BY ISN STAFF | April 5, 2018

In partnership with the family of Moira Erin O’Donnell, the Ignatian Solidarity Network announces the 2018 recipients of the Moira Erin O’Donnell Emerging Leaders for Justice Award: Annie Boyd-Ramirez (Marquette University ‘07) and Andrew Lunetta (Le Moyne College ‘12).

The O’Donnell Award honors young adults who have received an undergraduate degree from a U.S. Jesuit university and have demonstrated significant social justice leadership in their communities. The 2018 awards will be presented at the Robert M. Holstein Faith Doing Justice Award event on April 17, 2018, honoring Fr. Greg Boyle, S.J., founder and executive director of Homeboy Industries.

Moira Erin O’Donnell had only served as ISN’s executive director for less than a year when she passed away suddenly and unexpectedly at the age of 33.

While her time in service to the Ignatian family was brief, her exuberance and passion for the work of justice can serve as an inspiration for future decades of emerging leaders. In honor of the 10th anniversary of Moira’s passing on October 9, 2005, the Ignatian Solidarity Network, in partnership with her family, established the annual award to recognize social justice leaders exemplifying a similar commitment to justice in the Ignatian tradition.

Previous recipients of the Moira Erin O’Donnell Emerging Leaders for Justice Award include Sara Beste (Boston College ‘05), Danny Swan (Wheeling Jesuit University ‘09), and Kristen Trudo (Loyola Marymount University ‘14).  

As an undergraduate student, Annie Boyd-Ramirez studied psychology, Spanish, and peace and justice studies at Marquette University (‘07). During her junior year, Annie studied abroad with Santa Clara University’s Casa de la Solidaridad in El Salvador. This experience, paired with her years at Marquette, helped her build a vision to live out her vocation of accompanying people on the margins and leading by empowering others.

After graduating, Annie returned to the Casa program as a volunteer and served as a part-time case manager for a local non-profit. During her three years as a volunteer staff member at Casa, she also co-founded a non-profit organization called Programa Velasco with her mentor and Santa Clara University professor, Juan Velasco. Programa Velasco is located in El Salvador and is focused on providing, through financial support, early childhood education, family support services, and women’s economic empowerment programs to those most in need. Such mental health and social services were in high demand, but, as a North American, white woman whose first language was not Spanish, Annie knew it was inappropriate for her to fill these needs, so she and Juan sought funding to hire local Salvadorans to serve in the social worker and psychologist roles. Annie has served as the executive director of Programa Velasco since 2010.

Annie also earned a master’s degree from the University of Chicago’s Social Services Administration program. During her studies, she worked with the Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights, serving as a child advocate for unaccompanied children from Central America. She continues to support the Young Center on an ad-hoc basis by serving as a country conditions expert and conducting international family home studies for children who are in immigration proceedings in the U.S.

Annie currently resides in El Salvador and continues to serve as executive director of Programa Velasco, supporting its efforts to ensure that children have access to early education, that they and their families are equipped with social-emotional skills, and that women entrepreneurs are empowered to make business and personal growth changes. Programa Velasco also works closely with its Salvadoran partner organization on capacity building projects and process to ensure that their shared programs utilize evidence-based practices, reflect trauma-informed procedures, and promote gender equality.

While studying at Le Moyne College (‘12), Andrew Lunetta focused on learning about homelessness in Syracuse: both individual stories and underlying causes.

As a student, Andrew organized group bike rides for individuals facing homelessness and worked nights at a local shelter for men facing homelessness. He developed much of his understanding of the issue through the relationships he built with the men staying at the shelter and evident, poignant trends that could not be ignored.

As a volunteer, Andrew noted that many men leaving the shelter for an apartment or room returned after weeks or months, looking for a bed. After visiting the only local affordable apartments available to those facing homelessness, it made sense. Apartments were often dirtier and less safe than shelters or the street and did not provide any sense of stability to residents.

Andrew began to ask individuals what they needed to succeed and the answer was simple: a small space with a private bedroom, bathroom, and kitchen where, when a resident left for the day in the morning, they could be assured that their belongings would still be there in the evening. So, in 2015, Andrew founded A Tiny Home for Good to provide just that.

A Tiny Home for Good builds and manages housing that is affordable, safe, and dignified—promoting long-term stability and preventing rapid returns to shelters or extended stays in emergency rooms and jails. Since the organization’s inception, A Tiny Home for Good has built nine tiny homes (approximately 300 square feet each) and manages two two-family homes in the City of Syracuse. Residents pay rent based on their income and are connected to case management services. They are invited to events throughout the month connecting them with other THG residents and staff, board members, and volunteers. The organization has plans to build more units in Syracuse and other Upstate New York cities.

As executive director, Andrew manages day-to-day operations and maintains the organization’s ongoing partnerships, ensuring that A Tiny Home for Good’s exciting growth is always at the service of the men and women living in the organization’s homes. Andrew is an avid bicycle rider and a lover of all things design and construction.   

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