Five UT students graduated December 13 with more than 225 hours each of community service, earning the gold service medallion awarded by the Jones Center for Leadership and Service.
In celebration of the university’s 225th anniversary, the center implemented a three-tiered medallion system, celebrating students who logged over 100 hours of community service during their time at UT. There are three different service levels: the bronze medallion for 100–174 hours, the silver medallion for 175–224 hours, and the gold medallion for 225 hours or more.
This fall, five students earned the gold medallion:
April Damron, from Chattanooga, Tennessee, a public relations major with a business minor. Damron was encouraged by her sorority to volunteer during her freshman year. She found causes she was passionate about, serving with JH Ranch, a faith-based camp in Northern California, in addition to other organizations. To Damron, being a volunteer “means taking initiative and using your time and talent to help others.”
Sumain Hemani, from Memphis, Tennessee, a kinesiology major with a Hispanic studies minor. Hemani got involved in the Leadership and Service Living and Learning Community and the National Society of Leadership and Success on campus. She also served with the Jubilee Monuments Corp., a youth development program in Texas. “Servant leadership is something I learned and did growing up, and I feel proud that I was able to continue that during my college career,” Hemani said.
Peyton Jones, from Lebanon, Indiana, a hotel, restaurant, and tourism major. Jones started volunteering in high school and continued during college. She served primarily with Marine Corps Community Services, which aligned with her passion for helping military service members and their families. Jones treasures her time spent as a Volunteer, noting, “It’s a special bond that’ll never go away.”
Caroline Leonard, from Bristol, Tennessee, a kinesiology major. With aspirations to work in the health care field, Leonard feels service was a crucial part of her education. She participated in UT’s VOLbreaks program, serving on a trip with an emphasis on public health. She also volunteered at Camp Koinonia, connecting children and young adults with disabilities to outdoor experiences. Leonard says she is thankful for these opportunities because “they took me out of my comfort zone and allowed me to grow in new ways.”
Margaret Newman, from Brentwood, Tennessee, a double major in psychology and Spanish with a pre-veterinary focus. Newman merged her passion for animals with her passion for service. She spent most of her time volunteering with Young-Williams Animal Center and got to experience an unforgettable moment when the center attained no-kill status. Newman is proud to earn the gold medallion and thankful to “have something to symbolize the most important part of being a Volunteer.”
Service medallion recipients embody the Volunteer spirit through their leadership and commitment to serving their communities. In addition to the five gold medallion recipients, four students earned the silver medallion and 33 students earned the bronze medallion this fall.
“Engaging in community service helps students develop compassion, empathy, and creativity as they leave a lasting positive impact on those they served,” said Mandie Beeler, director of the Jones Center for Leadership and Service. “These individuals also serve as inspiration to others, creating a ripple effect and ultimately leaving a legacy that will last far beyond their time at UT.”
Maddie Stephens (865-974-3993, firstname.lastname@example.org)
This story is part of the University of Tennessee’s 225th anniversary celebration. Volunteers light the way for others across Tennessee and throughout the world.