Alumna Ami Angell ’99 has lived in 12 countries throughout her life, yet her unwavering dedication to service has remained constant.
“I’ve been shot at, hit, kicked, had urine thrown on me and had the place I was staying set on fire, and yet I wouldn’t change a thing,” she said. “Because during that journey I also met some of the best people one could ever hope to meet.”
In 2005, after earning two master’s degrees and a Ph.D., Angell was recruited to work in counter-terrorism efforts — specifically, rehabilitating and reintegrating radical mindsets into moderate ways of thinking.
“I worked directly with individuals classified as terrorists in an effort to win over their hearts and minds,” she said.
What was supposed to be a six-month volunteer mission in Iraq in 2005 lasted for 44 months. It became so successful it continued even after she left.
From Iraq, Angell moved to Singapore and worked as a research fellow at the International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research. After traveling to Malaysia, Indonesia, England and Libya to research extremist mindsets, she published a book in 2011 under the direction of General Stone titled “Terrorist Rehabilitation: The US Experience in Iraq.”
Her work proved to be successful when she hired an alleged former member of Al Qaeda as one of her staff members for the Operational Support and Services (Department of Defense) upon his release from prison.
“Battle of hearts and minds indeed,” she said.
When she was invited to join an anti-human trafficking task force in Washington, D.C., Angell immediately accepted. On Jan. 1, 2020, she took a risk and launched her own 501c3 nonprofit, The h3 Project, just before the COVID-19 pandemic. For the first month, she was her own volunteer. For the first year, she relied on month-to-month grants for funding and support.
“I persevered because I love what I do, and because those experiencing homelessness deserve someone to be there for them.”
Now, The h3 Project — which stands for home, health and happiness — operates with a full-time staff of 10 with 80% of its work done on the street. Angell also provides a variety of training sessions on human trafficking, interacting with those experiencing homelessness and AHA CPR/First AID/AED.
In the last two years alone, Angell has personally reversed over 150 opioid overdoses and has trained more than 400 people on opioids and Narcan administration, free of charge.
Her servant leadership was recognized by the Noma Business Improvement District when she unanimously received the Community Partner of the Year Award in 2020. In March 2023, she received the Chief of Police Award for her work training the entire 300-person D.C Metro Transit Police Force on opioids and Narcan administration. While the award itself is an honor, she was most happy to learn that within 24 hours of her training, an officer reversed an overdose and saved a life.
Angell believes that it doesn’t matter what a person does for a living; “People can make a difference in any field.” She credits her Newman liberal arts degree in theology, philosophy and sociology for preparing her for the work she does today.
Angell will always remember her thought-provoking classes, studying outside on the grass, singing in the chorale, volunteering at a crisis center and the lifelong friends she made — including with the ASC sisters.
“Just by being in her presence, I could feel Sister Tarcisia Roths’ love,” Angell recalled. “Once, when I called Sister Delphine (Schmidt) to let her know I was really sick and wouldn’t be able to make it to class, she came to my door with a bowl of hot soup!”
Angell added, “I honestly believe there is no university in the world that cares as much as those at Newman University. At Newman, you are part of one of the best communities in the U.S. — cherish it.”