Jefferson Award honoree volunteers at clinic, tutors [video]

March 3, 2014 | Features, UToday, Alumni, Engineering, Medicine and Life Sciences
By Samantha Watson

When she sees an opportunity, Yelena Zhernovskiy doesn’t hesitate to help those in need.

President Lloyd Jacobs and Yelena Zhernovskiy were at the Feb. 26 UT Jefferson Awards luncheon.

President Lloyd Jacobs and Yelena Zhernovskiy were at the Feb. 26 UT Jefferson Awards luncheon.

Zhernovskiy, a fifth-year bioengineering student at The University of Toledo, volunteers for a variety of causes. She is a regular at UT’s CommunityCare Clinics, which are free health-care clinics that provide general medical care, HIV testing, women’s health services and nutrition/diabetes education classes.

“I really like the cause because you can give back to the community, and I think it’s a great opportunity for medical students,” said Zhernovskiy, who is considering going to medical school.

Zhernovskiy, who emigrated from Ukraine when she was 4 years old, also helps tutor a Russian girl at a local elementary school. During fall semester, she visited a few times a week and now does home tutoring as well.

“There were really rough days where she couldn’t handle too much with the language barrier,” Zhernovskiy said. “For me, it’s really rewarding when I can see her eyes light up when she understands the material we study.”

Along with the CommunityCare Clinics and tutoring, Zhernovskiy also volunteers with UT Hillel, the Jewish student organization, and many other causes.

“I’m not overly committed to one activity,” Zhernovskiy said. “If there’s a need, I volunteer.”

Zhernovskiy is taking an alternative spring break with Hillel to volunteer with Give Kids the World. The 70-acre nonprofit storybook resort offers weeklong, cost-free vacations for kids with life-threatening illnesses and their families.

Because of her dedication to community service, Zhernovskiy was chosen as the UT Jefferson Award honoree for July. She was nominated by her classmate Michael Manzagol, a mechanical engineering student, who graduated in December.

Manzagol and Zhernovskiy both attended Sylvania Northview High School, along with Jordan Keefe, the Jefferson Award honoree for August. Manzagol, who previously was a business major, said Zhernovskiy helped him realize that mechanical engineering was the right path for him.

“She was engineering and she showed me what she was working on and asked for my help, so I got really involved with it,” Manzagol said. “It felt natural, and she encouraged me to check it out.”

Manzagol said Zhernovskiy’s volunteer work and everything she had done for him prompted the Jefferson Award nomination.

“I’m definitely honored to get the award, and I think that anything you can do when you see somebody that needs help — as a person, you should strive to help,” Zhernovskiy said.


For more information on the UT CommunityCare Clinics, visit

To nominate someone for a Jefferson Award, visit

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