The Extraordinary Community Service award honors students and student organizations that exhibit the Volunteer spirit in the community.
Haslam Scholars Program
Students in the Haslam Scholars Program serve the community through their work with students at Pond Gap Elementary School and Inskip Elementary School, two local schools with high populations of new immigrants and refugees as well as students from low-income households. Over the past four years, Haslam Scholars have provided 7,500 hours of service to the two schools. They’ve supported teachers in the classroom; worked in after-school clubs, community gardens, and sports; helped put on community fairs and the Science Saturday Program; and provided one-on-one reading help and foreign language interpretation. What stands out most is the number of new clubs the scholars have started at the schools, including LEGO League, Bike Club, and Spanish Club.
Ask senior Justin Owens what he wants to do with his life and you’ll hear two words: make change. As the sociology major puts it, “Change is a domino effect. Anything can change a person’s life.” Through his community service, Owens is no doubt bringing about change. He recently led a research team that explored the effects of rezoning and gentrification in Knoxville, culminating with a community forum and presentation. He also works with the organization Stop School Pushout, which seeks to end the school-to-prison pipeline by working with schools, law enforcement, and other groups. He has volunteered his time at organizations ranging from Appalachian Bear Rescue to a middle school soccer team, looking to tip that domino anywhere he can.
Grant Williams, who will graduate in three years with a degree in supply chain management, is well known for his basketball success. But those who know him best describe this basketball team captain as genuine, humble, and dedicated to servant leadership. “His commitment to people—like getting to know every maintenance and janitorial staff member at Thompson-Boling Arena or stopping to help change a stranger’s tire on the road or his genuine relationships with teammates—makes Grant one of the most unique elite-level college athletes that I’ve ever met,” one staff member wrote. Williams is a frequent volunteer at Emerald Youth Foundation, Children’s Hospital, Hoops for Hope, and the Special Olympics. He also has been a part of the VOLeaders Academy, an intensive leadership development program for student–athletes. His commitment to using his platform in sport to improve the lives of others is inspiring. As the same staff member wrote, citing Williams’s 22,500 Twitter followers, “I don’t know that this institution has a better person showing the country what we are all about than Grant.”