Jessica Gabrian, a recent William Woods University graduate from O’Fallon, Mo., is passionate about helping others. For her profession, she selected American Sign Language interpreting, but her urge to assist others goes far beyond her chosen career.
When William Woods hosted the Heartland Regional Conference of PeaceJam, Gabrian volunteered to be a mentor to the high school participants. Young people ages 14-19 from Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska and Iowa were invited to attend the conference to learn about world issues, interact and learn from Nobel Peace Prize recipient Jody Williams, and plan service projects.
“It all just happened by chance, and my experience was more than worthwhile,” she said. “PeaceJam may be one of the greatest things that William Woods could be involved with.”
She added, “PeaceJam has given me the opportunity to help Africa from my home in Missouri. The PeaceJam conference at William Woods really was one of the most memorable experiences of my life. It was so inspiring to see high school students that were involved in service projects, educated and trying to make change in their communities however small it may be.”
Mentoring was only the start of her involvement in PeaceJam. She was selected by the PeaceJam Foundation to be interviewed for a documentary. The 11-part documentary will focus on various Nobel Laureates and the students they impact.
In addition, she conducted a fund-raising project for Darfur this summer and she has been offered a scholarship to participate in the Nobel Women’s Initiative Conference, which will be held in New York in September.
Gabrian’s enthusiasm for humanitarian projects is evident, and that’s how she was chosen for the documentary.
“I walked into the mentor training and spoke with two PeaceJam [Foundation] people about the situation in Darfur,” she said. “They could tell that I was interested in helping and asked if I would be willing to be a part of the series.”
The documentaries will be a series called “Ten Simple Acts of Peace.” The series is based on the Nobel Laureates’ Global Call to Action (www.globalcalltoaction.org)—10 areas that are causing the most suffering in the world. Issues include “Racism and Hate,” “the Spread of Global Disease,” “Access to Clean Water” and “Rights for Women and Their Role as Leaders.”
Gabrian will appear in an episode called “Investing in True Security to Create Human Security.” Each episode has been filmed in a different country, and the goal is to inspire simple acts of peace around the globe.
After completing an internship this summer with Deaf Interlink, in St. Louis, Gabrian will head to Washington, D.C. this fall to pursue a master’s degree in interpretation at Gallaudet University.
This will put her close to Jody Williams, the Nobel Laureate she met at the PeaceJam conference at William Woods. Best known for her fight against landmines, Williams earlier this year was appointed by the United Nations Human Rights Council to lead a delegation of investigators to survey and assess the growing violence and brutality of Darfur, where more than 200,000 people have been killed and 2.5 million have fled their homes since 2003 when Janjaweed militia and ethnic African groups began fighting.
Gabrian’s interest in Darfur began when she heard Williams report on the conditions there.
“The project I am working on is called ‘Dollars for Darfur.’ So I decided to have a ‘Dinner for Darfur’ event in Columbia at the Cherry Street Artisan. I set up a table of informational flyers and posters about the genocide taking place in Darfur. Also, I had a letter that people could sign to send to Missouri’s elected officials urging them to divest Missouri money for nations such as Sudan.”
Gabrian credits Williams for keeping her motivated.
“Jody and I have been in contact throughout the project. She has been a tremendous help and inspiration. We have spoken on the phone and through e-mail. We’re setting up an event in DC for sometime in the fall. That is all in the beginning stages right now.”
In two years, when Gabrian graduates from Gallaudet University, she plans to work as a full-time interpreter, but she hopes to remain involved with Peace Jam. Eventually, she wants to own her own interpreting agency and possibly teach in an interpreter training program.
The daughter of Bruce and Cheryl Gabrian of O’Fallon, she was involved in numerous campus activities and was named to the 2007 edition of “Who’s Who Among Students in American Universities and Colleges” while at William Woods.
A member of Alpha Chi Omega sorority, she served as vice president and president. She was a student mentor and assistant director of Freshman Advantage and she was president of the Hands Up Club for interpreting majors.
She served on the Student Alumni Council for two years as a class representative. She was a member of Campus Activities Board, Up ‘Til Dawn for St. Jude Hospital and Order of Omega Greek honor society. A member of the women’s volleyball team, she served as co-captain and coordinator of Champions of Character.
Gabrian was the founder and chair of R Cubed, a campus recycling club, and she was the recipient of a $1,000 NAEM Environmental Scholarship. Her other volunteer activities included Fulton Day of Caring, Garrett Animal Shelter, STARS After School Program and CARDV (Coalition Against Rape and Domestic Violence).
CUTLINE: Jessica Gabrian (right) with another WWU student and PeaceJam mentor, Jessica Cato of Gypsy, Mo.