Wilkes University senior Dian McKinney finds her identity in the service she provides to her community, her country and across the globe.
The English and secondary education dual-major from Slatington, Pa., embraced the community service culture of Wilkes as she has taken on numerous roles of service including serving as community service coordinator for the first-year student orientation in summer 2017, the president of the education club, an e-mentor for transfer students and a tutor to Panamanian students at Wilkes.
“I didn’t come to Wilkes thinking I would have all of these experiences,” McKinney said, “but now that I have them, I realize how much they have shaped me and helped me become a better future educator.”
McKinney was recently honored for her service, as she was awarded the$2,500 Commonwealth Good Citizen Scholarship. This scholarship is reserved for full-time undergraduate students who attend a school that is a member of the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities of Pennsylvania. Recipients have shown an extraordinary commitment to community service and who have demonstrated creativity in shaping their volunteer activities.
“When I got the letter in the mail that I was one of the 10 people who were chosen in the state of Pennsylvania and there were 40 applicants, I was really excited and humbled by that. I was just so happy when I received it and it’s helped me out so much to complete my senior year,” McKinney said.
In her letter of intent for the scholarship, McKinney described her experience with a Wilkes Alternative Spring Break trip to the Dominican Republic that she took her sophomore year. “We taught children six-years-old and under and the teachers, English,” she said. Teaching in a one-room school house with her Wilkes peers opened doors to new opportunities back on campus.
In the spring 2017 semester, McKinney was approached by Thomas A. Hamill and Chad W. Stanley, associate professors of English, to take on a new role.
“He (Stanley) and Dr. Hamill talked to me about doing tutoring with the Panama students,” McKinney said. “I think it’s those connections which allowed me to have more experiences on campus as well.” Wilkes became one of 13 universities to host the MEDUCA-Bilingual Panama Program in 2016. The program invites Panamanian teachers to further their education at Wilkes.
McKinney’s goals of becoming a teacher have given her more avenues for service as she and members of the Education Club create Jared Box Project donations for children’s hospitals to lift the spirits of those in need. A Jared Box is a plastic storage box filled with small gifts, toys, games and activities. Started in 2001 by the children at Our Lady of Victory School in State College, Pa., the Jared Box Project honors their classmate Jared, who passed away on Nov. 12, 2000 after being diagnosed with an incurable brainstem tumor. This year the club plans to create 150 Jared Boxes to send to the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and Geisinger Wyoming Valley Medical Center.
“At the last open house, there was a parent who had a child that was in CHOP since he was born up through the age of 10 or so,” McKinney explained. “She gave us a $100 donation; we were all crying. She wanted to support us because she had a meaningful connection. Some people surprise you with just how kind they are.”
Moments like this inspire McKinney to continue building community service opportunities, which is exactly what she did during the summer 2017 orientation.
“There are a few new projects I integrated that are on-campus projects,” she said. The first-year students created roughly 150 cards in Bedford Hall for the Cards for Hospitalized Kids organization. “They’re just silly cards with puns,” McKinney explained. Groups also assembled 200 lunches in the Marts gym through the June and July orientation sessions in a partnership with the Volunteers of America. These lunches were shared with a local soup kitchen to give to members of the community.
“The reason why I set up some of these on-campus activities was to show them that you don’t necessarily need a car or transportation to make a difference. You can do things on campus and make things and send them out to different organizations and they’ll receive them and give them to those in need.”
McKinney is planning for her future as a teacher as she completes her observation hours as part of the education curriculum as well as working for the Writing Center and Club Hub. She hopes that working for the Writing Center will enhance her ability to grade papers as she enters the teaching field.
Looking forward to her spring semester of student teaching, McKinney is using her skills and service-oriented background to plan for her future.