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Three students honored by IU’s First Lady for community service

April 17, 2017
KOKOMO, Ind. —Three Indiana University Kokomo students were recognized for their leadership, time, and dedication to community service by the IU Women’s Philanthropy Leadership Council.

IU First Lady Laurie Burns McRobbie presented the Women Helping Women student volunteer leadership awards to Abby Lefler, Brooke Runyon, and Sarah Swoverland. Each student received a plaque and cash donation for their respective organization.

Mrs. McRobbie, a founding member of the WPLC, said the luncheon is one of the council’s signature events, “founded on the idea that early involvement in volunteerism leads to a lifetime of commitment to one’s community. Philanthropy is certainly the giving of treasure, but it is also the giving of time. Our three young women are thus continuing a cherished tradition and deserve the accolades we give them in recognition.”

IU Kokomo hosted the first student awards in 2012, and since that time, the WPLC has honored female students on an IU regional campus each year, to encourage them to continue serving.

Lefler, a sophomore secondary education major from Kokomo, leads and mentors a small group of 15-year-old girls through Nine.12, a high school ministry at Crossroads Community Church. Her service is inspired by her own experience when she was in high school youth group— and the experiences of friends who didn’t have the same resources. She is especially pleased her award included a donation to the group.

“I’m excited that this money will be used to help send a couple of students to camp, as it was one of the most impactful events of my time in youth group,” she said. “I am extremely grateful to receive this award and excited about the opportunities it brings to students within the youth group. I am proud to be pursuing my education at a university that rewards students for our efforts in giving back to our community.”

Lefler decided to become a science teacher when she attended IU Kokomo’s Science Rocks! free summer science camp as a middle school student. That camp was funded by one of the first WPLC grants. She was nominated by Sarah Byrd, admissions counselor.

Runyon, a junior secondary education major from Noblesville, was excited to receive her first plaque ever. She serves as the American Red Cross blood drive coordinator for the campus through the Red Cross/NAIA Leadership program.

Her goal is to help people overcome their fears about giving blood, and to encourage them to participate in blood drives. She appreciates the nomination from Jason VanAlstine, her IU Kokomo cross country coach.

“It has taken a lot of hard work to make the blood drives happen, and I have had a lot of help along the way,” she said. “It meant a lot that my coach would nominate me. I owe a lot to him as a mentor, and to Gabby VanAlstine as well. They encouraged me to take part in the Red Cross/NAIA Leadership program.”

Brian Hamil, national chair of biomedical services for the American Red Cross, attended the awards presentation.

Swoverland, a senior new media communication major, uses her graphic design skills volunteering with the United Way of Howard County. She was nominated by Craig Swoverland, executive director of IU Kokomo’s IT department.

“It was humbling to receive the award,” said Sarah, who generally prefers to work behind the scenes. “I didn’t do it for any kind of accolades, I just did it because I wanted to help. I was happy that my service earned a donation for the United Way.”

Chancellor Susan Sciame-Giesecke congratulated the three students, and encouraged them to continue to “lead from where you are.”

The WPLC serves as the leadership group for Women’s Philanthropy at IU, providing the IU Foundation with strategic guidance in ensuring that women — who are the majority of the student body and of IU alumni — are connected to the university, and integral in shaping its future.

It supports IU students, faculty, and staff through its annual grants program, awarding more than $100,000 annually to IU programs that improve public health, increase opportunities for underserved populations, provide global experiences, and support STEM and women’s leadership initiatives.

It has funded programs at IU Kokomo including the Science Rocks! summer science camp, the IU Kokomo and IU East Family Nurse Practitioner program, international student travel through the Innovation Symposium, and the Summer Bridge program.

First Lady McRobbie, who recently earned a Master of Arts in Philanthropic Studies at the IU Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, noted that in the past, women’s philanthropy hasn’t always been promoted or recognized. Scholars learned that women were giving significant amounts, often are the motivation behind a couples’ gift, and give in less visible ways than men — often anonymously, in groups, and in small amounts to several organizations. Women take longer to make a gift, she added, because they want to build a relationship with the organization first.

“These behaviors mask the fact that once factors such as education, age, income, and others are taken into account, women give more than men, sometimes more than twice as much,” she said.

Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana.

Last updated: 04/18/2017