The Wisconsin Campus Compact recently awarded a Presidential Civic Leadership Award to University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire senior Mark Lee.
The award is given to individuals who WiCC officials feel have demonstrated commitment to furthering the civic purpose of education in postsecondary settings. WiCC is a coalition of 31 college and university presidents in Wisconsin who support service-learning and civic engagement partnerships between campuses and the communities they serve.
A business administration major from Appleton, Lee received his award with others being honored at the State Superintendent's PK-16 Institute on Service-Learning and Civic Engagement held last month in Madison.
Earlier this fall, Lee also was a nominee for the prestigious Howard Swearer Student Humanitarian Award, given to several students annually by the national Campus Compact.
One of Lee's recognized accomplishments was the formation of a volunteer service organization, Students Building Communities Through Service. Along with two of his UW-Eau Claire friends and two students from other UW-System schools, Lee took the fall semester of 2003 off to help underprivileged people in the southern United States and Mexico.
"We started SBCTS because we had a goal to do service work," said Lee. "An organization like SBCTS seemed like the best way to accomplish this goal."
Lee, Luke Peters, Christopher Wilcox, Mike Van Handel and Adam Slota used their mental, physical and spiritual resources and talents to make a difference in Natchitoches and New Orleans, Louisiana, and in Mexico in the village of Yuchutti in the Tlaxiaco region of the state of Oaxaca. A quote from Mark Twain, said Lee, provided continuing inspiration during his travels: "Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by [staying] in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime."
In Natchitoches, Lee and friends worked construction to renovate homes in the rougher neighborhoods of the area. In New Orleans, they worked with Cory Howat at Boy's Hope Girl's Hope, a home for children who are capable of academic success but whose families are economically challenged. They renovated an old recreational room, played with children and performed many odd jobs. While in New Orleans they also worked at Good Shepherd School in the downtown area, teaching gym classes, playing with the children (K-3) and doing maintenance jobs.
In Mexico, they worked with Padre John Reuter, a pastor for 22 different communities, to construct a new church for the community.
Lee also has traveled to participate in several other service projects, including Young Neighbors in Action, Camp S.W.E.A.T., and a mission trip to the Dominican Republic. He and Peters volunteered at Ground Zero after 9-11, and Lee also has helped locally with Habitat for Humanity and the Salvation Army.
"It is a very powerful and rewarding experience any time you are removed from your comfort zone and exposed to another way of life," said Lee. "It's important for us to realize that the whole world doesn't live like we do."
Lee and Peters are researching the possibility of traveling to Nigeria over the upcoming winter break to work with a hospital, sorting and distributing medical supplies.
"SBCTS has enabled me to learn about myself and also our global society in general," said Lee. "These are experiences that all students could use to become global citizens and are readily available through organizations like SBCTS."
- UW-Eau Claire News Bureau