2019 Charles J. Ping Student Service Award Winners Announced

April 8, 2019

The Charles J. Ping Student Service Award, sponsored by Ohio Campus Compact (OCC), is designed to recognize and honor undergraduate students for their outstanding leadership and contributions to community service or service-learning on their campus and within their community.  These students represent the next generation of civic leaders and problem solvers. The award is named in honor of Charles J. Ping, who served as President of Ohio University from 1975 – 1994.  An early supporter and Board Member of Ohio Campus Compact, Ping has been a tireless advocate for campus-community partnerships and increased opportunities for students to become active and engaged citizens.

This recognition is granted annually to undergraduates at Ohio Campus Compact member institutions.

“Over the course of an academic year, Ohio colleges and universities offer many opportunities for students to participate in civic life.  While many students participate in civic activities and experiences, a few rise above others in their commitment and leadership to community service. Ohio Campus Compact is pleased to recognize nine outstanding student civic leaders with the Charles J. Ping Award this year.” ~Richard Kinsley, Executive Director, Ohio Campus Compact

Students nominated to be a 2019 Charles J. Ping Student Service Award winner compete with other nominees from across the state for two $250 Seretta Saylor Legacy Award mini grants, to be given to a nonprofit organization of the winner’s choice. The Seretta Saylor Legacy Award recognizes students who address economic, emotional and environmental community needs.

OCC is excited to announce the 2019 Ping Awardees:

  • Brandon Willinger, Bowling Green State University
  • Elyzabeth King, Defiance College
  • Michael Angelo, Denison University
  • Zachary Chapman*, John Carroll University
  • Sianna Green, Lorain County Community College
  • Jesus Martinez-Garcia*, Oberlin College
  • Raissa Kanku, Ohio Wesleyan University
  • Haylie Schmoll, Otterbein University
  • Corina Cleveland, Wittenberg University
  • Donald Foley, Xavier University

Check out the 2019 digital Ping booklet to learn more about all of the Ping recipients.

While all Ping awardees show exceptional leadership, initiative and innovation, OCC recognizes Zachary Chapman and Jesus Martinez-Garcia as the 2019 Legacy Award winners!

Zachary Chapman, John Carroll University

When I first met Jose, through Labre, he knew little English and was afraid. Knowing minimal Spanish, I talked with him, but he said he didn’t want any help. We still provided him with a meal, and prayed with him. After this, Jose broke into tears because he felt nobody in his life had ever been that kind to him. He believed he didn’t deserve love. I have been volunteering with the JCU Labre Project since my freshmen year at John Carroll, enjoying every minute of it. The goal of Labre is to provide unsheltered homeless people in the city of Cleveland with food, clothing, and, most importantly, friendship, every Friday. This program has changed me because I have never encountered a population who needed something I can always provide: genuine compassion. The homeless people we have befriended are faced with the challenging task of seeking acceptance in a city that too easily ignores the needs of the homeless and marginalized. We provide the acceptance and love they desperately seek because our goal is to see people beyond the stereotypes and labels.

This past year, I took on a leadership role as the Vice President of Labre. My role now challenges me to lead and mentor other students who are interested in getting to know and befriend those who are homeless. On campus, I started a planning team, whose sole purpose is to recognize our amazing volunteers, making them feel valued. I also planned the first annual Labre retreat to allow our volunteers to reflect on their experiences in volunteering with Labre. This role also involves mitigating conflicts within the Labre officer team and attending all 52 Labre excursions every Friday.

In the summer of 2018, I became an intern with the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless (NEOCH) as part of the Center for Service and Social Action’s JCU Summer in the City Service and Social Action Internship Program. In this role, I conducted legal research to begin crafting a “Bill of Rights” for the homeless population of Cleveland. First, I met with the homeless population during their homeless congress to learn about the problems they faced. Next, I met with homeless service advocates to get their input. Later, I met with the ACLU who provided legal advice on how to introduce this bill to City Council. Finally, after approval of the bill from everyone, I sought out a City Councilmen to sponsor it. My goal was to change the system and create laws which protected my friends experiencing homelessness, thereby improving their quality of life. This bill is still being moved through City Council; funding discussions have made it difficult to move forward. I still seek regular feedback on the Bill from my Labre friends. Giving my homeless friends back their voice, has given them purpose again. Labre taught me no human deserves to feel less than human. I have utilized this lesson to enact change in my community as an advocate for my friends experiencing homelessness.

Jesus Martinez-Garcia, Oberlin College

Founding and leading El Centro Volunteer Initiative (ECVI) is the culmination of my leadership and community engagement with Lorain County during my undergraduate career. Our student organization focuses on teaching Citizenship Classes, English Communication Classes, and writing grants for El Centro de Servicios Sociales (El Centro), a community non-profit. The role of this non-profit is pivotal as it primarily serves the Latino community in Lorain County.

My endeavors to build a strong partnership with El Centro has allowed ECVI to connect Oberlin students directly with community members in the county. The genesis of this partnership began during my first year when the leaders of Obies for Undocumented Inclusion, a student advocacy group, were implementing a private reading for Oberlin students on citizenship. A component of this private reading had students tutor permanent residents on the 100 questions in U.S naturalization exam, every Saturday morning at El Centro. Intrigued by the mission of the private reading, I decided to attend one Saturday to lend a hand. That one Saturday turned to a whole semester of helping out as the permanent residents, the community members, I met shifted my perspective on immigration in North East Ohio. When studying the 100 questions on US Civics and History, the community members would share their immigrant narratives and the barriers, such as language, cost, and legal help that impeded them from obtaining their citizenship.

Hearing these barriers, I was motivated to address them directly. Thus, I soon began to mobilize Oberlin students to not only volunteer for the citizenship tutoring but also start an English communication class and a grant writing/ fundraising committee. A key event that formalized all these small initiatives into ECVI, now with a 14 person leadership board and over 30 active volunteers every semester, was the 2016 presidential election. Immigration took center stage in political discourse. Through the election race, I saw the demand for the citizenship tutoring triple and with consultations with experts in pedagogy, a solid 10-week course was developed. After the election, energy from my peers to do tangible work channeled into ECVI and El Centro. Once just a volunteer helping out on a Saturday, I now found myself in a leadership position leading strategic planning meetings, connecting with heads of other organizations, and bridging the essential partnership with El Centro and its staff.

During my growth as a leader, I also came to understand the difference between simple volunteering and community engagement. There are responsibilities that come with community engagement. There is still harm that can be done when entering a community no matter how well intentioned one may be. Volunteering has pitfalls such as the savior mentality, deficit community thinking, and the complexity of white volunteers entering a brown/black community. I made it part of the org’s mission to address these issues via training and workshops required for all volunteers and ECVI leaders. Through reflections and feedback, we hope to continue to better our organization, ourselves, and the relationship with Lorain County.