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Lisa Burgoa

Lisa Burgoa Obituary
Lisa Burgoa, an award-winning writer, New York Times crossword puzzle enthusiast, self-admitted Cat Stevens devotee, Polish poetry aficionado, and beloved daughter, sister, colleague, and friend died in Washington, DC on Monday, January 27, 2020. She was 22 years old.

Soft-spoken and deeply thoughtful, Lisa showed a keen interest in the world and the stories of people in it from a very early age. As the Utah-born daughter of a Polish mother and a Bolivian father who met each other while studying in Germany, Lisa was a first-generation American who grew up in Chile, Texas, Oklahoma and south Florida, where she began reading her father's subscription to The Economist at the age of 11.

It helped her develop unparalleled diplomatic skills: while relatives fiercely debated which of the family's many and varied food traditions were best, a grammar school-aged Lisa ended the discussion with a single word: spaghetti.

Drawn to journalism as a student at Cypress Bay High School in Weston, Florida, Lisa's creativity and insightful reporting were widely celebrated. Her editorial writing received the Florida Scholastic Press Association's "Best of the Best" award and won first place in the Sun Sentinel's High School Journalism Awards two years in a row.

As a senior, her storytelling attracted national attention, where she was one of a small handful of students in America to receive the Newseum Institute's prestigious Al Neuharth Free Spirit and Journalism Scholarship. Ever humble, she attributed her success to a keen listening ability developed through long hours working the drive-thru window of her hometown McDonald's.

Numerous schools competed for her attention, but Lisa decided to study at Georgetown University, where she further developed her reporting chops editing the opinion and feature sections of her college paper, the Hoya, sleuthing around for stories on the Georgetown neighborhood beat. While notably one of the quietest students in every class, her thoughtful, sensitive way with words was always shared out loud by her professors, who held it up as the standard other students should aspire to, embarrassing her every single time.

Along the way, she discovered a newfound love for true crime stories, Jewish folklore, Peruvian food, and pop songs of the 1980s and '90s, while eagerly leading her family on "experimental restaurant tours" across Georgetown every time they visited campus - which occasionally made her thankful for the medical training of her younger sister, Sara.

It was at Georgetown that her commitment to social justice evolved into a deep passion for labor issues - "a real love," as one classmate recalled, "for real people doing the real work, day after day, without getting any credit for it." She interned at the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and the Bridge Initiative, a research project dedicated to countering Islamophobia in America.

She also volunteered at the DC Schools Project through Georgetown's Center for Social Justice Research, Teaching and Service. There, she designed lesson plans and taught English classes for DC's adult Spanish-speaking immigrant population while serving as the organization's documentarian, interviewing subjects about their experiences navigating the American immigration system.

In May of 2019, she earned a degree in International Policy Economy from Georgetown's Walsh School of Foreign Service, with studies focused on global development, labor and inequality. By then, she had developed what one friend called "a solace in invisibility, of being able to touch people's lives through her words without having to be the one to speak them."

She took a job at West Wing Writers, a speechwriting and strategy firm in Washington, DC where she had interned during the summer of 2018. She quickly became a beloved co-worker and friend, actively participating in the staff's daily crossword puzzle addiction, anchoring weekly dinner gatherings of associates, and cracking up co-workers with her quiet but wicked sense of humor.

All the while, her bond to her family remained strong. When her sister received an Apple Watch for Christmas, Lisa came up with a novel approach to meet its ambitious exercise and activity goals: instead of walking or going to the gym, Lisa suggested the two of them partake in a marathon session of the popular dance video game, Just Dance. In the end, the two of them far exceeded the steps necessary to meet the exercise goals for three full days.

While "she is invisible to us now," as a college friend puts it, "the impact through her words remains. She speaks to me in the songs that make me cry, in the beauty of spoken Polish or Spanish, in the poetry she's written - and I hope we all hear her speaking, too, softly and ceaselessly. The same way your heart is always right there in your chest, but you only feel when it hurts."

Lisa Burgoa was the loving daughter of Monika Rowinska-Burgoa and Marco Burgoa of Weston, Florida; the beloved sister of Sara Lena Burgoa of Washington, DC; the cherished granddaughter of Stanislaw and Eleanora Rowinska of Warsaw, Poland, and Marco Antonio Burgoa and Rosario Salinas of La Paz, Bolivia; and the precious niece of Agnieszka and Christoph Schwarzweller of Gda?sk, Poland.
Published in Sun-Sentinel on Feb. 2, 2020
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