LSA sophomore Sydni Williams was named the winner of the inaugural Global Citizen of the Year Award presented Wednesday by the Institute for the International Education of Students, an international nonprofit organization that connects colleges and universities, providing internships and study abroad programs to students in over 30 locations around the world.

According to a IES press release, the award is given to students who have “impacted their community abroad through academic, philanthropic or personal efforts,” and “will apply, or are applying, ­skills and knowledge they learned abroad to continually bring global perspectives to their communities.” 

Williams, a Spanish major, was specifically recognized for her work mentoring and tutoring low-income students in Madrid. The experience, she said, reminded her of similar problems in her hometown.

“My hometown, Detroit, is a place where many students go without the educational benefits that are awarded to the students in neighboring suburbs, where students aren’t provided adequate books to read, the water sometimes runs brown, and college seems to be an excellent place, but one that is unattainable for inner-city youth,” she said in the release. “I have made it my life goal to continuously contribute to my community by making sure that youth are not denied their right to an excellent education.”

During her semester abroad, Williams said, she saw many of the stereotypes low-income youth face in the world of education.

“The problem is not that they are incapable of learning, or that they don’t want to, but that the obstacles that they are faced with daily sometimes distract them from their education,” she said.

Williams hopes to take her career in a similar direction, saying she plans to start a nonprofit organization that will give a second chance to youth who have been convicted of criminal charges. She received a $1,000 cash prize as part of the award.

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