The United Way of Central Georgia presented the entire Mercer student body with the Lt. Randy Parker Volunteer of the Year Award, and this is the first time the award has been given to a collective body.
The volunteer award is designed to “recognize a volunteer or volunteers who are outstanding in raising awareness for UWCG’s efforts in the local community,” according to a press release.
The award’s namesake Randy Parker was a Macon-Bibb County firefighter who passed in the line of duty in 2015. This is the fourth time United Way has presented the award.
This year, Mercer students are being recognized for their work in Macon-Bibb County schools through the Read2Succeed Program.
“Each of the past two years, approximately 200 Mercer students have served as tutors for United Way’s Read2Succeed program, which engages local students in reading for at least one hour per week outside of class,” according to a press release.
There are Mercer students who have been participating in the program for years and some who just joined the program this semester.
Sophomore Donald Williams has been working as a tutor for a year and a half.
“Teaching and watching the kids I work with has reminded me of the importance that we as people, mentors and leaders can have on one another when we dedicate time to the development of our youth,” Williams said. “They are our future and therefore should be given the best tools to grow as thinkers and creative individuals.”
The United Way has a Read United initiative and their goal is to bring up the reading score of all Bibb County Elementary School students to grade-level by the third grade, according to a press release.
Junior Miranda Stephen primarily assists with the second-grade math and pre-K & Kindergarten after-school care programs.
“I am so passionate about being a Mercer tutor because those children absolutely inspire me,” Stephen said. “You grow a deep bond with these kids and it sometimes feels as if you adopt the role of parent; the more I learn about these children drives me to recognize my strengths and weaknesses as a tutor to teach these children the best I can.”
Mercer students work in seven elementary schools with over 600 elementary school students, according to a press release.
“Together, we are making a difference in the lives of these students and in our community,” said Dr. Mary Alice Morgan in a press release.
Morgan is the senior vice provost for service-learning at Mercer.
“Mercer’s tutors work with students identified by teachers as having the lowest reading scores and the most struggles with reading. In turn, our students gain an education about the challenges facing children in low-income neighborhoods and a greater sense of civic responsibility. As we like to say at Mercer, ‘Changing the world starts at home,’” Morgan said in a press release.