecture, which will be receiving $350 directed towards aiding in the distribution of the journal to other college campuses. “This will make a direct impact and really help the Carnegie Mellon Architecture community expand to colleges throughout the nation,” Herrera said.

Apart from discussing how the money would be allocated, the students also reflected on their experience as a part of this program where they got to meet new and different people from different backgrounds and colleges. Reflecting on what she learned from this experience, Paparis spoke about being thorough when asking for money, the importance of being punctual when turning in a proposal, and in essence simply knowing “how to be an adult.”

A full list of the names and majors of each of this year’s, and some of the previous year’s, ACS Scholars can be found online at under recognition societies.