Being a gift to the world

“We are each born with a gift, and what we do with that gift is a gift to the world,” said Andrew de Vera Cornel, senior in the School of Interdisciplinary Arts & Sciences at the University of Washington Bothell.

Cornel headshot
Andrew Cornel, senior in the School of IAS

A regular volunteer at the St. Vincent de Paul Food Bank, the Filipino Community of Seattle Food Bank and St. Edward Catholic Church, Cornel’s gift to the world is his servant leadership, a philosophy in which the goal of the leader is to serve. At UW Bothell, he has served with the Filipino American Student Association, the Associated Students of UW Bothell Election Committee, the Associated Student Advisory Council, and the Health and Wellness Resource Center Steering Committee.

“Andrew has a servant’s heart and is a rare gem who thrives when he is helping others,” said Teresa Scribner, Cornel’s former high school teacher. “Andrew is hands down one of the greatest people I have ever had the pleasure of teaching. He is simply a great person, and I love that he chooses to be a great person every single day.”

In recognition of the countless contributions Cornel has made in his communities, he has been named one of the UW’s 2022 Husky 100 recipients.

The embodiment of change

Dr. Kristin G. Esterberg and Cornel celebrating his achievement as a Husky 100 recipient
Chancellor Kristin G. Esterberg and Cornel celebrating his achievement as a Husky 100 honoree

Each year, the University recognizes 100 undergraduate and graduate students from the Bothell, Seattle and Tacoma campuses who are making the most of their time while in college. The recipients actively connect what happens inside and outside of the classroom, applying what they learn to make a difference on campus, in their various communities and for the future. Cornel is one of 11 students from UW Bothell to be recognized last academic year.

“Andrew is the embodiment of ‘be the change,’” Scribner said. “He stands up for his Filipino and UW communities — and gives 100 percent. He makes it look effortless, but he is one of the hardest working people I know.”

Cornel was taught from an early age to put others first. At St. Edward Catholic School in Seattle, he and his classmates were encouraged to be of service and raise money for local nonprofit organizations — something he does to this day.

At UW Bothell, for example, he served as the fundraising chair for the Filipino American Student Association during the pandemic when the campus was in remote operations. “I was initially worried about how I was going to fundraise,” he said. “I had done it dozens of times but never online.”

He knew, however, that his efforts could make a difference at a critical time.

An investment for others

Cornel began looking at projects that previous chairs had started and came upon the idea of doing an online auction. Immediately, he knew that was the answer. He worked with fellow fundraising committee members on the team, gathering donations and sponsorships from local businesses including Defensive Driving Schools, Wonton Noodle House, Max’s Restaurant, South King Firefighters Foundation, Capital Industries and Mike’s Shave Ice.

From the donations they assembled breakfast kits with waffle makers, ube waffle mix and coffee mugs as well as dinner kits with various ingredients and bottles of wine. They also sold purses, gift certificates, jewelry from the Philippines and services from local businesses.

Cornel and fellow members raised more than $4,000, which was used to fund conferences, activities and other expenses for the club. “This was important to me because I knew that the club didn’t have a lot of money and that previous officers had to utilize their own money for club expenses,” he said. “FASA has always felt like a second home, and the people in it are like my other family.

“I wanted to invest in the club so that future students could have a similar experience and share in the comfort and joy this club has brought me.”

Ongoing drive and determination

Cornel leveraged his experience as fundraising chair to benefit the larger community, too. Just a month after the online auction, he started a canned food drive. “In 2020, many people were food insecure, and I wanted to support local Filipinos who were in that situation,” he said. “We advertised through our FASA meetings, our social media and word of mouth.”

The drive lasted 10 days and garnered more than 100 pounds of nonperishable foods that the club donated to the Filipino Community Food Bank. The drive also yielded money, school supplies and more than 500 books that club members sent to a school in Alaminos, Philippines.

But his efforts didn’t stop there. After seeing the food bank and meeting the people there in person, Cornel decided he wanted to donate his time, too. For the past two years, he has helped the organization on a weekly basis, sorting and packing canned food and fresh produce as well as packing and distributing lunches.

“It is always fulfilling to give your time to the community,” Cornel said. “We aren’t in this world alone so why not be there for each other and be a helping hand?”

Passion to make a difference

Cornel is now the president of FASA and is focused on bringing community events back to campus. In May 2022, he helped host a club cultural event that attracted more than 150 guests to enjoy performances, traditional attire and Filipino food.

“Andrew has shown a dedication to helping build communities through campus organizations and creating spaces for students to express themselves and gather in a safe manner after the COVID-19 pandemic,” said alumnus Jorge Azpeitia ’21, a former coworker of Cornel’s.

“He is committed to supporting and celebrating diverse cultures, and proactively helps FASA members and other local Filipino communities deepen their understanding, while finding pride in their identity.”

Looking to the future, Cornel said one of his life goals is to start a nonprofit: The Andrew Cornel Foundation. “This is how I will use my passion to make a difference,” he said. “My spark for helping others has been ignited, and I will never let the flame extinguish.”

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