Recent grad­uate Alex Alvanos was hon­ored last month with a pres­ti­gious national award for stu­dent humanitarians.

At an April 7 cer­e­mony in Raytheon Amphithe­ater, Alvanos was pre­sented with the 2008 Howard R. Swearer Stu­dent Human­i­tarian Award for his inno­v­a­tive approach to social and edu­ca­tional issues in the com­mu­nity. Alvanos, founder of Social Change through Peace Games, was hon­ored specif­i­cally for his ded­i­ca­tion to helping Boston public school stu­dents resolve con­flict non­vi­o­lently. Cur­rently, the orga­ni­za­tion part­ners with three Boston schools, reaching more than 700 students.

Alvanos is now working on a post-​​graduation busi­ness plan for a “human devel­op­ment index” that would be used as a guide for poten­tial donors to rate non­profits on tan­gible results.

The Swearer award is given to only five col­lege stu­dents nation­wide, each of whom has shown an extra­or­di­nary com­mit­ment to improving their local and global com­mu­ni­ties. The award was pre­sented to Alvanos by Bar­bara Canyes of Mass­a­chu­setts Campus Com­pact, the state affil­iate of the national col­lege con­sor­tium that pro­motes stu­dent civic engagement.

Sev­eral speakers lauded Alvanos during the cer­e­mony, including one of his men­tors and Eric Dawson, founder of the orig­inal global vio­lence reme­di­a­tion orga­ni­za­tion Peace Games, which later served as a launching pad for Alvanos’ Social Change program.

Thank you for believing in what hadn’t been done — for seeing the pos­sible in the impos­sible,” said Dawson.

Dawson also noted in his remarks that after only three years, Alvanos’ group has 124 North­eastern stu­dents involved in the pro­gram. “He built an insti­tu­tion,” Dawson said. “He built a system. He built leaders.” True human­i­tar­ians, he added, should be judged not by what they do while they’re here, but by what they leave behind.

Alvanos, an inter­na­tional affairs major who has also trav­eled to Thai­land and Pales­tine to serve the under­priv­i­leged, was hired by Northeastern’s Center of Com­mu­nity Ser­vice in as a co-​​op for Dawson’s Peace Games, which then had a pro­gram at the Mau­rice J. Tobin School in the Mis­sion Hill neigh­bor­hood. Teachers there, Alvanos said, were “done with” the Peace Games cur­riculum and wanted to move on; instead, he saw an oppor­tu­nity to revi­talize the program.

He recruited six fellow North­eastern stu­dents to expand and trans­form the pro­gram, and the next semester they recruited 20 more, forming the North­eastern group Social Change through Peace Games.

The ele­men­tary school pupils appre­ciate the project, Alvanos said. “They get math, sci­ence and Eng­lish all day long. They never really had an oppor­tu­nity to learn how to build friend­ships or deal with con­flict, and do that in a fun way,” he said. “They really see the value in that.”

The project has also given North­eastern stu­dents “an oppor­tu­nity to express them­selves as they make con­crete change in the lives of youths,” he said. “They start to change them­selves. If you can create long-​​term change in North­eastern stu­dents, and con­nect it to the local com­mu­nity, that’s a positive.”

By Jim Chi­avelli