KOKOMO, Ind. — Brandon Rush had a life-changing experience on a humanitarian trip while an undergraduate at Indiana University Kokomo.
He and other students volunteered in Cartagena, Colombia, where they built a school, played games with children in a cancer ward, and donated medical and dental supplies during their trip to the poorest areas of the South American country.
"That trip changed me as a person," he said. "It affected me at the core level, and gave me a bigger global perspective. Prior to that, I'd not been out of the country, other than to Canada. It was a unique thing for me to see how people live outside the United States. It reinforces what is important in life, and what is not important."
He said that trip, and the two he took later, taught him the importance of giving back, not only internationally, but also in his own backyard. Those are lessons he's put into practice as an attorney in Peru, where he is an active community volunteer.
The IU Kokomo Alumni Association will honor Rush for his service with its Distinguished Alumni Award, which he will receive during Commencement on Tuesday, May 7.
Interim Chancellor Susan Sciame-Giesecke congratulated him on receiving the honor.
"IU Kokomo is very fortunate to have alumni who have distinguished themselves in their professions and service to the community," she said. "Brandon's story highlights the impact that our international learning experiences have on our students' ability to effectively live and work in a global world. Brandon combined his study of the Spanish language and law to pursue a career in immigration law. He is passionate about serving his clients who need his services as they transition to a new culture."
Rush, 29, was surprised and happy to be chosen for the award.
"It's not why I did anything, but it's nice to be noticed," he said. "I didn't realize anyone was paying attention. I hope it inspires others to be involved in whatever they're doing."
He added that it is especially meaningful for him to receive it this year, because his wife, Tara Rush, is graduating with her degree in elementary education.
Rush earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in sociology from IU Kokomo in 2007, after starting out as a business major. He then earned his law degree from University of Dayton School of Law.
"Sociology really changed my perspective," he said. "It changed my thought process, my thought patterns, and got me interested in people, and pointed me in the direction of law. It has helped me understand some of the things I see in the legal system, and the situations people come from."
J.R. Pico, who was one of Rush's Spanish instructors, is proud of how he's used his language skills to help recent immigrants become acclimated to Miami County, and to teach them English.
"He is an outstanding example of what we want our graduates to do to make a difference in the world," he said. "We have appreciated his willingness to talk about his own experiences, to overcome misconceptions and stereotypes some of our students may have, and to encourage them to learn through international travel."
Rush has his own family and criminal law practice in Peru, near his hometown of Bunker Hill. He also is involved in several community organizations. He is on the Miami County Museum Board of Directors, and has served on the Ole Olsen Memorial Theatre Board of Directors.
Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana.