Lara Jabbour: 2020 Luce 24 Under 24 Award Recipient

By Lara Jabbour, 2020 Luce 24 Under 24 Award Recipient
University of Virginia

New York, N.Y.  My hands quiver. I wait for some sort of cue, a sign, a voice that will tell me exactly what to do and how to feel. Instead, “America is scarier – you have tornados there,” offers my cousin. He explained that nearby car bombings were common. Those words, however, did not dissipate my fear. TV coverage of the situation made it clear that I would not immediately be able to return to America.

Teds For Beds Project- Lara and Daniel

Lebanon was often dubbed the “Switzerland of the Middle East” for its majestic landscape, but Inever seemed to understand this. To me, Lebanon was synonymous with suffering. Through this, I learned to treasure my ethnicity through my grandfather’s derbake.* I watched Jido’s* fingers intently as he percussed the drum resting on his leg. I was intrigued by how the seemingly random flops of his hands produced captivating patterns of the sounds “tek,” “ka,” and “doum.” Jido began to sing in Arabic, in a sort of melodious exchange of poetry.

During the trying times in Lebanon, my grandfather helped me find relief through these performances. My nine-year-old self wanted to help, to change the situation, to eradicate the poverty and fear. Yet, my nine-year-old self had little capacity to change the world then. Instead, I practiced in my journal, welcoming the challenge of carefully selecting words to create compositions like Jido’s. Though the uncertainty of the situation remained, I found solace in each stanza.

  • DERBAKE of Arabic origin used throughout the middle east this percussion musical instrument is one of the oldest of Arab origin. Constructed in ceramics and very fine goat leather.
  • JIDO is of Arabic origin and means “Grandfather.”

Time passes. In college, I continued to pursue writing as an English tutor in refugee populations. At first, some students were doubtful, confused, or angry, viewing me as a threat or outsider. I used my Arabic to translate between some students and pictures to communicate with others. While it was important that my students progressed in the class, at times it was more important to simply listen – to understand the world they inhabited and the world they hoped to be part of.

My student told me that she had fled an extremist group to protect her newborn daughter. “I have found healing in our journaling exercises,” she whispered at the end of one class. Week after week, the student shared more about the difficulties she faced in her native country. I learned that her sister had passed away due to a lack of stroke diagnosis and treatment. She feared a day when her daughter would need care that she could not provide. I was moved. The suffering in my student’s life due to a lack of reliable access to healthcare was too heavy to be left unaddressed; hearing her pain, I resolved to devote myself to action.

Since research provides an instrument for such action, I delved into several lab efforts. At UVA Neurology, I worked with physicians to develop algorithms aimed at improving stroke detection in rural or medically underserved communities. Seeing their interactions with patients, medical students, and residents, I came to recognize various responsibilities of a doctor – passion, resilience, and a deep commitment to all patients of all backgrounds.

As I conducted the finger to nose test, one patient looked ashamed and reluctant, wanting to hide an inability to control his flailing limbs from me. When I sat down at the foot of the bed, he began to sob profusely. He told me that he was not able to afford his prescribed medication and would ration it by taking it every few days. He told me that he was a guitarist and had spent 35 years of his life writing and performing music. Since the day he suffered a stroke, he had not been able to play. Remembering the comfort I had once found in my grandfather’s derbake, I longed to heal his hands at that moment. Since I could not, I instead sat with him as he sobbed and talked to him about his fears and struggles. I left my shift feeling content; though I had not fixed his immobility, I helped relieve his unease. But I wanted to do more.

Teds For Beds Project- Lara and Daniel

My firm decision to actively work toward positive change in the world through innovation and
hard work in all that I do has been progressive. Beginning with early memories of my grandfather in Lebanon, I longed to serve, help, and heal both at home and abroad. In the same way that my grandfather helped me find comfort, I want to actively be there for my English student and my patient in neurology. I want to work to never let limited resources or cultural disparities act as barriers to providing excellent patient care at home. I want to work with nonprofits to ensure that individuals abroad have the support they need. I want to advocate for global equality, work toward equity in healthcare, and heal.

During my time as an undergraduate student at UVA I have dedicated myself to becoming a global leader. I have founded two non-profit causes each with a unique mission, have served as a volunteer in numerous settings, and have used my talents to develop algorithms that can improve the speed at which we currently detect strokes in rural or underserved locations. I have been blessed by a loving family, a life in America, and an education in neuroscience. I want to be generous with my time, using it to give back to others in every way I know how.

Teds For Beds Project- Lara and Daniel

Lara Jabbour
Lara is a senior at the University of Virginia studying Neuroscience. Lara has founded two organizations, “Teds for Beds” and Cyan Seas. “Teds for Beds” is a charitable cause that donates giant, four-foot-bears to pediatric patients. Teds for Beds has been shared by social media influencers, promoted by large businesses, and included in magazines. Cyan Seas is a project providing consumers with quality clothing and merchandise with 100% of profits directly supporting charitable causes including Refugees International, UNICEF, and Save the Children.

Lara is a volunteer counselor with Crisis Text Line offering 24/7 support for those in crisis. She also volunteers with the Cancer Center and served as the Diversity and Inclusion chair for the University of Virginia Charlottesville. She is a 2019 Scholarship Recipient of the Impact National Conference, a 2017 Scholarship Recipient of the UVA Club of Fredericksburg. Lara speaks English, Arabic, and French.

About The J. Luce Foundation
The Mission of The James Jay Dudley Luce Foundation, Inc. ( is to support young global leadership impacting positive social change, particularly in the fields of the Arts, Education and Orphan Care. Related charities include Orphans International Worldwide (OIW) and The New York Global Leaders Lions Club, both founded by Jim Luce. 

Luce 24 Under 24 Virtual Awards Ceremony Set For Sept. 24 (9/20)
‘Luce 24 Under 24’ Summer Soirée Set for July 24 at the China Institute (6/19)
J. Luce Foundation Announces First ‘Luce 24 Under 24’ Awards (5/19)
J. Luce Leadership Team Lauded by Forbes, Gates, Ford Foundation (9/18)

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The Editors
The Stewardship Report on Connecting Goodness is the communications platform of The James Jay Dudley Luce Foundation ( There are now more than 100 contributors around the world to this publication.

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