Passion is what fuels Patrick Clements, a fourth-year medical student, and Cristina Valenzuela, a UT graduate student in public administration, to aid those in their communities who struggle.
Raoul Wallenberg had that same passion to help during World War II.
Clements and Valenzuela are being recognized for their continuous desire to help; they are the 2009-10 recipients of the Raoul Wallenberg Scholar Award, which recognizes “meritorious and exemplary service.” Each received $1,000.
“I felt really honored and humbled to have been selected. Even to be included in the same sentence as a man like Wallenberg is pretty remarkable,” Clements said.
Originally from Willoughby, Ohio, Clements learned the importance to volunteer at a young age from his father, a social worker for Catholic Charities.
After graduating from UT in 2006 with a bachelor of science degree in biology, Clements continued his service through medical school by volunteering in a student-run free clinic for the homeless and a mobile health unit that provides health care to migrant camps in northwest Ohio.
“Advocacy is crucial in these areas, and I believe physicians have a duty to stand up and be a voice for those communities,” Clements said.
Valenzuela is still overwhelmed about being selected for the Wallenberg award. She believes those selected for this award honor Wallenberg’s courageous and unselfish actions.
“That’s what I admire about him — that he saw what was being done to the Jews and did what it took to help. I only hope that I also make a positive impact in the communities I work in,” she said.
From her experiences growing up in Chicago, Valenzuela said she witnessed how racism, sexism and classism affected poor and working-class people, and became inspired to help.
While in Chicago, she worked as a counselor and legal advocate for those who suffered from domestic violence. She then began to counsel teen mothers.
During her time in Hawaii, Valenzuela worked with a substance abuse treatment program, as well as advocated for the preservation of the Hawaiian culture and language.
“People find courage even during the most difficult times — that inspires me. Also it’s knowing deep down that if we all look to change the injustices, whether it’s through our words or actions, it can be different,” she said.
Established by Robert Karp, the scholarship is named for Wallenberg, a 33-year-old neutral Swede who undertook a mission at the behest of the U.S. War Refugee Board to go to Budapest in 1944. He saved tens of thousands of Jews by giving them documents that identified them as Swedish nationals. He was arrested by the advancing Soviet Army in January 1945 and was never seen free again.
Karp said he is stepping down after overseeing the award for 19 years. Dr. Patricia Metting, UT professor, Health Science Campus provost and associate dean for student affairs in the College of Medicine, will be the new chair of the selection committee.