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College junior Abby Close and Wharton junior Jonathan Seeg traveled to Chicago last weekend to receive the national Howard R. Swearer Student Humanitarian Award. Four other undergraduates from Cornell, Michigan and Oberlin universities and Guildford College also received the award, which included a $1,500 cash prize to supplement each student's ongoing educational initiative. Campus Contact, the organization which sponsors "The Project for Public Service," recognizes five students annually for outstanding service to the community. The award ceremony took place Monday during the annual conference of the American Association for Higher Education at the Chicago Hilton and Towers. Close and Seeg said they plan to use the cash award to help with the construction and maintenance of a community garden at Shaw Middle School in West Philadelphia. The funds will also be used to purchase equipment and curricular material needed for the project. Close and Seeg began their project in September 1994, when they agreed to help two teachers at Shaw implement an environmental education program. University student volunteers started teaching two classes at Shaw that year. The environmental education program has expanded to eight classes in the past 18 months. Representatives from Campus Contact began the program by briefly describing each student's service project. Close and Seeg sat before an audience that included their families, Campus Contact representatives and university presidents and faculty. University President Judith Rodin was not present, however. The students answered questions about relations between universities and their surrounding communities. Issues raised included national service policies, President Clinton's service initiatives and universities' roles in their neighborhoods. Close said she felt honored to speak about her project to such esteemed members of the higher education world. A Campus Contact member asked if the students believed one individual could create change in a community. Seeg responded by saying that none of the students at the ceremony would have received an award if they did not think that was possible. "But change must come from within the community," he added. "Sometimes the individual can be the impetus for helping to create change within the community." Seeg also said the program helped him gain a broader perspective on academically-based community service nationwide. The award winners and their families also had the opportunity to share their project experiences over dinner. One student created an organization to rehabilitate houses free of charge. Another recipient initiated a music coalition that helped create understanding between college students and the local community through free music education.

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