Twenty-one University of Montevallo Falcon Scholars in Action were honored for their service at an annual appreciation dinner held April 16 on the UM campus. Falcon Scholars and their guests were joined by Community Services Manager Reggie Holloway and Shelby County Chief Operating Officer Phil Burns, as well as social services agency directors and staff members of UM’s Office of Service Learning and Community Engagement (OSLACE).
The welcome was given by UM President John W. Stewart III and UM student Quincy Hall provided piano music for the evening. Holloway, who gave the invocation, also spoke passionately about the program at the event.
A collaboration between UM and Shelby County Community Services, the Falcon Scholars in Action Program was launched in 2009. Each year, up to 25 students are accepted into this highly competitive program, where they volunteer for one full year at local non-profit agencies. Students receive a stipend, which is funded by the county. Their services may include tutoring; preparation for the GED/ACT/SAT; providing training in job, computer and social skills; and a variety of other service-oriented functions. The program, designed to complement the University’s curricular emphasis on service learning, accepts applications from students of any major. It provides not only invaluable hands-on experience for the students, but also emphasizes to them the value of an underlying commitment to serving others. The students’ work greatly benefits the organizations and clients for which they provide services.
“We are incredibly proud of the accomplishments and contributions of this year’s Falcon Scholars in Action,” stated Hollie Cost, director of the program. “These bright students continue to give their talents and labor to their designated agencies in so many ways. We’ve had student-led projects ranging from smoke-alarm installations to providing makeovers to women who reside in Safehouse. This showcase enabled our Falcon Scholars to present these projects to those in attendance. We are deeply grateful to Shelby County for providing this opportunity to our students and this level of support to so many deserving agencies.”
This year’s honorees included UM students Brittney Gressman, Miranda Hope Johnson, Hunter Huie, Keisha Williams and Megan Rawlinson, who served at Family Connection; Olivia Ricks and Ryan Gillespie, who served at the Juvenile Detention Facility; and Taylor Gibson, Keyanna Kinlock, Ebonie Johnson, Jade Harden and Rosemary Austin; who volunteered with Safehouse of Shelby County.
Shelby Emergency Assistance (SEA) benefitted from the efforts of Ali Junkins and Kendra Johnson, while Anna Greer and Donnie Bennett offered assistance at the Boys’ and Girls’ Club. Nathan Harper volunteered with the Shelby County Arts Council, while Ian Shippey served with ARC of Shelby County. Jennifer Payne spent her volunteer time at Owen’s House, while Whitney Quiniones volunteered at the Shelby County Museum and Archives. Kelly Haberstroh served as the Falcon Scholar Ambassador at OSLACE.
Junkins, in speaking of her experience with SEA, commented on the invaluable experience she had. “I have been lucky enough to help with launching the Smoke Alarm Initiative program, which will continue for at least another four years and which provides low-income and elderly community members with both free smoke alarms and free installations. Since October (2014), we have successfully installed alarms in 50 homes within the community,” she exclaimed.
“I am very thankful to be a part of this program, of SEA and of Falcon Scholars because it has given me such an appreciation for serving my community,” Junkins continued. “This opportunity has not only given me new perspectives, but has also taught me about humility and professionalism many times over. It’s an awesome feeling, knowing that everything you do for a given agency really makes a difference in your community. SEA is doing incredible things for Montevallo and I have so enjoyed working with these amazing, hard-working ladies.”