PHHP students recognized for service to community

College of Public Health and Health Professions students Allison Curran, Allison Trainor and Sarai Vargas-Vera were among 61 University of Florida students to receive UF’s 2013 Presidential Service Awards.

The UF Center of Leadership and Service honored the students at a ceremony March 12.

The Presidential Service Awards recognize undergraduate and graduate students who have dedicated their time and efforts to promoting social justice, community awareness and civic engagement on campus and in the community. Students receive the award based on performing 100 or more hours of service during the past year. The awards reception is sponsored by the UF Office of the President.

Allison Curran
Allison Curran

Allison Curran, a junior in the bachelor’s program in communication sciences and disorders, volunteers with organizations such as Noah’s Endeavor, Habitat for Humanity, Relay for Life, March for Babies, Eye of the Eagle Sanctuary and many more, through Alpha Phi Omega, UF’s primary co-ed community service fraternity.

“I chose Alpha Phi Omega because it was a meaningful way to meet people in college and make new friends my first semester,” Curran said. “I love the wide variety of service opportunities I have been able to volunteer with through this organization and the leadership roles it has allowed me to take.”

Curran serves as Alpha Phi Omega’s service vice president. She is responsible for planning the service projects offered to the group’s members each day of the week. That amounts to about 17 projects offered weekly to 130 members. She also logs all the members’ volunteer hours and coordinates with nonprofit organizations throughout Gainesville.

Curran’s volunteer and leadership experiences should serve her well in her future career.

“I aspire to work as an audiologist doing community outreach with nonprofit organizations,” she said.  “I hope to increase awareness and promote early intervention for children and families affected by hearing loss.”

Allison Trainor
Allison Trainor

Allison Trainor, a student in the online master’s in public health program, is president of UF’s Arts in Health Student Organization. She also volunteers with the Global Alliance for Arts in Health as the leader of the Students Taking Action Special Interest group. Trainor and her husband are project managers of the HOPE Worldwide Gainesville chapter, coordinating the Martin Luther King Jr. Service Day and the bi-annual canned food drives. She is also a volunteer community partner for the Area 3/13 Minority AIDS Program.

“I love volunteering and each of these organizations offers something unique to the community and to my own professional development,” Trainor said. “I’m passionate about improving community health and quality of life around the world — which each of these organizations plays a role in accomplishing — and I’m a firm believer in the importance of the arts as a therapeutic tool in the healing process, for an individual or in a community.” 

Volunteering allows Trainor to participate in community building activities while also preparing her for a career in public health, she said.

“I want to be in a leadership role, preferably executive committee work for a health-based organization or non-profit, as a long-term career goal, so my work as president and project manager really enhances my skills,” she said. 

Sarai Vargas-Vera
Sarai Vargas-Vera

Sarai Vargas-Vera, a sophomore majoring in health science, volunteers at the Malcom Randall Veterans Affairs Medical Center Ophthalmology Clinic and has held a number of volunteer positions throughout Shands at UF, including the North Tower operating room, the pediatric emergency department, the pediatric intensive care unit and the neonatal intensive care unit. She has volunteered with St. Francis House and Ronald McDonald House and served as a mentor for UF’s Project SET SAIL, a post-secondary education program for students with intellectual disabilities. Last winter she spent her holiday break in Nicaragua on a medical mission trip for the international organization Global Medical Training. She was recently elected treasurer of the group’s UF chapter.

“Volunteering is a great learning experience not only for my career, but as an individual,” Vargas-Vera said. “It has made me a much more well-rounded person, which has allowed me to understand people with different conditions, personalities and beliefs.”

Vargas-Vera plans to pursue a career as a physician assistant specializing in pediatrics. Many physician assistant degree programs require applicants have 1,000 hours of direct patient contact experience, but 2,000 hours are recommended in order to be a stronger applicant.

“I have chosen to volunteer not because I need to do it for school, but because I want to do it,” she said. “I love interacting with patients and helping others. It is not only giving back to the community that makes me happy, but knowing that I have been able to help improve someone’s quality of life goes far beyond any other reward. Medicine is one of the most rewarding professions and I am honored to be a part of it already.”