Mount Union College Sophomore Receives 2007 Ping Award

April 22, 2010

Mount Union College sophomore Luke Messner, a double major in political science and philosophy from Dalton, has received the Ohio Campus Compact (OCC) 2007 Charles J. Ping Award. The first Mount Union nominee for the honor, Messner will be honored for his award award at the College's annual Honors Convocation on Thursday, April 19 at 10:30 a.m. in Mount Union Theatre.

Luke Messner

Messner was nominated for the award by Mount Union staff members Amanda Espenschied-Reilly, director of service-learning and community service, and Lorie Miller, director of the Dowling Mentor Program.

In his two years at Mount Union, Messner has dedicated a great deal of time to community service and campus involvement. In fact, according to Espensciend-Reilly, he has logged more than 300 hours of community service since August. As a Midwest Campus Compact Citizen-Scholar he receives an education award to use toward tuition in return for community service. He is an active member of the Dowling Mentor Program, mentoring a student in the Alliance City School District, and Alpha Phi Omega, a service honorary at Mount Union. He also serves as a bus aid for the Early Learning School, a volunteer for Meals on Wheels and Alliance Community Hospital, and a member of the newly-charged Service-Learning Task Force at Mount Union.

'Service to others is way of life for Luke,' said Miller. 'He is involved with many service projects while also achieving academically and taking leadership roles on campus. What is amazing is that he is only a sophomore. I look forward to all that he will accomplish on our campus and his life.'

Messner, who also traveled to Swaziland, Africa last summer to work with communities in need, earned the Ping Award for his work with the Alliance Neighborhood Center, which Messner describes in his application essay as 'a non-profit organization composed of individuals who exhibit humility and compassion in the truest sense.'

'The Alliance Neighborhood Center is a group of social service organizations that have come together in one location in order to serve as a 'one-stop shop' for those in need,' said Espenschied-Reilly. 'Mount Union was a founding member of this group and still continues to be an active partner and source of support.'

The immediate goal of Messner's work with the Alliance Neighborhood Center was to raise awareness for the local Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP), a federal energy crisis program with a chapter in Alliance. In the long-term, the goal is to create an opportunity for the partnership of HEAP and the neighborhood center in an effort to better address the needs of the Alliance community.

Messner has done a great deal of research on both organizations and the City of Alliance, as well as meeting with affected members of the community and individuals involved in both organizations.

'My work with this project is not close to being finished, but the work that I completed proved to be as beneficial for me as it was to the citizens of Alliance,' said Messner in his application essay. 'I was instilled with a new sense of humility and a greater sense of awareness of the fact that no matter the community there are individuals in need of help.

'My original goals have been surpassed and as a result, I have created much more ambitious goals,' he continued. 'This project has helped generate a campus-wide interest and a sense of urgency for the implementation of a service-learning based curriculum. I have matured greatly through my past experiences and I look forward to working more with this project and working on my campus in an attempt to possibly make a difference, even if it only be in the life of just one individual.'

In addition to work on campus and in the community, Messner was one of 12 Mount Union students selected to travel to Mississippi during spring break to assist in the continual rebuilding in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. He also attended a National Conference on Civic Engagement in Austin, TX with five other Mount Union students in February.

Messner, who plans to attend law school and become involved in politics on a state or national level, had an additional opportunity to learn more about his future career field when he met with John Boccieri of the Ohio House of Representatives and Robert F. Hagan of the Ohio Senate in the fall to discuss issues pertinent to the state of Ohio. While there, he also had the opportunity to hear from other members of Congress at a luncheon and observe a session of the Ohio Senate.

As if his campus and community involvement weren't impressive enough, Messner manages to match his outstanding level of service with high academic achievement, continually earning Dean's List status.

'When it came time to nominate a student for this award, Luke stood out,' said Espenschied-Reilly. 'He is an amazing young man with natural leadership capabilities. His compassion and dedication to service is inspiring.'

The Charles J. Ping Award was designed to recognize and honor undergraduate students for their outstanding leadership and contributions to community service or service-learning on their campuses and within their communities.

Each Ohio Campus Compact campus could nominate a student for the Charles J. Ping Award for that campus. From all of those nominees, eight were chosen as the top candidates and their community partner receives a $500 award to continue the partnership. Messner's legacy grant is sponsored by State Farm Insurance and the Alliance Neighborhood Center will benefit as his community partner.

'To be nominated for this award was exciting but to be chosen as a recipient is truly an honor,' said Messner. 'The financial donation to the Alliance Neighborhood Center will aid them as they continue to be a beacon of hope in the Alliance community. I am thrilled to bring positive attention to Mount Union and the programs which have instilled within me such an intense desire to help others.'

He is one of three award winners to become candidates for the National Swearer Award Competition. The 2007 Howard R. Swearer Student Humanitarian Award recognizes students for their innovative strategies in addressing community issues and needs and their efforts to build and sustain this work among their peers and within their institution. The award consists of $1,500 for each student, a $250 donation to a service program or organization the student has been involved in and a $1,250 award for the student's use in professional development.

Ohio Campus Compact is a coalition of nearly 1,100 colleges and university presidents dedicated to promoting community service, civic engagement and service-learning in higher education.

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