Sept. 19, 2017
Saint Vincent College will honor three students with a new James D. Bendel Award for demonstrated commitment to working with vulnerable populations, according to an announcement by Kelly King, director of Service Learning and Community Outreach.
“The James D. Bendel Award captures the commitment of Saint Vincent College alumni, James Bendel, C’66, D’85, and Donald Green, C’62, to serving the most vulnerable in their communities,” King explained. “Their lifelong commitment to advocating for the rights of marginalized communities reflects the formation they received as Saint Vincent students.”
After graduating from Saint Vincent College, Green pursued a successful career in banking. Throughout his life he has focused his outreach to disenfranchised individuals. In addition to focusing on at-risk populations, Green also dedicates his efforts to programs that serve disabled animals. Green reached out to Saint Vincent College to create an award that encourages students to aid vulnerable populations as part of their college experience and continue this work after graduation. This embodies the career and life choices Bendel and Green found to be a perfect match.
The honored students include Michael Cooper of Lewisburg, a junior majoring in biology; Thomas Eshleman of Greensburg, a senior majoring in accounting; and Jenni Urban of Glassport, a senior majoring in environmental science. They will receive cash awards of $500, $300 and $200 respectively.
The awards will be presented at an invitational luncheon at 11:45 a.m. Wednesday, Sept. 27 at the Fred M. Rogers Center at Saint Vincent College.
Cooper is an Americorps volunteer who serves at a non-profit that exists to provide medical supplies, health consultation and counseling to diabetic children. “I split time either living with a group of children in a camp setting, or working at the non-profit's office processing volunteer applications and donated medical supplies,” he explained. “The point of this service is to help children adjust to being diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, and how having a proactive, healthy lifestyle can generally overcome the disease. I help children recognize what high or low blood glucose levels feels like physically, how to treat hyper/hypo-glycemia with carb-rich food or insulin, how to maintain a steady A1C throughout their lives, and generally provide them with a mentor. When living with the children I am on duty 24 hours a day, and am required to keep daily logs of the kids’ blood glucose levels, treat minor hyper/hypo-glycemia, supervise and/or assist in insulin dosing, and report my blood-charts to a physician at the end of the day.”
He served more than 500 hours in his first term with Americorps, which was during 2016. These hours were split evenly with half of them being spent living with the children, and half at the office. He has also recently signed on to further his service.
“Being able to impact the lives of youths by providing knowledge and guidance in the field of health is a life goal of mine,” Cooper concluded. “I plan to apply to medical school and work in medicine after my time at Saint Vincent, but it's wonderful to be able to provide health and wellness support to children during my time at this school. Type 1 diabetes is a very daunting auto-immune disorder that can seem like an insurmountable obstacle in a child or teenager's life. Without the right lifestyle, care and awareness, this disease can have extremely detrimental, and even deadly consequences. So, being able to provide these children with the knowledge, skills and confidence they need to lead a healthy life is a very rewarding experience. I have personally seen children leave the camps run by our non-profit as much more confident, secure and health-conscious individuals.”
While in college, Eshleman worked with orphans in the slums of Kampala, Uganda. “I have worked with them in helping serve meals, build a home for them and help start work on a multipurpose facility for their villages,” he commented. “I have also volunteered in Thailand, helping with a ministry aimed at helping men and women who have been sold into sex trafficking. Also while in Asia, I have spent time in Laos, working with a drug and alcohol rehab center, having helped with basic grounds work, and with the people themselves, by helping with meals, maintenance and general bonding with the people to encourage them and help give them hope.”
He has worked with these populations primarily since 2014, and has helped support their ministries since. “These volunteer service opportunities have helped show me that, while I go to help them, they have helped grow me into a more compassionate person,” he added. I have learned how to empathize with others, help encourage them and help teach them skills that they can use once we have left. The reward for me has been seeing the people enjoy our company, and be encouraged by us while in their country.”
As a long-term volunteer with Wildlife Works and the Pittsburgh Zoo, Urban has demonstrated her passion for working with injured animals. This interest continues through her academic interests as well.
Earlier this year, Urban was presented with the Daisy S. Klinedinst Memorial Award by the Pennsylvania Association of Environmental Educators for her dedication to expanding involvement with environmental education.
Urban has been an intern at the Winnie Palmer Nature Reserve for three years, interns at the Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium and has volunteered at the Wildlife Works Animal Rehabilitation Center.
“Jenni is constantly finding ways to involve herself in the environmental education field,” commented Angela Belli, director of the Winnie Palmer Nature Reserve. “She is a kind, caring and compassionate young woman whose future is bright in environmental education.”
Urban has been active at Saint Vincent as a member of the Saint Vincent Dance Club (co-president), Environmental Awareness Club (vice president), Campus Ministry (lector and Eucharistic minister), Tri-Beta Biological Honor Society, Alpha Lambda Delta honor society and the Dean’s List. She has also been a resident assistant for the Department of Residence Life. A 2014 graduate of South Allegheny High School, she is the daughter of Scott and Barb Urban. She is a member of Queen of the Rosary Parish, Glassport, and Christ the Light of the World Parish, Duquesne.
After she graduates from Saint Vincent College in the spring of 2018, she plans to pursue a career working in the environmental education field. “I am passionate about educating all ages on the importance of conservation of animals and the environment,” she commented. “I will most likely head into a graduate school program that will assist me in moving forward in the environmental education field.”
In addition to King, Dr. Jennifer Koehl, professor of biology, and Amy Meade, counselor, served on the committee for the awards.
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