Western Carolina University presented its first Lily Community Engagement Award to Adam Ray, a graduating senior from Cullowhee, who donned the award’s green honor cords at commencement on Saturday, Dec. 14.
As award recipient, Ray, who majored in social sciences education and history with minors in economics and German, also will receive honorary membership in the Cullowhee Lily Society, which includes having a Cullowhee lily planted on campus in his honor, as well as a certificate from WCU’s Center for Service Learning.
“Adam has always found ways to give back through his involvement in numerous student organizations, his church and his job as a resident assistant,” said Zach Rumble, a graduate assistant in the Center for Service Learning and project manager for the award program’s implementation. “He has spent countless hours serving students and the local community through these avenues and is most deserving of the very first Lily Community Engagement Award.”
The student-initiated and student-designed awards program was developed to encourage and reward students who participate in and reflect on a wide range of community engagement opportunities. Students earn points for participating in LCEA-approved activities and submitting written reflections of their experiences. Those who successfully acquire 100 points distributed in different community engagement activity categories throughout their college careers are eligible for the award.
A pilot program of the award was launched this fall, and Ray, who was scheduled to graduate in December, worked with the program administrators to be able to participate.
A Teaching Fellow and a resident assistant, Ray’s community engagement as a WCU student began during his first semester as a freshman when he took part as an Honors College student in a roadside clean-up and landscaping initiative with the Cullowhee Revitalization Endeavor. He also became involved with the Jackson County Christmas Store, which helps families acquire holiday gifts, and volunteered for that project for three years.
In addition, he has repeatedly participated in the annual Tuckaseigee River Clean-Up; assisted with move-in day, helping new students carry belongings to their rooms and become acclimated to the campus; and taken part in hunger awareness events.
Last spring, he joined an alternative spring break trip to Baltimore, and with fellow WCU students, helped organizations that connect people in need with food, toiletries and other items.
This fall, Ray’s service activities have included seeking donations to fill bags to benefit those in need and selling Cullowhee lily bulbs as part of an effort to re-establish the flower on campus and to raise money for the Alumni Association scholarship fund. “As a history major, I found this (selling lily bulbs) to be an excellent opportunity to recognize and bring back something of historical significance to the university,” said Ray.
Ray said he aspires to work in international education someday and will travel to Germany this spring to teach English through a nonprofit program before pursuing a graduate degree.
“When you participate in service learning projects, you see the impact immediately,” he said. “I grew up here, and it feels good to know that I can leave a lasting and positive impact on the university and in the community that has done so much for me. I feel very honored and very thankful for the opportunity to serve.”
After Ray completed requirements for the award, he was bestowed the Lily Community Engagement Award’s green honor cords, which he wore at commencement in addition to the Honors College medallion and cords honoring his participation in Phi Alpha Theta honor society and the National Society of Leadership and Success; cords for graduating summa cum laude (with highest honors) and cords for his service as a chancellor’s ambassador.
Lane Perry, director of the Center or Service Learning, said Ray shared in his written reflection for consideration for the award that his community engagement experiences had helped him see the importance of service, learn more about his interests and passions, and inspired him to continue such work after graduation.
“Adam is exactly what we envisioned when developing the LCEA,” said Perry. “He is a student who strives to serve his community and engage in supportive and useful ways. He will go on to do great things.”
Perry and Rumble said they hope the awards program, which will be launched formally next fall, will help inspire more students to get involved in service as a way of life.
“We hope the Lily Award fosters a culture of service within our campus community, the likes of which Cullowhee has never seen,” said Rumble. “We also hope that the award recipients continue serving those around them after leaving Western.”