Working with underserved children has inspired Sanessa Griffiths to pursue a career in law.

The UCF Political Science and Legal Studies double-major has mentored youth since her freshman year through Pathfinders and later at Big Brothers Big Sisters. Now, a junior, she wants to be a legal advocate for children in foster care.

“I see the influence that an interested person can have on a child struggling with school,” Griffiths says. “Volunteering has made me realize that those who have, no matter how little, need to help those who don’t.”

For her community service, Griffiths was awarded UCF’s John T. Washington Scholarship Service Award, which is given by the African American Studies Program. She was honored during Monday’s annual Dr. John T. Washington Community Service Awards and Scholarship Luncheon.

“I didn’t volunteer with the hope that one day someone would notice, but I am so thankful that someone thought my little contribution is making a difference,” she said.

The award also recognizes Griffiths’ academic involvement. She is a member of the Multicultural Student Center Leadership Committee and Vice President of the National Society of Collegiate Scholars. Griffiths also maintains a 3.96 GPA.

The luncheon and awards ceremony honor the legacy of former UCF professor and university leader John T. Washington by celebrating citizens who participate in community and civic programs throughout Central Florida. The awards recognize people who exemplify Washington’s humanitarian and scholarly qualities.

Along with Griffiths, two community members who serve Central Florida, exemplifying leadership and compassion were honored.

Robert A. Biggers received the Adult Community Service Award. Biggers, a Vietnam veteran, is a graduate of Jones High School in Orlando. He is the founder of the Tee-Lo Golf Program, which teaches youth character-building life skills through golf.

Stephanie Docsal received the Youth Community Service Award. Docsal is a senior at Liberty High School in Kissimmee. She has donated countless hours to the community through athletics and academics, including service at the Osceola Teen Alliance and Habitat for Humanity.

Washington was one of the first African-Americans to hold a faculty position at UCF, serving as an associate professor of Sociology during the 1970s. He was instrumental in the development of the Office of Equal Opportunity & Affirmative Action, the African American Student Union and the Office of Multicultural Academic and Support Services.

Learn more about UCF’s African American Studies Program at