Raising awareness for orphans with a big red bus

News-DemocratMarch 26, 2014 

A British double-decker bus pulled in Wednesday at the McKendree University campus in Lebanon.

But it wasn't there to take students for tea and crumpets. The vehicle is the centerpiece of the Red Bus Project, a tour to raise awareness about orphans around the globe and collect donations to help improve their lives.

The bus was shipped over from England, where it used to run a route in London, by a charity organization called Show Hope.

"Students really care about making a difference in the world," Show Hope director of student initiatives Chris Wheeler said. "Sometimes they just need someone to point them in the right direction. The Red Bus Project is a way to lead students toward making a huge impact in the global orphan crisis through simple steps of action."

About 177,000 students and campuses across the Midwest have visited the bus which hauls a portable thrift store with clothing for sale to help raise money. It has collected about $50,000 in donations so far to help connect orphans with families.

The bus is traveling on its current tour through Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri and Tennessee, where it will visit 25 schools. On Tuesday it was at Southern Illinois University Carbondale and on Thursday it will be at Missouri Baptist University.

Southwestern Illinois College student Mackeigan Wuest of Roxana has been named a 2014 Coca-Cola Community College Academic Team Silver Scholar. Wuest currently serves as the Phi Theta Kappa Illinois Regional Southern District vice president. She will complete associate degrees in electronic publishing and science at SWIC this May. She will transfer to Illinois State University in the fall to major in graphic communications.

"I was shocked when I found out I won," said Wuest. "I knew I had been nominated but I never thought I would actually win. This scholarship will be a huge help with the cost of school this fall."

The Coca-Cola Community College Academic Team program recognizes 50 Gold, 50 Silver and 50 Bronze Scholars annually. Each Silver Scholar receives a $1,250 scholarship and a special medallion. An independent panel of judges considers outstanding academic rigor, grade point average, academic and leadership awards, and engagement in college and community service in the selection process.

"Mackeigan was one of only 150 students to receive a scholarship out of more than 1,700 applicants," Phi Theta Kappa advisor Julie Stellhorn said . "In addition, we are particularly excited as this is the first time a student from SWIC has won this award."

Wuest credits much of her academic and personal success to her time with Phi Theta Kappa. "The organization motivated me to get active in areas of academia and community service," she notes. "Julie [Stellhorn] pushed me to grow and change and enabled me to make an impact on the community. She helped my small ideas become reality. In addition, Phi Theta Kappa, its members and advisers became like a big family to me."

Wuest will be honored during the awards banquet in Springfield. on April 1, and again at the Phi Theta Kappa International Convention in Orlando, Fla., on April 24-26.

Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society is the largest honor society in American higher education with more than 1,285 chapters on two-year and community college campuses in all 50 of the United States, Canada, Germany, Peru, the Republic of Palau, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, the British Virgin Islands, the United Arab Emirates and U.S. territorial possessions. Nearly 3 million students have been inducted since its founding in 1918, with approximately 131,000 students inducted annually.

Dixie Engelman, dean emerita of the Southern Illinois University Edwardsville College of Arts and Sciences and associate professor emerita of speech pathology and audiology, is being honored with the University's Distinguished Service Award.

SIUE will present the award to Engelman at the University's Spring 2014 Commencement on May 10.

Engelman has been a community advocate and volunteer for more than 35 years. She was the first president and remains a charter member of the SIUE Meridian Society. The Society is a group of women who provide leadership through philanthropy and pool their resources to help assist SIUE community-based projects.

The Meridian Society makes annual grants each spring to fund SIUE projects that provide direct services in the community. Since 2003, the Meridian Society has distributed more than $207,000 in awards to more than 100 community projects.

SIUE Chancellor Julie Furst-Bowe said Engelman's loyal, tangible efforts in educating women on philanthropy, her inspiring commitment in supporting community causes and her participation in influencing SIUE and the community through annual Impact Fund Awards speaks volumes.

"Dixie has invested an incredible amount in this community and in the lives of countless students," Furst-Bowe said. "She was an active leader during her tenure at SIUE and has continued that activism following her retirement."

Engelman said she is humbled and grateful to receive the University's Distinguished Service Award.

"While I realize that I am merely one more in a long list of women honorees, it is gratifying that another woman has been added to that list," she said. "It is indeed humbling to be recognized for service that others regard as 'distinguished,' yet I regard as merely fulfilling my interests and capabilities."

Engelman's dedicated service to the University was exemplified in her willingness to return from retirement in 2005 and donate an extensive amount of time and work as the volunteer chairwoman of SIUE's 50th anniversary celebration. She devoted two years of planning and oversight of more than 100 volunteers from the University faculty, staff and students to make the year-long celebration a success.

The Distinguished Service Award recipient's generosity extends to a number of worthy causes in addition to SIUE, according to Furst-Bowe.

"Dixie is an excellent example of the hard work and professionalism found at SIUE," Furst-Bowe said. "Her leadership roles and her devotion to service have yielded exciting achievements and made her a highly respected member of the SIUE family."

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