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John Cho ’23, Kelly Crace to be honored for service to the community

  • John Cho
    John Cho '23  is one of two recipients of this year's President's Award for Service to the Community. He and Kelly Crace (not pictured) will be recognized during Opening Convocation.  Photo by Stephen Salpukas
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Two members of the William & Mary community are being recognized for their work in promoting health and well-being on campus and in the local community.

John Cho ’23 and Kelly Crace, associate vice president for health and wellness, will receive the 2021 President’s Award for Service to the Community at this year’s Opening Convocation ceremony Sept. 10 in the Wren Yard.

The award is presented each year to one student and one faculty or staff member “who have demonstrated a sustained commitment to service and made a significant and measurable impact on our community.” The recipients are selected by the Office of Community Engagement and the President’s Office, and each receives $500 to donate to the community organization of their choosing.

"John Cho and Kelly Crace show us all what active citizenship looks like: seeing spaces where their strengths and commitments can be of use, and offering them so generously," said Melody Porter, director of the Office of Community Engagement. "Their care for community is more than just an activity or two that they're interested in; it's part of who they are. I'm so glad their service has been recognized."
John Cho ’23

Cho is being recognized for his work in advocating for students, health and public safety; promoting sustainability; and combating food insecurity.

“I want to dedicate this recognition to my community — advisors, friends and family — for supporting me unconditionally and helping me recognize that anyone and everyone can make a positive impact in our world,” Cho said. “With this award, I would like to celebrate the spirit of service that is embedded at William & Mary in hopes of helping others foster their passion for community service.”

A kinesiology and health sciences major, he began volunteering in high school and continued his community service work in college, inspired by what he had learned in helping to care for his little brother, who was born with Down syndrome.

Currently serving as chief of staff for the Student Assembly, Cho founded and chairs the SA’s Student EMS initiative. The initiative is made up of student EMTs who partner with the Williamsburg Volunteer Fire Department in order to increase student preparedness for emergencies and work toward creating a group of student EMT-volunteers who can respond to on-campus emergencies. Cho, who serves as a basic life support instructor for the American Heart Association, is an EMS lieutenant for the Isle of Wight Volunteer Rescue Squad.

In addition to his work in emergency medical response, Cho also serves as a substance and alcohol safety sensibility specialist for the university’s Health Outreach Peer Educators (HOPE) organization. He was the Student Assembly’s secretary of sustainability and is president of the W&M Food Recovery Network. In that role, he and his team recovered more than 700 pounds of food from on-campus partners and dining halls to provide more than 650 meals to the community.

“John has a demonstrated and distinguishable heart and care for service and promoting integrative wellness,” said Thomeka Watkins ’19, founder of the W&M Food Recovery Network, in a nomination letter. “He also (has) the leadership, organizational skills and follow-through to keep the pieces together without compromising his own health, a rare and formidable combination. I have no doubt he will continue to contribute great things to the community.” 

Kelly Crace

Although Crace was already dedicated to promoting health and well-being in the W&M community, the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic caused him to become more deeply involved in the external community and find new ways to address the increased mental health concerns that arose.

"I am humbled and honored to receive this award, especially to be able to share this with John, who has been a wonderful advocate and leader for peer health education,” said Crace. “My goal this year was to support those suffering emotionally and psychologically from an overwhelming year. Therefore, the recognition should go to those who were doing the courageous work of recovery and healing.  I also want to thank the Office of Community Engagement for bringing awareness to the transformational impact of active citizenship, most notably how it transforms those who serve."

Since March 2020, he dedicated four evenings per week to work with non-university individuals and organizations on issues around emotional trauma, isolation, burnout and resilience, he said. Crace also conducted more than 50 workshops for local, regional and national groups, including those at other universities, all on a pro-bono basis.

As part of his outreach, he created a 10-part video series on authentic leadership and excellence for the Mandela Washington Fellows program, reaching more than 5,000 leaders in Africa. He also helped develop a free educational resource for organizations to assess their group values culture and create new ways to sustain their efforts to be healthy, inclusive and flourishing.

At W&M, Crace was invited to serve in leadership or advisory roles for myriad organizations. He also worked directly with multiple departments and individuals on issues around faculty and staff burnout. In addition, his work with students changed to focus on managing issues around remote learning.

“Kelly Crace is easily among the most generous, wise, and humble people I’ve ever known,” said Vice President for Student Affairs Ginger Ambler. “Those personal qualities are among the many reasons Kelly is so deeply trusted in both the W&M community and in communities beyond.  There is no question that he has a heart for service, giving of his time and talent to improve the lives of individuals and communities. Quite simply, Kelly is motivated to help others flourish.”