Press Release for Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Student Honored for Superior Service at Spring Commencement

Contact: Joanna Norris, Assistant Director
Department of Media Relations and Events
(904) 620-2102

The University of North Florida will honor a student with an outstanding record of volunteerism when it hands out nearly 1,900 degrees Friday, May 4, during spring commencement at the UNF Arena.

The Senior Service Award will be presented to Melissa Bright, who will receive a bachelor’s degree in psychology. The UNF Alumni Association presents the Senior Service Award to a graduating senior for outstanding volunteer service to the University or community. The award will be presented during the 7 p.m. commencement ceremony.

With a 3.9 GPA, Bright has become well known on the UNF campus and in the community. Her service to UNF students is quite unusual for someone who is a student herself. She spends countless hours each week mentoring fellow students and finding creative ways in which to facilitate their successes. Bright has taught honor students how to create their sophomore honors portfolios and how to write an honors thesis.

Bright also organized and chaired a panel discussion that showed students how to secure funding for their research projects. Perhaps her most important service to UNF was helping collect and analyze data on what students need in order to make their UNF experience more valuable. She was the lead research assistant for a project titled “Tell Us What You Think…It Matters.” Not only did she collect and analyze data, but she wrote and presented the final report to several UNF constituencies.

Her off-campus community service is extensive and includes numerous projects. Most notably, Bright is the co-founder of an organization called Scholars Helping to Improve Schools, which raises money for 10 of the lowest socioeconomic-status schools in Jacksonville. She has also volunteered with Volunteers of Jacksonville, Habitat for Humanity, UF&Shands, the U.S.S. John F. Kennedy and more.

Although Bright feels that all volunteer experience is important, her most rewarding work was with Habijax, Inc., the Jacksonville affiliate of Habitat for Humanity. Through her many volunteer experiences, she has learned several lessons, including service is about the individuals for whom the service is provided and not the services provided to them.

Not only has she committed herself to engaging in service opportunities, but Bright has also been a leader engaging others in service through her own projects. “Imagine, each week that I contribute 10 or so hours, a few people join me and a few people join them. My five hundred hours or so each year then becomes thousands of hours of service,” she said. “And more importantly, more and more people experience the power of a single individual’s efforts just as I have.”

The commencement ceremony for the College of Education and Human Services, Brooks College of Health and the Coggin College of Business will be held at 3 p.m. The College of Arts and Sciences and the College of Computing, Engineering and Construction will hold their ceremony at 7 p.m. Both ceremonies will be held at the UNF Arena.

The University expects to award 1,283 bachelor’s degrees, 239 master’s degrees and four doctorates this term.