KOKOMO, Ind. — Three Indiana University Kokomo students made history Wednesday [April 18], receiving the inaugural Women Helping Women: Honoring Student Volunteer Leadership awards.
IU First Lady Laurie Burns McRobbie, founding co-chairwoman of the Women's Philanthropy Council at Indiana University, presented the awards to Hollie Boyles, Stacy James and Kristianna Upchurch, recognizing their outstanding volunteer service.
McRobbie said the young women's service continues a historical tradition of women giving their time to improve their communities.
"This great tradition of volunteerism characterizes the American spirit," she said, noting that in earlier times, when women generally did not work outside the home, they organized together to improve the lives of others.
"This tradition is deeply embedded in the lives of American women. To me, this work is at the heart of what it means to be a philanthropist. These students are continuing this cherished tradition, and they deserve appreciation."
Chancellor Michael Harris said the three students represent the engaged citizens we work to develop as part of the IU Kokomo learning experience.
"Philanthropy goes to the core of what American democracy is about. We provide our students knowledge and a variety of skills to be productive citizens who contribute to their communities," he said, "The majority of our students stay in our region, so it is key for our future and our way of life for them to volunteer their time and treasure."
Each of the young women received a certificate and a monetary donation to her volunteer organization.
Debbie Lemon, deputy executive director of the Indiana University Alumni Association, said planners chose IU Kokomo for the first awards because "we knew there students were performing significant volunteer services throughout the region. You embrace the spirit and essence of the Women's Philanthropy Council."
Boyles, a junior radiography major, volunteers with the Radiate youth group at Cornerstone Community Bible Church. She was a member of the group as a teen, and did not want to leave when she graduated, so she became a leader.
"I love going there. We give these kids a place to belong. I enjoy knowing I am helping them with some of their struggles in life."
Boyles said sometimes it is hard to balance her classes, job and volunteer work, but it is worth the effort because she is making a difference and becoming a better person.
"I know I have these students looking up to me, and I think about that in everything I do. It holds me accountable."
James, a senior education major, volunteers at Elwood Haynes Elementary in Kokomo. She started there as a work study student, "then I started volunteering there more than I was working."
She says she's received as much as she's given from her service, and said volunteering is an important part of being a college student.
"I think it opens your eyes. You realize there are needs out there, and you had no idea people had these needs. I wouldn't have known if I hadn't volunteered."
Upchurch, a senior public and environmental affairs major, volunteers with the Family Service Association domestic violence shelter. She also serves Gilead House, an organization that assists women through addiction.
The women in her family inspired her to serve.
"My grandmother was always giving, and my mom is the same way. Growing up, we weren't rich, but it was instilled in us that there are people less fortunate than us, and we needed to do what we could to help."
Marti Heil, senior vice president for development for the Indiana University Foundation, congratulated the women on their service.
"Indiana University would not be the institution it is today without the volunteer services of our young adults. Thank you for sharing your time and talent."
The Women's Philanthropy Council at Indiana University, which sponsored the awards, has a mission of leading fundraising and engagement efforts that inspire women to give of their time, talent and resources to IU, and of developing female leaders in philanthropy.
Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana.