News: Featured Stories

Joel Colon is a program assistant in the Office of Student Leadership and Community Engagement. (Photo by: Colleen Locke)
May 3, 2016

UMass Boston Sophomore Named One of Top Student Leaders in Country


  • Boston
Joel Colon One of 218 Student Leaders Nationwide to Receive Newman Civic Fellows Award

Even before he came to UMass Boston as a freshman last year, Newman Civic Fellow Joel Colon knew he wanted to be involved on campus and in the community. He had already learned that life was too short to not give back.

While a junior in high school in Lawrence, the right side of his body became paralyzed.

“I was losing control of my right leg and my right arm. I wasn’t able to hold anything and I wasn’t really able to walk,” Colon recalled.

There was a tumor on his cerebellum, so doctors put a hole in his skull, giving enough space for the tumor and brain to breathe. After surgery and physical therapy, Colon fully regained control of his muscles, and continued a commitment to serve that started in his church and homeless shelters in the area.

“The community is something that I’ve always seen as important and I grew up in church and always knew that giving back was part of my nature and was something that I loved doing so I was like, ‘Why not go to college and keep that going?’” he said.

After completing the Freshman Leadership Institute, a leadership program with a service project component, last spring Colon started working in the Office of Student Leadership and Community Engagement (OSLCE) as a program assistant. He is charged with organizing two annual days of service, including the Spring Day of Service held on April 30. In March, Colon learned he is one of 218 student leaders nationwide to receive the 2016 Campus Compact Newman Civic Fellows Award.

“Being recognized was an amazing experience. I was jumping up and down when I got this award,” Colon said.

Colon is a psychology major and biology minor who wants to become a child psychiatrist after he graduates in 2018.

“I want to help children who have gone through the foster care system, giving them the tools to be effective adults in their community,” Colon said.

Colon is the second UMass Boston student to receive this award in the last two years. Donna Scaffidi ’16 received the 2015 Campus Compact Newman Civic Fellows Award. Shaza Alzaim ’14 received the honor in 2013.