Elon senior earns $15,000 public service award to support nonprofit work

Josephine Gardner, a public health studies major from Maine, has received the Samuel Huntington Public Service Award to grow a nonprofit she founded to empower low-income women in Ethiopia. 

An Elon senior who founded a nonprofit organization to work with low-income women in her native Ethiopia has received a competitive and prestigious award that will help advance her effort after graduation. 

Josephine Gardner’s work with her nonprofit, Yenegat-Chora, has earned her one of three Samuel Huntington Public Service Awards, which comes with a $15,000 stipend to aid her efforts for up to a year. 

It’s the latest award for Gardner’s work in Ethiopia, which focuses on teaching women how to weave traditional scarves and cloth as well as helping them learn business and leadership skills along the way. Gardner received Elon’s Ward Family Learning in Action Award in 2015 that helped her conduct a needs assessment in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and was selected as a recipient of the university’s Leadership Prize in 2016 that has helped her perform a pilot project for her nonprofit working with African immigrants now living in Greensboro, N.C. 

“The next big challenge will be setting up the actual programs in Addis Ababa,” said Gardner, who is originally from Scarborough, Maine, and was adopted from Ethiopia when she was 11 years old. “We have trainers in place now, and the focus is on setting up the program and making sure women are enrolling.”

Mussa Idris, assistant professor of anthropology, has served as a mentor for Gardner’s research and work for several years, and points to the impact that her efforts in Greensboro have already had on the women she worked with there. 

“These women in her pilot project are becoming role models in their communities and are committed to train more low-income women in their area,” Idris said. “I think all of her outstanding accomplishments speak volumes for her leadership, service and civic engagement commitment in international and local collaborations for the common good of society.”

With a deep interest in public service and experience teaching overseas, the late Samuel Huntington was president and CEO of the New England Electric System before its merger with National Grid, an international electricity and gas company. First distributed in 1989, the award was established by Huntington’s friends to allow other students to realize similar experiences and to provide public service.

Gardner is the second Huntington Award recipient from Elon in recent years. Yasmine Arrington ’15 received the award in 2015 to support her work with her nonprofit, ScholarCHIPS, an organization that helps the children of imprisoned adults attend college. 

Elon students interested in the awards like the Huntington Award are encouraged to visit the National and International Fellowships Office in Powell building or call (336) 278-5749.

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