Sophie Gao Wins Desmond Cole Community Service Annual Award

Desmond Cole was a man of conviction. He believed in international education, community, and helping others. These ideals are what drove his work as Director of UNIS from 1967-1974, inspired him to establish our Manhattan campus at 24-50 East River Drive, and pushed him to develop the International Baccalaureate and introduce it at UNIS. He also strove to assemble a unique collection of diverse but like-minded colleagues who carry on his mission today.

With this strong legacy it is fitting that every year we honor one student with the Desmond Cole Community Service Award. This year's winner, Sophie Gao, embodies the spirit that drove Desmond Cole. As part of her recognition Sophie will receive a prize of $150.

Currently, Sophie is in Tut 3 this year and has been involved with community service since she was ten years old. Her work to help others has also translated over to success in the classroom.

"Through doing community service, I have learned how to work more collaboratively with my peers, and I have learned how to be a more reliable and responsible individual," said Sophie Gao. "As I get older, I will always be involved in community service of some form because helping others is one of life's greatest pleasures."

Sophie's involvement in service activities has been noticed by her teachers and staff across UNIS. When asked about her work Ms. Kimxuan-Huynh Brezinsky, teacher of French and Theory of Knowledge, said, "In her quiet way, Sophie represents the best of our UNIS student population. Her belief in service to the community is beautifully expressed in her own words: 'Community service encourages you to take action and give back to your community, and volunteering for a cause allows for the development of compassion and understanding. In addition, community service allows you to become a well-rounded individual and more considerate towards the needs and concerns of others.' "

This year Sophie took part in many in numerous activities including performing with the school chorus at the UN for the Day of Peace, helping as a teacher's assistant to the Chinese teacher in Junior school after school program, participating in the Park and Garden clean-up at the Riverside Park, and ushering during parent-teacher conferences.

"For me, the spirit of community service should be an everyday guiding principle: be readily available to help other people. It doesn't have to be something to grab the headlines or something for the whole school to talk about," stated Gao. "Instead, I think that I can help my community in my small, quiet ways, and I'm glad that I am doing so."

Desmond Cole could not have said it better himself.