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Three Southwestern Students Receive Awards For Community Service

Three students from Southwestern University have received awards from Texas Campus Compact, a statewide organization that promotes community service, service learning and civic engagement among college students.

The awards were presented at the organization’s Civic Engagement Appreciation Luncheon held April 21 in Austin.

The students were selected for the awards from nominations submitted by nearly 50 Campus Compact-affiliated institutions throughout Texas. Southwestern students received three of six awards given at the banquet.

Lauren Sekel, a junior majoring in psychology with a minor in special education, received the Unsung Hero Award, and Kathryn (“Kat”) Haskin, a sophomore psychology major, was the first runner-up for the Unsung Hero Award.

Sekel volunteers as a case manager at The Caring Place, Georgetown’s local agency for families in financial crisis. She also has helped organize several major holiday programs for The Caring Place, including Blue Santa (where the local police assist with delivery of holiday gifts to needy families), Coats for Kids and the holiday food baskets programs.

In summer 2005, Sekel worked at an orphanage in Costa Rica where most of the children had been taken from their parents because of abuse. She spent her days playing with and teaching the children, and then spent her evenings voluntarily teaching English to the staff who cooked and cleaned at the home where she and other American students were living during their stay. She plans to return there this summer.

Sekel also volunteers for the Georgetown Project, a local organization that works with at-risk middle school children, and for the Partners in Education program sponsored by the Georgetown Independent School District. She also has been volunteering with Bluebonnet Trails, a group that works with people who have mental health and mental retardation issues. Sekel provides care for children so that their parents and family members can have a break.

“Lauren clearly understands that there are people in this world who need help, and she takes it upon herself to provide that help,” said Richard Osbaldiston, an assistant professor of psychology who nominated Sekel for the award. “She goes above and beyond what could reasonably be asked of a person (especially a full-time college student), and she does all this on a volunteer basis.”

Haskin has worked to raise awareness of homelessness in the community and volunteers at the Williamson County Crisis Center, a shelter for victims of domestic violence. She also has participated in Southwestern’s spring break project called Destination: Service. This year, Haskin was the student leader on a trip to San Francisco in which students volunteered in a soup kitchen and provided HIV kits to people.

In addition, Haskin has volunteered at a local retirement home and at a pre-school where she works with 3 to 5-year-old children who have physical handicaps.

“Kat’s internal compass is always oriented towards helping other people; she instinctively knows how, when and where to help,” said Osbaldiston, who also nominated Haskin for the award.

Ansa Copeland, a junior philosophy major, won first runner-up to the Leadership in Action Award. During the past year, she and her cohort in Southwestern’s Paideia(R) Program, which includes a service-learning component, developed a sustainable food project in partnership with the Williamson County and Cities Health District. The group created two large community gardens on property owned by the district, and produce from these gardens is now being used in a program that teaches basic nutrition and cooking to uninsured adults with diabetes, hypertension, and other illnesses that are greatly impacted by diet. Copeland currently is leading a group of students who are organizing a regional conference on peace and religion that will be held at Southwestern in the fall.

“Ansa is driven by a great passion for social justice and is a woman of tremendous vision,” said Suzy Pukys, director of volunteer resources and community-based learning at Southwestern, who nominated her for an award.

Texas Campus Compact was founded in 2001 and is part of a national coalition of more than 950 colleges and universities representing some 5 million students. For more information on Texas Campus Compact, visit www.texascampuscompact.org.