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The University of North Florida will honor two students with outstanding records of volunteerism when it hands out more than 1,700 degrees Friday, April 25, during spring commencement at the UNF Arena, Building 34, on campus.Karly Hirst, who will graduate with a bachelor’s degree in education, will be recognized as the recipient of the Senior Service Award, while Brett Veneziale, who will earn a bachelor’s degree in exceptional student education, 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. Both awards will be presented during the 9 a.m. ceremony. Hirst, a native of Burke, Va., has become well known on campus and in the Jacksonville community. She has been a member of the Presidential Envoys Student Alumni Association at UNF for three years and has played an instrumental role in organizing and facilitating various envoy activities, such as beach clean-ups, a zoo clean-up, Clara White Mission service, participation in McKenzie’s Run and more. She quickly worked her way up in the organization, starting as a member on the Service Committee, and then becoming the service chair, and currently serves as the vice president of external programming. Hirst’s service and leadership goes beyond the envoys. On campus, she is the overall director for UNF Dance Marathon and has served in this organization for three years in a variety of leadership roles. The UNF Dance Marathon is a 17-hour event where several hundred UNF students and faculty members participate in raising money for the Children’s Miracle Network hospitals. The organization has successfully raised more than $136,000 in the past five years. In the community, she volunteers with Children’s Miracle Network and coaches a soccer team for the Down Syndrome Association of Jacksonville.Veneziale is a Southside resident, and his tumultuous upbringing fueled his desire to make a difference in this world. He is a current member of SERTOMA (Service to Mankind), which raises funds for non-profit organizations, such as BEAM, Meals on Wheels, Dial a Ride and more. In 2012, he was named “Sertoman of the Year,” has been a Citizen on Patrol for the Jacksonville Police Department and served meals to the homeless at St. Paul’s Church.Veneziale coaches Jacksonville Beach baseball and Jaguars youth football. An active volunteer with HEAL, a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting the families of children diagnosed with autism, he has helped start a short film camp through the UNF Banner Center and started “Bowling Buddies,” with the help of a friend, for students with autism. He served as an assistant program director of Inclusion Solution for students with disabilities and started his own free mentoring/tutoring program.The ceremony for the Brooks College of Health and the College of Education and Human Services will be held at 9 a.m., followed by a ceremony for the Coggin College of Business and the College of Computing, Engineering and Construction at 12:30 p.m. The final commencement ceremony for the College of Arts and Sciences will be held at 4 p.m. All ceremonies will be held at the UNF Arena. The University expects to award a total of 1,545 bachelor’s degrees, 200 master’s degrees and 31 doctorates this term. Including the spring 2014 graduates, UNF has issued a total of 64,345 bachelor’s degrees, 16,878 master’s degrees and 345 doctorates since first opening its doors in 1972. UNF, a nationally ranked university located on an environmentally beautiful campus, offers students who are dedicated to enriching the lives of others the opportunity to build their own futures through a well-rounded education.
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