For years, service learning has been a key piece of the Tennessee Tech University community.
For the first time this semester, the TTU Service Center has selected two people from the campus who exemplify what service is. Junior Justin Sweatman-Weaver and Theresa Ennis, director of university assessment, were recognized at the Spring Luncheon Forum.
“The projects he’s led have largely succeeded because he rallies lots of support and he collaborates so other people may take ownership while they’re providing service,” said Del Ray Zimmerman, chair of OutCentral, a center for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning and intersex people in Nashville. “That, to me, is the definition of servant leadership, on a par with luminaries like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.”
Sweatman-Weaver’s initiatives range from preventing bullying and teen suicide to helping teenagers stay off drugs and drive safely.
In January, he and a few other students organized the first anti-bullying conference in the state. Hundreds of people from across Tennessee attended and speakers came from across the country. In addition to working to prevent bullying, he has spent a time working to prevent suicides and to help others begin to heal after a suicide in their community.
Shortly after the January conference, a teenager from Livingston killed himself. Sweatman-Weaver was one of the people to go to his school to talk to students and help them deal with their grief.
“I was talking to a 14-year-old boy who said he’d been bullied his whole life; he was having a really hard time dealing with it, but our conversation turned into lighthearted fun,” said the junior, who plans to get a master’s degree in social work after TTU. “A lot of the things I do aim to change the culture and I don’t see the direct impact.”
“That time, I got to see the individual impact; that kind of validated everything I do.”
The other award winner, Theresa Ennis, has been committed to service and a variety of causes for years. She has worked with the Boy Scouts of America, several veterans organizations across the state and nation and TN Campus Compact, which aims to increase civic engagement across higher education institutions. Over spring break, she was part of a team that took 15 TTU students to the Dominican Republic to work with orphans and impoverished schools.
“I have known Dr. Ennis almost the entire five years I have been at Tennessee Tech, and find her to be a faculty member of extraordinary energy and passion for service learning projects and engaging students in meaningful activities,” said C. Pat Bagley, TTU’s College of Agricultural and Human Sciences dean. “She has more energy than any adult I know, and she channels that energy into productive areas and she leads by example.”
In 2004, Ennis was awarded the Rep. Harold Love Outstanding Community Involvement Award from the Tennessee Higher Education Commission. The award is given annually to five faculty or staff members from across the state and five students. She is one of only a few people from TTU to receive the prestigious award.