For the second year, a Martin Luther King Jr. Award for Community Service is being presented to a student.
This time, the award is recognizing two students — fraternal twins Tatiana and Nadia Egbunine. The 18-year-olds participated in the Johns Hopkins Summer Jobs Program the past two years, and their work ethic, engagement in the virtual enrichment courses and enthusiasm attracted the attention of their career coach and mentors in the Johns Hopkins Hospital Facilities Department who nominated them.
“We were beyond excited and grateful given the history of the award,” says Tatiana. “Our ultimate goal in life is to give back.”
The sisters, who live in Baltimore, have made community service a regular part of their lives since age 14, when they stopped by a neighborhood church to inquire about volunteer opportunities. They were assigned tasks in vacation Bible school, assisting with learning and social activities. The experience “was both humbling and fulfilling,” says Nadia.
As students at Roland Park Country School, Nadia and Tatiana tutored sixth through 12th graders in math while they were also part of a university educational program. Before the pandemic hit, they would visit areas frequented by the homeless to hand out hot chocolate, soup and other items to those in need. The twins have also served as tour guides at the National Aquarium in Baltimore.
The sisters have served their faith by volunteering for various branches of Junior Catholic Daughters, a national organization. As past president of Junior Catholic Daughters, Nadia supported My Sister’s Place, a women’s day shelter and resource center, by collecting 85 purses and filling them with toiletries for the clients. “Community service is important because it’s selflessly giving back to the community,” she says. “It’s an act of humility that places others before oneself.”
As vice president of the local chapter, Junior Catholic Daughters of the Americas Court No. 2257, Tatiana coordinated community clothing drives and food pantry initiatives, as well as organizing and serving as chairperson for St. Francis Xavier Catholic School’s Santa’s Workshop. With community service, she says, “everyone is equal.” She adds, “Unity and charity are synonymous with my mission to always strive to lend a helping hand where pain, poverty and sickness exist.”
This fall, Tatiana and Nadia enrolled as biochemistry majors at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and Towson University. Tatiana (Towson) is pursuing a career in functional neurosurgery while Nadia (UMBC) plans to become an oral maxillofacial surgeon.
Both young women say they are inspired by their father, a retired pharmacist; their mother, a loan officer and real estate agent; and their older sister, who is also a biochemistry major. Quoting the late U.S. representative John Lewis, they say they hope to “start good trouble” by serving as role models who can encourage women to empower each other in STEM and male-dominated fields.