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Press Release for Monday, April 20, 2009

UNF Students Honored for 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 two students with an outstanding record of volunteerism when it hands out nearly 1,500 degrees Friday, April 24, during spring commencement at the UNF Arena on campus.

Avondale resident Ian McInnis, who will graduate with a bachelor’s degree in Business and a 3.47 GPA, will be recognized as the recipient of the Senior Service Award, while UNF junior John Kuai, a Biology major who lives on the Southside, will be recognized as the recipient of the Albert D. Ernest Jr. Caring Award.

The UNF Alumni Association presents the Senior Service Award to a graduating senior for outstanding volunteer service to the University or community. The Caring Award recognizes a student who demonstrates the spirit of caring, humanitarianism and volunteerism exemplified by Albert Ernest. The Senior Service award will be presented during the 3 p.m. ceremony and the Caring Award at the 11 a.m. ceremony.

Since arriving at the University, McInnis has volunteered in several capacities. He served as an ambassador for the Coggin College of Business, volunteered for Reformed University Fellowship, was active with the UNF Spirit Advisory Board and is a volunteer for the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Jacksonville. Additionally, he has served as president of the Presidential Envoys Student Alumni Association for more than two years.

Most recently, McInnis helped facilitate the annual UNF Kids Fest, a free event organized for disadvantaged children in Duval County. The goal of Kids Fest is to provide an educational, fun-filled day, where several hundred children have the opportunity to visit a college campus, interact with their peers in a positive atmosphere and be inspired to attend college.

He can be found every Friday night at the Ronald McDonald House, working with families from around the world to help them become acclimated and comfortable during their stay in Jacksonville. He also serves by helping with check-in, check-out, cleaning rooms, cooking dinner and playing with the kids in the house.

“After the kids have had a long day of treatment at the hospital, it gives me the greatest pleasure to be able to pull them around the house in a wagon and see the smile on their faces. No amount of money or free time for myself could ever replace the joy it gives me to bring a smile to a sick child’s face,” McInnis said.

Kuai will also be recognized as the recipient of the Caring Award during spring commencement. He arrived in the United States in 2001 as one of the Lost Boys from Sudan. His journey began as a child when he became one of 30,000 children separated from their families during his country’s civil war.

For nine years, Kuai lived in a refugee camp under very difficult conditions. Lack of food, water or medical treatment took its toll on many children. There was, however, one bright spot in the camp—a school where Kuai became an excellent student.

Since arriving in the United States, he has continued to serve by teaming up with the Alliance for the Lost Boys of Sudan, making presentations to schools, churches and businesses and educating them on the history of his country. He is determined not to let his past define his future and to continue in his service to others.

Additionally, Grant Prather, a UNF senior who passed away in February from his battle with colon cancer, will be awarded a posthumous bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from the Coggin College of Business. His mother, Jo Anne McKinney, will accept the degree on his behalf. The two co-founded The Big Fun Foundation, which created the Big Fun Box, an activity box designed to help pediatric patients have fun during extended hospital stays.

The ceremony for the College of Arts and Sciences and the College of Computing, Engineering and Construction will be held at 11 a.m. The Brooks College of Health, Coggin College of Business and the College of Education and Human Services will hold their ceremony at 3 p.m. Both ceremonies will be held at the UNF Arena.

The University expects to award 1,464 bachelor’s degrees, 240 master’s degrees and 31 doctorates this term.