College of Education > News and Publications > News: Jan. - March 2011 > Students Honored with Leadership and Service Awards

Students Honored with Leadership and Service Awards

College of Education students--Judi Hite, Alexa Hodge, Kate Nuschke, and Rachel Wiley--have been recognized with awards for their outstanding leadership skills and ongoing service to the community.

by Nancy Stiger (March 2011)

Four College of Education students--Judi Hite, Alexa Hodge, Kate Nuschke, and Rachel Wiley--have been recognized with awards for their outstanding leadership skills and ongoing service to the community. The awards were granted by the Student Leadership and Service Committee at Penn State.

Winner of the Eclipse Award, Judi Hite, was not instilled with leadership skills at an early age. Growing up in aJudi Hite.jpg mentally and physically abusive home left her feeling isolated and alone as a child.

It is the abuse and neglect, however, that gave Hite the strength to return to school as an adult learner. Determined to break the alcoholic trend in her family, she began pursuing her undergraduate degree, first in the field of organizational management.

Involvement with Autism Speaks and volunteering with Special Olympics sparked an interest in Hite, and she decided to switch majors.

“The joy on the faces of the Special Olympics athletes to see someone familiar year after year brings smiles and hugs to the volunteers,” Hite says. “It was through the feeling of joy and compassion that I received from working with people, that I switched my major from organizational management to rehabilitation and human services.”

Hite’s interest in volunteering grew from her role as a mother of a child with autism. She admits it’s difficult not knowing what each day will bring because, “Children with autism, no matter where they are on the spectrum, change constantly.”

Hite not only makes a difference in the life of her son, but also in the lives of those at Strawberry Fields. Strawberry Fields helps individuals with disabilities become independent and socially involved through a variety of services and support programs. Beginning as a volunteer in January 2011, Hite works on activity planning, assists with group meals, and spends time with the residents there.

“I love working with people who have disabilities, and our son has shown how important it is to have a support group surrounding this population,” she says.

Hite hopes to find the funds to continue her education to the graduate level. By using what she learns in the classroom, she plans to continue to help those in her community. She recommends returning to school to any prospective adult learners.

“At first I felt like this ‘old lady’ in a sea of youth, but they are such a joy to be with,” Hite says in regards to her classmates.

Alexa Hodge is one of Hite’s classmates. She has been awarded the Jane Wood Reno Memorial Scholarship also by the Penn State Student Leadership and Service Committee.

Hodge is also working towards a degree in rehabilitation and human services and plans to graduate this spring.

She is a volunteer in The Second Mile’s Program and is president of both the College’s Multicultural Education Student Association and the Rehabilitation Human Services Student Organization.

Hodge is also a recent recipient of the Pennsylvania Trio Scholarship Award, which recognizes perseverance and leadership skills, the Student Leader Award and the Pennsylvania Rehabilitation Award for Leadership and Advocacy.

The College of Education recently featured Hodge on the Web for her involvement and achievements. More information on Hodge and her accomplishments can be found here

Other rehabilitation and human services majors recognized for their services are Kate Nuschke, from Schnecksville, Pa., and Rachel Wiley, from Collegeville, Pa.

The senior duo are the recipients of the Pennsylvania Rehabilitation Association's Undergraduate Award in Direct Service and will receive their awards at the annual Pennsylvania Rehabilitation Association's Professional Development Institute on March 31.

Nuschke volunteers as a Penn State Lion Scout, serves as vice president of the Occupational Therapy Club, vice president of the Rehab and Human Services Student organization, and is a mentor for LifeLink PSU.

Wiley.jpgWiley is also the recipient of the Laurel Award for Outstanding Service and shares Nuschke’s involvement in organizations. She is the volunteer chair of the Rehabilitation and Human Services Student Organization, co-founder and president of the Occupational Therapy Club, is a captain of a Penn State Relay for Life team, and is a mentor at LifeLink PSU.

Both girls dedicate their time to organizing events to benefit organizations such as Relay for Life and The Second Mile.

Wiley plans to attend Thomas Jefferson University for occupational therapy in the fall.