2011 Jefferson Award honoree gives time, smiles

April 3, 2012 | Features, UToday
By Nicolette Jett

UT senior Shannon Longenecker visited with a child during a mission trip to Haiti last summer.

Shannon Longenecker has had a passion for volunteerism since an early age.

She recalls local service opportunities at the Cherry Street Mission with her father and other service trips with her church.

In eighth grade, Longenecker and 15 other junior high students from a Christian mission group traveled for a month and a half to Honduras, where they planted banana trees and interacted with local children.

The UT senior majoring in biology continues that passion for service, having taken part in three service missions to Haiti while at the University.

“I have learned through all of the mission trips I have taken that a smile is universal,” Longenecker said. “Giving time to locals and their families is a powerful thing.”

The 22-year-old Toledoan was recognized for her dedication to volunteerism as the University’s fourth annual Jefferson Award for Public Service “Champion” Winner for 2011. The announcement came as a surprise to Longenecker during a congratulatory luncheon February in Libbey Hall for all the monthly Jefferson Award winners.

“Every honoree for 2011 inspires me to continue my volunteer efforts on and off campus,” she said. “The Jefferson Awards is a great organization, and I am honored to be recognized for volunteer efforts.”

While attending UT, Longenecker has participated in International Justice Mission, which is a human rights agency that works to raise awareness and justice for victims of sexual exploitation, slavery and other violent oppression. The UT chapter began two years ago, and Longenecker serves as vice president.

Last semester, Longenecker and other organization members gave a presentation called “Sex Trafficking Revealed” in UT residence halls to inform students of the startling statistics about sex trafficking in the Toledo area and around the world.

“Students were interested to help and wanted to learn more about International Justice Mission and our mission as a UT chapter,” she said. “Everyone is welcome to join our organization, and we encourage students of all religions, races and backgrounds.”

Along with her University commitments, which includes the Perceptual Motor Development Program, Longenecker finds time to volunteer around the Toledo community as a junior high basketball coach, and she provides assistance to Nature’s Nursery and the Cherry Street Mission.

Longenecker, who will graduate in May, plans to attend Ohio State University in the fall for veterinary school.

If you know of an unsung hero who dedicates his or her time to volunteering and community service, be sure to submit a nomination for the Jefferson Awards. Go to utoledo.edu/Jeffersonaward or facebook.com/utjeffersonawards.

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