Hamptonian Recognized for Outstanding Acts of Service
Isaiah Gonzalez, a senior biology major from Brooklyn, is not your ordinary Hamptonian. For the past 11 months, he’s been volunteering at a homeless shelter two days a week. For the past 16 months, he has mentored two local young men whom he personally took, Lighthouse, the summer program he directed last summer.
Lighthouse, an affiliate of Newport News’ Operation Breakthrough, offered free classes from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. to children in Newport News. The program would have cost $125,000, but Gonzalez was able to recruit sponsors and volunteers such as martial arts instructors and dance teams to teach and other professionals to host career days free of charge.
Gonzalez is still running Lighthouse as an after school program in Newport News. He is also working with Young Entrepreneurs, an affiliate of Students in Free Enterprise that teaches children about business and marketing as they make and sell their own products.
Gonzalez has also been ambitious academically. He studied abroad at Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia for a semester. While he was there, he made time to volunteer with local refugees.
“The experience taught me to use good study habits so I am able to do other things during the school year.” Those other things include participating in an environmentally friendly initiative with HU’s Men’s Caucus, competing in a NCWA wrestling competition and working as a waiter at Denny’s on Mercury Boulevard in Hampton.
On Nov. 14, the Virginia Jaycees recognized Gonzalez’ dedication to community service by presenting him with their 2009 Outstanding Young Virginian award. The Virginia Junior Chamber (Jaycees) is a leadership training and community service organization for young adults.Gonzalez was notified in the summer that he had been nominated for the prestigious award.
“I’m very appreciative,” Gonzalez said. However, he doesn’t believe that he is worthy of such an award. “I’m doing what I’m supposed to do. I’ve been blessed with the endurance and the heart for it, so I don’t feel like I should be awarded. I’m happier to see the people I’ve helped.”
Gonzalez says he is inspired by his family, especially his mother. “I come from a Puerto Rican family, and they’ve always been supportive of everything I do, big or small. My mother is such a strong woman. She’s kinda what drives me. If she’s happy; I’m happy.”
Gonzalez has additional community service projects planned for the remainder of his time at HU. He hopes to pursue medical school after graduation.
- Krystan Hitchcock