Unsung Heroes, a student-run initiative that shares the stories of workers in the Georgetown community using social media, is seeking nonprofit status to enable it to develop similar programs at other universities in Washington, D.C., and around the country.
After showcasing over 20 Georgetown workers in the past year and a half under its original name Unsung Hoyas, Unsung Heroes Founder Febin Bellamy (MSB ’17) said he wants to spread his model to other schools across the country, with Unsung Heroes acting as the overarching organization.
The project has been featured prominently in national press in recent weeks, appearing in The Washington Post, NBC News and CNN.
“We want to use Unsung Heroes as a platform that encourage every university across the U.S. to start chapters: Georgetown is Unsung Hoyas; Harvard could be Unsung Crimson; [the University of Pennsylvania] could be Unsung Quakers,” Bellamy said. “The whole point [of contacting press] was to get the attention of [The George Washington University] and other schools in D.C., but next thing you know it went viral.”
Bellamy said over 40 schools have contacted him to start chapters, including Duke University and Columbia University.
Before welcoming new schools into the fold, however, Bellamy and his team of five student staff members must obtain nonprofit status from the Washington, D.C. government, according to Unsung Heroes Chief Administrative Officer Julia Muzquiz (SFS ’19).
Along with reaching nonprofit status, Bellamy said the team is ironing out key details in its expansion plan necessary to expand a campus movement into a national one.
“Right now, we have to solidify our own structure first. We’re in the process of establishing some sort of toolkit: bylaws, chapter bylaws, all the stuff to start a club,” Bellamy said. “Once that’s finished, and we apply for a nonprofit for Unsung Heroes, we have all the contacts of the universities — we’re going to reach out to them immediately.”
Bellamy said it is important for Unsung Heroes to keep consistent branding across different potential chapters to successfully create and sustain a nationwide movement.
“We really want to keep it uniform, where, for example, Unsung Hoyas does something very similar to Unsung Crimson — maybe a month of appreciation just for custodians, or food and service workers or ‘get a cup of coffee for a worker’ Fridays,” Bellamy said. “That’s the best way to make an impact and create unity.”
Chief Development Officer Precious King (SFS ’20) said she is confident that Unsung Heroes will both strengthen its ties to Georgetown and also catch on rapidly at other schools nationwide.
“I see this going very far. This is a change agent. Other schools want to get in on the action and have that sense of full community,” King said. “[Unsung Heroes] will have an impact that is longlasting and hopefully make our communities stronger and everybody appreciate each other in a more intimate way.”
The five members of the Unsung Heroes team work together on both executing recognition efforts and expanding the program to other universities.
For instance, when Unsung Hoyas featured O’Donovan Hall worker Umberto “Suru” Ripai, Chief Operating Officer Elizabeth Nalunga (SFS ’19) contacted dining hall staff extensively beforehand.
“For Suru’s story, we always made sure we were in tight communication with the dining hall staff and his boss, making sure we were not interrupting workers’ hours,” Nalunga said. “There’s lots of different things students might not be thinking about; it’s not very easy to just approach someone on the job and say ‘I want to take a picture of you.’”
As Unsung Heroes looks to expand beyond campus, Nalunga said Unsung Heroes hopes to continue its work on the Hilltop and allow interested Georgetown students to contribute in a multitude of ways.
“This is a community effort. … We’ve definitely had a lot of Georgetown students message us, and we’re getting a structure involved where they can start going out and doing interviews and writing stories and getting involved on that level,” Nalunga said. “We’re going to have training sessions for those who want to interview workers or take pictures.”
Bellamy said showing appreciation can be as simple as saying “thank you” and acknowledging a worker’s presence, but can also include going out of one’s way to strike up conversation with or buy a cup of coffee for a worker.
“Everyone can do their part, no matter where you are or where you come from,” Bellamy said. “It’s a change of mindset — you’re making visible the invisibles.”
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