Delta College sophomore honored for service

 More than 800 students were nominated for awards 

By Sam Easter
The Bay City Times

FRANKENLUST TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) — For Delta College sophomore Helen Szabo, her earliest experiences with community involvement were seven years ago, when she began helping prepare food in the kitchen at the Good Samaritan Rescue Mission, an emergency shelter for the homeless.

She continued her interest in mission work for years to come, according to The Bay City Times.

“It just showed me that there is a need out there,” said Szabo, a resident of Frankenlust Township. “Just seeing the people in our own community that need a place to stay and seeing the Good Samaritan Rescue mission address that need, it just showed that it could be done.”

From there, her commitment to her community has only grown and now the 21-year-old Frankenlust Township resident is being honored in a big way for her volunteerism.

Szabo, a marketing major involved in volunteer initiatives throughout the Delta campus and community, was recently awarded the Commitment to Service Award by the Michigan Campus Compact. An honor recognizing the breadth of her volunteer accomplishments, she said it was a pleasure to earn a trip down to Lansing to accept the award on April 12.

“It was pretty cool,” she said. “I got my moment of walking across stage and getting my award and having the stuff that I’m doing talked about. I was really grateful that I was nominated and that I was chosen for it.”

Michelle White, manager of academic career experience and service learning at Delta, said it’s an achievement to be proud of.

This year, more than 800 students were nominated for a number of awards by the Michigan Campus Compact, which is made up of 38 participating colleges and universities around Michigan. Of those students, Szabo’s award places her among the 76 highest-achieving nominees, White said.

“It’s a pretty big deal,” she said.

Szabo’s is the daughter of Frank Szabo and Gail Szabo. She has a brother named Pierre, 28, and a sister named Moonlight, 26.

Her mother traveled to Lansing with her to watch the award presentation.

“She worked hard,” Gail Szabo said. “To me, it just means that she worked hard, she cared about people, she gets out there and works to help others, and I’m really proud she’s willing to do that.”

A 2010 graduate of Bay City Western High School, Szabo has been busy since her senior year. She took a year off between graduation and college to open and run Little Piggies Daycare out of her mother’s Frankenlust Township home, but soon after said she was ready for a change.

“I couldn’t handle working with kids 60 hours per week anymore,” she said with a laugh. “I had worked in a daycare for two years prior to that.”

Now in her second year at Delta, she’s become involved in a number of student groups and organizations.

She’s the vice president of service for Delta’s chapter of Phi Theta Kappa, an international honors society of community colleges, and has already helped organize more than 10 community service events this school year. She’s also the executive chairwoman of the Club Advisory Board, which disburses funding to the Delta’s student clubs, and a volunteer with the Community College Completion Corps, a group that works to help students pledge to complete their associate’s degree.

Out in the community, Szabo works with Delta’s Public Achievement program, a group of students who visit inner-city schools to help students effect change in their own communities. During the 2012-13 school year, she worked with fellow volunteers to help Bridgeport High School students lobby administrators to create an anti-bullying program. She’s now working to do the same at Reuben Daniels Middle School in Saginaw.

Rachelle Rice, an Americorps volunteer who helps coordinate the Public Achievement program, said Szabo is a model participant.

“Helen’s been extremely involved, and I don’t think she’s really missed very many days of actually working with the kids,” Rice said. “She works extremely well with the kids, she’s always involved with what’s going on in the groups and just really attentive to the kids.”

Since becoming involved with Public Achievement, Szabo founded and now leads a group called Citizens in Action, a group that helps place students in the program without having to take a class to participate.

On top of all her volunteer involvements, Szabo is enrolled in 15 credits and works two part-time jobs — one with Delta’s Center for Civic Leadership and Student Engagement as a campus life facilitator, and another with Morley Companies Inc. as a market researcher.

On top of the Michigan Campus Compact award, Szabo was also recently recognized in the third class of the Great Women of the Great Lakes Bay Region, a program administered by Saginaw Valley State University.

Already, Szabo’s work has drawn attention from Delta’s top administrators.

“Helen embodies the power of volunteerism,” Jean Goodnow, president of Delta College, said in a statement. “She chose to use her time to create positive change both on the Delta College campus and in the broader community. She is truly a wonderful person and a worthy recipient of the Outstanding Community Impact Award.”

Szabo said she plans to spend another year at Delta — during which she hopes to set up a student mentoring program — before transferring to Northwood University in Midland to finish her marketing degree. After that, she said she hopes to coordinate community service events for a large company or a nonprofit corporation. One of her key concerns, she said, is homelessness.

“Every time I travel, and seeing homeless people on the corner — I can’t give every one of them a hot meal, but I want to,” she said. “I feel that not all of them are there because they put themselves there. Some of them are there because they couldn’t help it.”

She couldn’t say exactly where she is headed, though.

“I can set up a plan today, and in five years it’s going to be completely different from what I started out with,” Szabo said. “I never intended to get involved on campus, and I never intended to do anything at school other than go to class and work.

“That clearly didn’t happen.”