Sophomore receives Congressional Medal of Honor Society award for service

October 11, 2021

SPIDER PRIDE

When UR sophomore Zachary Brooks was 9 years old, he noticed that people were treating his twin brother Jack, who has autism, differently than other people.

 

I experienced first-hand the uncomfortable stares of strangers, as well as hurtful remarks, and to me it was just not acceptable,” Brooks said. 

Ever since then, he has been advocating for autism awareness and acceptance. He recently received the Congressional Medal of Honor Society’s Citizen Honor Youth Service Award for his work.

Zachary founded two initiatives in his home town of Summit, New Jersey, to help spread awareness and encourage acceptance of autism.

He created Artfully Abled, an annual art exhibit featuring works by individuals with developmental disabilities, and We All Fit Together, which brings community members together annually to complete jigsaw puzzles, collaborate, and converse about different abilities.

“The focus is on abilities, not limitations,” he said. “People with developmental disabilities have many talents and contributions they have made and can make to society. It’s important to recognize their capabilities.”

Brooks attended a ceremony this summer in Charleston, South Carolina, with Congressional Medal of Honor recipients, who have received the nation’s highest military honor for valor in action.

Brooks, a business major with a minor in Chinese studies, plans to continue his efforts on the University of Richmond campus through volunteering and advocacy. 

“Volunteerism is one of the greatest things in life,” Brooks said. “Making a difference not only helps others, it is also a humbling experience and something that reminds you of the power of passion and the difference each one of us can make.”