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Class of 2011: Student Leader Mobilizes UAlbany to Serve Communities in Need

Related Photos Commencement 2011 Photo Gallery

Justin Wax Jacobs, right, led student efforts at UAlbany to garner support for Hannah Sames, who suffers from giant axonal neuropathy. Wax Jacobs is joined by, from left, UAlbany President George M. Philip, Hannah's mother Lori Sames, UAlbany Vice President for Student Success Chris Bouchard, and Hannah's Father Matt Sames.

Albany, N.Y. (May 15, 2011) -- When Student Association President Justin Wax Jacobs heard about Hannah Sames, a six-year-old from Rexford, N.Y., who suffers from giant axonal neuropathy, he quickly organized the UAlbany community to come to her aid. As a result, the Hannah’s Hope Fund, dedicated to finding a cure for the rare neurological disease, was awarded a $250,000 grant through the Pepsi Refresh program.

A triple major in History, East Asian Studies, and Political Science, Wax Jacobs, a senior from Jamaica Queens, N.Y., epitomized the concept of "student involvement." Wax Jacobs was a member of the Honors College, president of the Pre-Law Professional Fraternity on campus, Phi Alpha Delta, served as a tour guide for University Admission, and belonged to the Model United Nations.

Wax Jacobs' proudest achievements, however, were in building lasting connections between UAlbany and the greater community. This is why he started SA Cares, an initiative to engage UAlbany students in community service. This year alone, the group collected donations for earthquake-ravaged Haiti, supported area children in need during the holidays, and organized two community clean-up projects in the Pine Hills neighborhood of Albany.

"When students, faculty, staff and friends of UAlbany come together, we can make a difference," said Wax Jacobs. "It's important to reflect on how privileged we are to be a part of UAlbany, and to harness the potential of this community to improve the lives of those most in need."

Moved by the death of his cousin after returning from war, Wax Jacobs also spearheaded Military Veterans Awareness Week, an effort to make returning veterans enrolling at UAlbany feel more at home. University President George M. Philip recognized Wax Jacobs for his campus and civic engagement by awarding him the President's Award for Excellence in Leadership.

Wax Jacobs sees public service as one avenue to be a force for positive change. While serving as an intern for New York State Senator Suzi Oppenheimer, Justin was elected Minority Leader for the minority caucus in a Mock Legislative Session. He led student-run efforts to put together an Olympic bid for the 2022 winter games as founder of Albany 2022.

In nominating Wax Jacobs for the SUNY Chancellor's Award for Student Excellence, Assistant Professor of History David Hochfelder praised Wax Jacobs' commitment to others: "I cannot think of a better candidate for an award that recognizes excellence in the classroom, contributions to the university community, leadership on campus, and achievement early in one’s career."

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