University of Texas at El Paso Professor Kathleen Staudt and surgeon Jacob Heydemann were honored Saturday for years of giving back to the community.
The two were given the Border Heroes Award before 200 people at Temple Mount Sinai. The award was given by La Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center, a nonprofit organization that offers legal representation to low-income immigrants, including refugees and battered women.
Staudt, a political science professor, in 1998 founded the Center for Civic Engagement, which connects UTEP students with agencies that help people and introduces them to volunteering in the community.
Since the center opened, thousands of UTEP students have volunteered by teaching U.S. citizenship classes and English as a second language to immigrants and by working with child-care and tutoring programs at the YWCA.
“I feel strongly in connecting students with real experiences that provide them with skills that they don’t always get in the classroom or from books,” Staudt said. “A lot of students, until they were involved with the center, had no idea of the ways to get involved in the nonprofit sector.”
The escalated cartel violence in Juárez has hindered students at the center from volunteering at serviceorganizations, including Casa Amiga, a domestic violence and rape crisis center in Juárez, Staudt said.
“This is such a special place,” she said. “The international border is what attracted me to come here in the first place. I’m optimistic that five years down the road the day will come when both of our cities can get back to our healthy relationship.”
Heydemann, an orthopedic surgeon in El Paso, works for free in clinics and hospitals throughout the state of Chihuahua, including FEMAP’s Hospital de la Familia in Juárez.
Most of his work is focused on treating children who require specialized orthopedic care and whose families can’t afford medical costs, Heydemann said.
“I’m a big believer of giving back to the community and improving the quality of life. I’m fortunate to have the skill set that I do to be able to give back.”
The awards dinner featured a keynote speech by journalist Angela Kocherga, the border bureau chief for Belo Television’s 20 stations and regional cable networks. Sister Phyllis Nolan, a volunteer at Las Americas, received a special award for her work with immigrant detention center detainees.
Rabbi Larry Bach, vice president of the Las Americas board, said the organization each year honors people in broad backgrounds who engage in community service.
“During their lifetime, both (Heidemann and Staudt) have done tremendous work in our community,” Bach said. “Las Americas provides one important service on the border in the immigrant community, and this is how we recognize those doing great work in a variety of fields.”
Hayley Kappes may be reached at email@example.com; 546-6168.