Honors College senior Robert William Pokora III drew on his family’s experience with organ transplant to restart an organization at the University of South Carolina that advocates for people to sign up to be donors.
The Greer, South Carolina, native is one of two winners of the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award — the university’s highest student honor.
A biochemistry and molecular biology and Spanish major, Pokora’s goal is to become a bilingual physician.
“I will always proudly sing ‘We hail thee, Carolina, and sing thy high praise’ because of the phenomenal opportunities provided at USC,” Pokora says. “My 500-plus hours of research beginning my first semester, the two Zoom seminars that I coordinated and hosted with prestigious physicians and my 455 hours volunteering in free medical clinics demonstrate my commitment to the Carolina community.”
In addition to his research and volunteer time, Pokora studied abroad in Quito, Ecuador and Seville, Spain, “which both allowed me tremendous growth towards my goal of becoming a bilingual physician.”
He has served as a peer leader and mentor and has led Bible study at both a local church and for Honors College classmates. He also has volunteered with the Columbia Miracle League, which allows children with physical and developmental challenges learn to play baseball.
“I am passionate about the Miracle League, volunteering both in my hometown, while in high school, and my college town for a total of 100 hours over the past six years,” Pokora says. “I volunteer as a ‘buddy’ and practice catching, batting and social skills with the players.”
But he says his most rewarding experience at Carolina has been to re-establish the Trew Friends organization. He also served in several leadership roles in the organization, training volunteers, organizing events and signing up more than 800 people to national donor registries.
“This issue is meaningful to me because after four years on a waitlist, my father received a kidney transplant in August 2019, the same week I started college,” Pokora says. “To ensure the club remains active, I created a president-elect position, wrote a constitution and transition documents for the future. This is my most significant Carolina legacy."