JMU Senior Who Aids Harrisonburg's Less Fortunate Receives Scholarship

From: Public Affairs

Rising senior Patrick Wiggins likes helping people who cannot help themselves, and he's become quite good at it.

So good, in fact, that the Pearson Foundation is giving Wiggins a $10,000 scholarship. Wiggins is one of 20 students nationwide, and the only one from Virginia, to be awarded the scholarship that recognizes students for their leadership and community service. More than 10,000 students applied for the scholarship.

The Pearson Foundation is the nonprofit arm of Pearson, an international media company with 37,000 employees in more than 60 countries.

A biology major who plans to become a physician, Wiggins will join the other Pearson Prize winners Aug. 4-6 in Boston for the Pearson Student Leadership Summit. The scholarship will provide $5,000 for the upcoming school year and Wiggins will be eligible for another $5,000 next year, which he can use for graduate school.

The Richmond native said he thinks the scholarship award committee was particularly impressed with his efforts at organizing a weeklong shelter for homeless residents of Harrisonburg this past spring. From Feb. 22 to March 1, representatives of eight organizations hosted the homeless at the JMU Catholic Campus Ministry, where they provided meals and companionship and even did laundry. Wiggins spent a year organizing the week, signing up volunteers and assigning duties. The only time Wiggins spent away from the shelter that week was to attend class, and he had three exams.

"It was amazing," Wiggins said of the shelter, which he calls his greatest accomplishment. "At JMU, we kind of get trapped in the college atmosphere. This served as a way to step out of our bubble and see poverty first-hand. The level of empathy increased so much."

Wiggins had to have a grade point average over 3.0 and had to write four 700-word essays in the first round of the application process. For the second round, he had to produce a two-minute video of why he should get the award and post it on YouTube. The video can be seen here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eKYaJlPWHcA&feature=player_embedded.

Organizing the shelter was far from being Wiggins' first foray into community service. He spends part of every Tuesday interpreting Spanish at the Harrisonburg Free Clinic and works on Wednesdays in the soup kitchen at Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church. His parents introduced him to community service at age 7, taking him to work in a Richmond soup kitchen.

"I love being able to help people who have trouble helping themselves, who are less fortunate," Wiggins said.

More information about the Pearson Prize is available at: http://www.pearsonfoundation.org/youth-engagement/programs/pearson-prize.html.

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July 26, 2010