During the month of March, Students of Georgetown, Inc. implemented its Citizenship Scholarship, a collaborative project from The Corp’s Social Impact Committee, the Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor and Working Poor and the D.C. Schools Project, which aimed to fund U.S.-citizenship processes for on-campus facilities workers.
The citizenship scholarship was partially funded through the sale of the Rosebud drink at Uncommon Grounds in March as well as funds from Corp Philanthropy. Proceeds will go towards assistance with English-language skills and filing and application fees, among other processes needed for citizenship.
The Corp’s Social Impact committee, which implements initiatives dedicated to philanthropic ventures serving the wider campus community, is headed by chair Harrison Williams (COL ’16) and vice chair Nick Pavlovic (COL ’17). Over the course of the academic year, Williams and Pavlovic shaped the initiative as a link between community members and The Corp, assisting various groups on campus to obtain support and resources.
“The Corp has had philanthropy since its conception. It’s been a huge part of what we do,” Pavlovic said. “The goal of the Social Impact Committee was to bring The Corp back to its roots of being an advocate on campus. We take a more active role in our philanthropy than The Corp has traditionally done.”
The idea to develop the scholarship stemmed from Pavlovic’s personal experience as a Corp employee and interacting with many facilities workers who were attempting to gain permanent U.S. citizenship. For Pavlovic, seeking a way to give back to those who help The Corp function on an everyday basis is a central goal of the Citizenship Scholarship.
“Here at The Corp, we couldn’t really do what we do without the facilities workers,” Pavlovic said. “Every single [Corp employee] is so appreciative of everything [facilities workers] do on campus because we interact with them every day. For me, it was really wanting to give back to them in that way and develop personal relationships with them.”
For many facilities workers on campus, gaining U.S. citizenship is a difficult ordeal due to factors including a lack of fluency in English, inability to pay the application fee and lack of access to resources allowing them to study for the test.
“We started to stop and talk to them more about their personal lives and found out that a lot of them didn’t have citizenship. A lot of them are refugees from El Salvador during the civil war and so I understood that [citizenship] is a very difficult thing for them to get on their own because they’re really just trying to survive,” Pavlovic said.
Through the scholarship, The Corp aims to eliminate barriers for workers so they can complete the citizenship process with ease. By collaborating with the D.C. Schools Project, workers receive assistance with their English language skills, practice test questions, filing applications and paying the application fee.
Alex Taliadoros, the project coordinator for the Kalmanovitz Initiative, explained that the project continues to be a predominantly student-led initiative and that the KILWP’s role is mainly advisory.
“Our role in this project was merely to facilitate a bridge of communication between Corp Social Impact and D.C. Schools. The students came up with the idea, brought it to fruition, and are getting the word out to ensure that the scholarship achieves its purpose,” Taliadoros said.
Taliadoros also emphasized the role that the Citizenship Scholarship plays in relation to Georgetown’s commitment to Jesuit values and the Just Employment Policy, especially when it comes to students serving their greater community by being men and women for others. “One of the ways Georgetown lives out its Catholic faith and Jesuit heritage is through the Just Employment Policy, which guarantees a living wage and worker rights for all campus workers,” Taliadoros said. “We hope that the Citizenship Scholarship can become another way we realize our commitment to the men and women who sustain our campus.”
Pavlovic said he expects the Social Impact Committee to grow from this project and become a more integral resource for improving the rights of campus workers.
“On a macro level, I think this is a good jumping-off point for developing a more comprehensive worker-rights platform to improve the condition of facilities workers on campus,” Pavlovic said. “Social Impact was created not just to fund small projects here and there, but to actually be a very vital force on campus.”
Crystal Bush (SFS ’19), a frequent Uncommon Grounds customer, praised the initiative and said she hopes to see an expansion of the program.
“I feel like what The Corp is doing is a great start to a lot of initiatives that Georgetown should take being that the majority of their workers are minorities,” Bush said. “While I do feel that aiding them in their citizenship is a good motive, I think they should also encourage workers to pursue higher education so that they may be able to gain more income and provide themselves with the better life that they desired when they moved to this country.”
Esther Iyanobor (COL ’19) also voiced support for the program.
“I think what The Corp is doing is great because these people came here for a reason. They came here to make a better life for themselves and The Corp is providing them with more opportunities to do that,” Iyanobor said.