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Press Release for Wednesday, April 11, 2007

UNF Students Recognized for Caring Spirits

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

One wants to practice medicine in developing countries and the other aspires to be an occupational therapist for children with disabilities. Both University of North Florida students were honored today for their caring spirits.

Jacqulyn Simmons was awarded the 2007 Albert D. Ernest Jr. Caring Award, which recognizes a student who demonstrates the spirit of caring, humanitarianism and volunteerism exemplified by Albert Ernest. She received a bronze sculpture created by Frank Eliscu, designer of the Heisman Trophy, the Oval Office’s Presidential Eagle and the Presidential Medal of Freedom. She also received a cash award for a charity of her choice.

Nicole McKnight is the recipient of the 2007 Bill & Angie Halamandaris Caring Internship. She will intern at the Heart of America Foundation in Washington, D.C. for eight to 10 weeks. Heart of America Foundation is a national, nonsectarian, nonpartisan, nonprofit, humanitarian organization that celebrates, honors and empowers young adults who enrich the human race with the quality of their lives.

Simmons, a dual major in psychology and sociology, wants to practice medicine in developing countries and has accumulated more than 890 hours of community service since she entered UNF in the fall of 2003. She serves as a service-learning facilitator on campus, recruiting other students to become involved in the community.

The Arlington resident has been a mentor for three years with the Jaguar Foundation/UNF Community Scholars Program. The program mentors at-risk high school students from Duval and St. Johns counties, encouraging them to attend college and providing assistance with the SAT and ACT testing process as well as applying for financial aid.

Simmons has also participated in two very different alternative spring breaks offered through the UNF Honors Program. One took her to Ecuador and the Amazon basin, where she and a team of UNF students helped rehabilitate a village school bathroom, rebuild walls, doors and plumbing. She also traveled to Washington D.C. and worked with chronically-ill children at the HSC Pediatric Center, where she conducted play therapy and reading one-on-one with children and in small groups.

McKnight is a health science major and wants to be an occupational therapist for children with disabilities. She has been involved in numerous volunteer activities both on and off campus. Currently, she serves as president of the Presidential Envoys Student Alumni Association, which serves the campus, faculty and staff at UNF as well as a philanthropy event every year. As president, McKnight is planning Kidsfest, an event for underprivileged children in Jacksonville.

The Intracoastal resident has a special place in her heart for children and has been volunteering weekly since her sophomore year at Hope Haven Family and Children’s Clinic. As a volunteer in the Down Syndrome Center, McKnight assists in daily office activities, guides families to appointments and aids physical and occupational therapists when needed.

Additionally, she has served as a therapeutic recreation counselor for children with disabilities at Brevard Parks and Recreation; a companion and caregiver for adults and children with varying disabilities at Lakeshore Supportive Care; an extended day teacher at Twin Lakes Academy Elementary School; and serves as a committee member for the Brevard County Buddy Walk, an annual event designed to raise awareness about Down Syndrome.