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Shawn Rhoads

Spring 2016 Spotlight Award Winner

NOMINATION ESSAY BY SHAWN RHOADS

Throughout my life, I have constantly strived to inspire, challenge, and mobilize others to pursue their goals. Service to others by means of civic engagement is something that has felt the most fulfilling to me. Through my endeavors to embody a servant leader at USC, I have had the amazing opportunity to help unite, build, and significantly amplify the voice of many environmental groups and individuals. As the founding Executive Director of the Environmental Student Assembly (ESA) at USC, I was able to help cultivate the expansion of environmental action and presence by transforming an initial $5000 budget into spending of $50,000 across more than 85 original programs, sparking a movement at USC that has resulted in many initiatives including an annual Earth Month series of programming, a $90,000 Green Engagement Fund for sustainability projects, a Zero-Waste Coliseum, and a comprehensive sustainability plan for the university (http://bit.ly/sustainableUSC2020). At the time of ESA's founding, there had been pockets of passion regarding environmental issues across campus, but limited unified effort. I often reflect on the amazing experience working with and connecting 19 environmentally focused organizations, eight of which were formed during the commencement of this movement. It had been an immense challenge to build a community where like-minded students can meet and work on environmental issues.

Joining with students to create change has become a clear and fundamental part of my USC experience and I was approached at the end of my term to help build something larger. After leaving ESA with an incredible successor, I began to help pioneer a new movement on climate change with non-profit organizations, Cool Globes and the Climate Reality Project. “Know Tomorrow” was a synchronous day of action with students on 70 college campuses across the nation to amplify a message for our nation’s leaders to combat climate change in preparation for the 2015 Paris Climate Conference. Through this experience, I was able to work with countless community members, activists and students from coast to coast towards a shared singular vision. It was truly taking my initial vision for ESA to the next level. However, this could not have been accomplished without the steadfast commitment and hard work of my USC team to spearhead event preparation, financial arrangements, sponsorships, partnerships, production, and communication responsibilities. October 2nd, 2015 resulted in over 50,000 students coming together to inspire and celebrate a story of (climate) change.

Both experiences have been a tremendous learning experience to accept, respect, and CELEBRATE people's differences and support them in the materialization of their ideas. I hope that my future path will allow me to continue making strides to take experiences and ideas to the next level in order to raise others up and provide them with a platform to tell their story.

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