ACU student wins national Young American Award
For immediate release
Abilene Christian University senior Jonathan Wilkerson discovered during spring break that the third time really is a charm, as he was notified by the Boy Scouts of America that he is one of this year's five Young American Award recipients after three years of barely missing the award.
"It was great to win this year after three years of being a finalist but not winning," Wilkerson said.
The National Council of Boy Scouts of America presents five Young American awards each year to youth between the ages of 15-25 who have "achieved exceptional excellence in the fields of art, athletics, business, community service, education, government, humanities, literature, music, religion or science and who have been involved in service to their community, state or country that adds to the quality of life and who have maintained an above average scholastic grade point average." Recipients may or may not be members of Boy Scouts of America.
Other winners of this year's award are from the University of Illinois, Swarthmore College, University of Chicago and George Washington University. Wilkerson, agricultural business major from San Angelo, is the only winner from Texas.
Wilkerson first heard about and applied for the award in high school.
At the end of his senior year in high school, members of the Boy Scout organization in Wilkerson's hometown of San Angelo prompted him to apply. Wilkerson had received an Eagle Scout Association award, and at the awards ceremony, a Boy Scout leader approached him.
"He wanted me to consider applying for this award that was very selective, but he felt with all he things I had done I would be very qualified for it. I have worked with him these past three years trying to get into the top five," Wilkerson said.
At that point in his high school career, Wilkerson did have an impressive list of accomplishments and involvement.
He had been in Boy Scouts for six years, played varsity basketball, football and track; competed in golf, soccer and debate; served on the student council, the school newspaper and the school yearbook; volunteered in community projects with the local hospital, youth and meals for the elderly for the past six years; owned Broody Hen Apiraries, a produce farm, since age 11; spoken at church youth meetings in Texas and Oklahoma; played the piano for ten years; and had been in the San Angelo Symphony Chorale for the past year.
His high school awards included Who's Who Among American Students, Christian Character Award, MVP award in basketball and football, selection for Junior Statesman Program, National Youth Scholar Olympics, and valedictorian of his graduating class.
After graduation, Wilkerson had a wide selection of universities to choose from but ACU caught his attention.
"I had several options for coming to college, but after visiting here, I just knew that this was where I was supposed to be," he said. "As a valedictorian I could have had college paid for at several state universities, instead of putting myself under financial pressure. But I just knew that I was supposed to be here. I am disciplined in my financial matters, and I knew that God would provide."
It's a decision Wilkerson said he has not regretted.
"My college time has been so blessed here at ACU - through getting to know several faculty members, making contacts for life, being introduced to IJM, involvement in student government, friends, great teachers and hard academics."
During college, Wilkerson continued to pile on the achievements and activities. At ACU, he has been named to the Dean's and President's Honor Roll, was accepted into ACU's Honors Program, currently has five different scholarships, was named Big Brother/Big Sister Rookie of the Year and received the Community Servant Leader award.
Wilkerson has also participated in organizations such as Freshman Action Council, Big Brothers/Big Sisters, International Justice Mission committee and Intercollegiate Board, Students' Association, Aggie Club, Meals on Wheels, Agribusiness Club, Shinnery Review, College Republicans, Taylor County Young Republicans, Faculty/Student Interdisciplinary Board, University General Education Council, Delta Tau Alpha honor society, and Phi Eta Sigma honor society. In addition, Wilkerson has served as a preacher for six West Texas churches and several in the Fort Worth/Dallas area.
However, within that formidable list of activities, Wilkerson's focus last year was on ACU's chapter of the International Justice Mission, an organization that uses a network of lawyers and investigators to stop abuses of power, injustices and violations of human rights in foreign countries.
Three years ago, ACU students formed the first-ever college chapter of the International Justice Mission, and last year Wilkerson was one of the chapter co-chairs.
But he wasn?t willing to keep his IJM involvement limited to ACU. As other colleges began to follow ACU's lead and establish campus chapters, Wilkerson wanted to help. In addition to visiting campuses across the nation to instruct them in creating college chapters, Wilkerson created the Intercollegiate Board for any and all of the various college chapters of IJM to meet together and share ideas.
"I thought this would be an amazing way to bring together college students and to learn from one another," he said.
The national offices of IJM agreed.
In November of 2001, IJM hired a director and assistant director of campus/church ministries to direct the newly formed college chapters, Wilkerson said. They also hope to continue to use Wilkerson over the next few years as an organizer.
After graduation, Wilkerson said he plans to work at IJM for some time before starting law school.
Law school will be the beginning of a career that Wilkerson had planned out since childhood, a career that has been influenced recently by IJM.
"What I have been planning since I was 11 years old to do for my career in life, agricultural law, is geared toward farmers - who have been left high and dry in our society and at the hands of great injustices," Wilkerson said. "When I first heard about IJM two years ago, something stirred within me. After I became a co-chair for the committee, I realized that God had been preparing me for something like this, helping victims of injustice, from the beginning."
This year, Wilkerson served as the executive treasurer of the Students' Association, vice president of the Agribusiness club and as a member of the Love Your Neighbor As Yourself (LYNAY) student group in the Center for Building Community, the University General Education Council, and Delta Tau Alpha. In addition, he has been involved in Abilene community groups such as Habitat for Humanity, Meals on Wheels and Big Brothers/Big Sisters. Wilkerson also preaches every Wednesday night at the Palm Street Church of Christ and on Sundays at various churches around the state.
The five Young American Awards, which include a $5,000 cash prize, will be presented at the National Boy Scout Council annual meeting in May. Other winners of the National Young American Award are Akeem Raheed Samuels from George Washington University, Katherine Ann Knuth from the University of Chicago, Brett Michael Patrick Klukan from Swarthmore College, and Kyle James Cline from the University of Illinois.
If you are a member of the media who would like more information about this release, please contact Wendy Kilmer, university news coordinator.
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