SRU honors three recipients of President’s Awards for Civic Engagement
Slippery Rock University’s service-learning programs like Dream Chasers is an example of the civic engagement practiced and led by recipients of the 2020 President’s Awards for Civic Engagement.
May 11, 2020
SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. — Every year, Slippery Rock University recognizes contributions made by students, faculty, staff and community partners for their civic engagement. With that in mind, SRU recently honored three individuals with the 2020 President's Awards for Civic Engagement. The annual awards program is organized by the University's Office for Community-Engaged Learning.
The OCEL recruited an independent committee of students, faculty and staff to review and select winners in three categories: President's Student Civic Leadership Award, President's Civic Engagement Ambassador Award and the President's Community Partner Award.
"The recipients are people who are addressing public issues in innovative and creative ways, which promote a culture of engagement at SRU and beyond," said Jeffrey Rathlef, director of community-engaged learning. "It's about their work, but it's also about work that extends beyond themselves and the influence of that work."
The winner of the Student Civic Leadership Award was Alison Vlasnik, a junior health science- public health major from Cranberry Township. Vlasnik is the service leadership coordinator for Dream Chasers, a service-learning program where SRU students visit local nursing home residents, document their life stories and, through a partner foundation, potentially identify and fulfill a resident's "dream."
Vlasnik also organized an Out of the Darkness Campus Walk for suicide prevention through the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Although the walk was conducted virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the event raised nearly $2,500 from more than 40 participants.
"I wanted to start creating an atmosphere where people know it's OK to get help and not be judged," Vlasnik said. "I knew I was bringing something different to our community and it was something that we needed, but I never imagined I would be recognized with an award. I feel honored that people recognized my hard work and dedication to helping the community, whether it was through Dream Chasers or the suicide prevention walk."
The winner of the Civic Engagement Ambassador Award was Alice Del Vecchio, assistant professor of philanthropy, nonprofit leadership and public affairs. Del Vecchio has developed several community partnerships and has integrated service-learning projects with external clients into every class that's part of the of the philanthropy and nonprofit management degree program.
Organizations that Del Vecchio has partnered with include the Alliance for Nonprofit Resources in Butler County, the Blind Association of Butler County, Butler County Commissioners and Glade Run Lutheran Services in Zelienople. Through these partnerships, SRU has helped advance the Institute for Nonprofit Leadership, a collaboration that offers training for local nonprofit organizations and helps them network with one another, share resources and increase the capacity to fulfill their missions. For example, last summer, Del Vecchio helped SRU and ANR host a Nonprofit Boot Camp.
Additionally, Del Vecchio is the adviser of the Student Nonprofit Alliance, a student-run nonprofit organization that leads IZE week, an annual social justice collaborative that connects students with community partners and spreads awareness on a variety of issues.
"We're trying to lower the walls between the University and the community and expand the classroom to be part of the community," Del Vecchio said. "(Our community partners) are able to access the intellectual resources available from our students and faculty, and our students are then able to network with these organizations and learn what it means to be good community citizens."
The winner of the Community Partner Award was the Slippery Rock Rotary Club, a local service organization that has been a part of the Slippery Rock community for more than 80 years. The Rotary Club serves the community through ongoing support of community organizations like the Slippery Rock Volunteer Fire Company and Rescue Team, the Feed My Seep Food Cupboard and Slippery Rock In Bloom. Rotary also partners with student organizations at SRU, including the Green and White Society, fraternities and sororities and the Rotaract Club, which is a student service organization that follows the mission of Rotary International.
The Rotary Club supports international programs as well through the Rotary Global Scholars program (formerly the Rotary Ambassadorial Scholars), by funding exchange student programs of SRU students studying aboard and international students studying at SRU. The Rotary Club supported the Mustard Seed Academy, a school for orphaned and abandoned children in Uganda, and as a client of SRU's Sustainable Enterprise Accelerator, the Rotary Club was involved in advancing soilless farming methods in Uganda with an aquaponics system that was used by both SRU and Uganda Martyrs University.
"Our motto is Service Above Self, and we truly live that," said Judy Hughes, president of the Slippery Rock Rotary Club, which includes nearly 50 members in Slippery Rock and Harrisville. "That certainly is something that transforms every one of us who are loyal to Rotary. (Being recognized by SRU) is wonderful, but no matter if we get awards or not, we're here to do service and help our communities."
In past years, the President's Awards for Civic Engagement recipients were recognized at a ceremony on campus, but because of the coronavirus pandemic, recipients were mailed a congratulatory letter from SRU President William Behre an engraved crystal award from OCEL.
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