Jennifer Lewis, assistant director of compliance and ethics at the University of Southern Mississippi, has been presented with the prestigious President’s Volunteer Service Award, an honor bestowed directly by the United States president from the White House.
Lewis’ volunteer efforts with USM’s Eagle’s Nest Food Pantry, Southern Pines Animal Shelter, Hub City Humane Society and the Mylo Foundation contributed greatly to her earning the award.
She serves as vice president of USM’s Association of Office Professionals and vice president of community service for the national honor society Sigma Alpha Lambda and a member of the board of the Eagle’s Nest Food Pantry as well as a National Executive Council member for national honor society Gamma Beta Phi.
Lewis, who has been employed at USM since 2014, was nominated for the award in July by the university’s Sigma Alpha Lambda chapter.
A native of Mt. Holly, North Carolina, Lewis notes that her interest in community service dates back to childhood when she volunteered at her church and as a Girl Scout.
In college, she expanded her volunteer efforts through her sorority, Zeta Tau Alpha.
“I always understood that it was important to give back to the community,” said Lewis. “Volunteering is important to me because we, as individuals, work through volunteerism to make our communities better. Through volunteerism, an individual can make a fundamental difference.”
Lewis’ official letter of congratulations from President Donald Trump reads in part:
“On behalf of a grateful Nation, I thank you for your service to your fellow Americans and those most in need. Through your dedicated service, you have ensured the continuation of America’s unparalleled commitment to improving the lives of others.
“Over the past year, you have served as a model of the American spirit. Your many hours of service have strengthened the bonds of cooperation and trust that bring people together, while helping to address some of the greatest challenges of our time.”
Lewis earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in English from the University of North Carolina Charlotte (1995); a paralegal certificate from Midlands Community College in Columbia, South Carolina (2000); master’s degree in health care administration from Pfeiffer University (2013); and certificate of business from USM (2016). She is currently working to complete a dissertation to obtain her Ph.D. in higher education at USM.
Lewis hopes that her receipt of this presidential award will inspire others to seek volunteer opportunities.
“Whether it’s taking a meal to someone in need, or rescuing a cat or dog from terrible circumstances, one person’s effort can have a resounding impact,” said Lewis. “In fact, even simply reaching out to someone to check on them may make all the difference in a person’s life as they struggle with all that is ongoing during the current pandemic. To empower others to volunteer, those that volunteer need to share the joy of helping others and to share with others how the small things they have done have improved the lives of others.”
USM has a rich history of providing volunteer opportunities for students, faculty and staff. Through organizations like the Eagle’s Nest Food Pantry, the Center for Community Engagement, Staff Council, and Office of Leadership and Student Involvement among others, volunteers can find ways to engage in community service on a variety of levels.
As far as future volunteer goals, Lewis expresses a desire to work with the Red Cross or the Humane Society of the United States, traveling across this country and abroad to assist during crises.
Lewis is the mother of one daughter, Sgt. Alexandria Lewis of the U.S. Marine Corps.