Anartia Gamboa and Johnetta Saygbe are the kind of people who put others ahead of themselves. Gamboa spends her time volunteering with the D.C.-based organization HIPS, Helping Individual Prostitutes Survive, and Johnetta spends hers advocating underrepresented student groups and improving healthcare delivery for pediatric HIV/AIDS populations of the African Diaspora.

Both were the 2013 recipients of the Spirit of King Awards. The award is given to students and faculty who, according to the MLK Committee’s website, “has made exceptional contribution to the development of an inclusive learning environment.”

Both were nominated by a faculty member who believe that they express those qualities.

“I’m not really the type of person that’s really used to a lot of acknowledgement,” said Gamboa, a senior Global affairs major. “I guess I don’t really do what I do to get rewarded in any way. It makes me a little bit uncomfortable to be totally honest. But at the same time, it does feel great to be recognized for the things I have done.”

Saygbe was honored to receive an award that holds so much meaning for her and for many others.

“The award celebrates the power of a dream, of an individual taking hold of a vision and by faith relentlessly pursuing the fruition of that vision.”
The winners both give of their time selflessly for others, which in some cases affects them very personally. Gamboa’s works with HIPS for the past two years includes answering their 24/7 hotline and giving people emotional support.

”You never really know what the person on the other side of the line is going to need,” Gamboa said. “Sometimes this means getting through an hour and a half conversation where somebody just needs somebody to really talk to them. Sometime it could be answering some really simple questions about safe sex or sexually transmitted infections. One of the first calls I got actually was from a woman who had been assaulted the night before.”
Saygbe’s work with underrepresented populations stems from her background with the Early Identification Program (EIP). She tutors fourth through eighth graders at Savoy Elementary School (Ward 8) and Thomas Jefferson Middle School. She feels it is a necessity for students who may be at a disadvantage to others’ success.

“[Closing the achievement gap] translates to working with faculty, staff and parents in these communities to create sustainable initiatives that provide students fair access to participation in the classroom,” Saygbe said. “It translates to serving as higher education advocate, welcoming any opportunity to speak to and inspire students to thoroughly consider and pursue the opportunities provided to them by a college education.”
This type of commitment requires a strong motivation that both draw from the Office of Inclusion and Multicultural Education (ODIME). Gamboa credits ODIME Associate Directors Dr. Rebecca Walter and T. Garey Davis for this motivation. They created the “Creating Community” and “Beyond Diversity” workshops that Gamboa leads.

“Its kind of hard to really describe how much they’ve really helped me develop, how much I’ve learned from both of them,» Gamboa said. “I do the work in diversity that I do because of them. And they are the most amazing teachers and role models I could have ever had. I try to follow their example. They really walk the talk when it comes to social justice.”

Saygbe’s motivation is more religious, as she attributes God for all of her inspiration.

“The life I lead has been inspired by God,” Saygbe said. “My faith in Him encourages me to pursue seemingly unconquerable feats. His love inspires my affinity to serve. I refuse to miss opportunities to display love to my community, best accomplished through my service in community, and in doing so, prevent an individual from experiencing God›s love.”

Challenges that come in the way of doing good for others, may occur and did occur for both Sagybe and Gamboa. They were able to break down those barriers to continue their life of service.

“I went through some really really hard times in high school,” Gamboa said. “I was clinically depressed for a really long time. Thanks to my loved ones, I was able to overcome that and return to doing the things that I love, go back to studying and I guess helping folks.”
Born in the midst of a civil war in Liberia, Saygbe became quickly aware of her inclination to advocating for social justice.
“I did not have an ordinary childhood, to say the least,” Saygbe said. “But, little did I know, my childhood would provide me with the a unique perspective of the world, its issues and potential resolves.”

And those perspectives are what have helped her relate to the people she aims to help.

“My childhood experiences in Liberia introduced me to temperature of the healthcare climate in developing nations,” Saygbe said.
“The absence or lack of adequate and accessible healthcare translated to the mortality of many of my immediate and extended family members. But said moments motivate me to tackle the social disparities I have chosen to fight for.”