PHHP students Karen Cohen, Jessica Killingsworth and Ilyssa Schatz are recipients of UF’s Presidential Service awards. They were recognized at a ceremony held April 23 at the Earl and Christy Powell University House.
The awards program honors students who dedicate themselves to promoting social justice, community awareness and civic engagement on campus and in the community. Recipients must have completed 400 hours of service during their time as an undergraduate student or 200 hours for graduate and professional students. Recipients were given a medallion that can be worn with their regalia at commencement.
Karen Cohen is a second-year student in the college’s master’s in health administration program. She is active in UF’s chapter of the national service fraternity Alpha Phi Omega and volunteers for multiple organizations including Relay for Life, Boys and Girls Club, Alachua County Humane Society, Noah’s Endeavor and Ronald McDonald House. She also coordinated service events as the service chair for the Health Administration Student Association. Cohen says she has received as much from the experiences as she has given, gaining valuable leadership, relationship and communication skills.
“I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to serve and give back to my community,” Cohen said. “I know I will carry the lessons I’ve learned through volunteering and serving the Gainesville community to my professional career. I hope I am able to continue giving back and make an impact in my community after graduation.”
Jessica Killingsworth, a senior in the bachelor’s in health science program, is a PHHP dean’s ambassador, a mentor for the L.E.A.P. student mentorship program, vice president of the Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society and a volunteer for ElderCare of Alachua County and Al’z Place, which provides care for people with Alzheimer’s disease and other memory impairments.
As a former service director and vice president for UF Golden Key, Killingsworth took the lead on the group adopting a first grade class. During a classroom visit, she observed an incident of bullying and it inspired her to create the character “W.U.L.L.Y. the Sheep Who Does Not Bully,” which she and fellow Golden Key members presented to the class. She was pleased to learn on a subsequent visit to the class that two students involved in the original bullying incident she witnessed told her they had stopped a friend from bullying another student.
“Sure, it was one discussion on bullying with one classroom,” she said. “Yet, the students felt empowered to talk about bullying with their friends — something that still makes me smile to this day.”
Ilyssa Schatz, a senior in the bachelor’s in public health program, also received UF’s Outstanding Service Among Undergraduate Students award, which is given to a student whose service was exemplary. She has volunteered with Children Beyond our Borders, where she started a tutoring program for migrant workers’ children in Alachua, and with UF Inclusive Sports and Unified Fitness, a fitness program pairing students with disabilities from Sidney Lanier Center with UF students. She served as a health education intern at the Girls Place Inc., and as a camp counselor for Florida Diabetes Camp and Camp Boggy Creek every summer for the past four years.
Schatz seeks to help campers build self-confidence and learn to care for their own health needs. That may include holding the hand of a nine-year-old as she inserts her insulin pump for the first time or encouraging a girl who had been bullied for her illness to share her musical talents with fellow campers.
“I cherish moments such as being asked by my camper with spina bifida to accompany her onstage for a talent show, swim in the pool with her for the very first time, or listen to the stories of a child battling numerous surgeries and hospital visits,” Schatz said. “Service has helped me find my goal in life to pursue pediatric nursing, because I am happiest when I making a difference in the life of a child who needs it most.”