SJU honors students with award for service

April 26, 2014

Saint John's University will honor the 2014 recipients of the Man of Extraordinary Service Award at an 11:30 a.m. reception and luncheon Sunday, April 27, in the Founders Room (Quad 170).

The recipients are senior Brian Vander Heiden, junior Jesse Wilde, sophomore Jake Collins and first year Kevin Curwick. Each will be awarded a $2,500 scholarship prize.

The Caritas Man of Extraordinary Service Award is an honor bestowed upon students who show dedication to community service, and engagement in student, civic and social leadership roles. The award was established by an anonymous donor to recognize students who excel in the community and reflect the Benedictine values of SJU.

Brian Vander Heiden, a senior theology major and Hispanic studies and philosophy minor from Appleton, Wis., coordinates the Theology on Tap program; in so doing, he has helped raise attendance at the program from an average of 10 students per month last year to an average of 50 students per month this year. He recently led an Alternative Break Experiences (ABE) trip to Denver to do charitable work with the Vincentian Academy. He directs a weekly Bible study, along with a Taize prayer service every two weeks. He has been accepted into the Benedictine Volunteer Corp., and will serve in Columbia next year. Dr. Jeffrey Kaster, professor of theology and director of youth theology and ministry, SJU SOT; and instructor, CSB/SJU department of theology, praised Heiden: "In my 25 years of teaching at Saint John's, I would rate Brian Vander Heiden's commitment to service and love toward the very top of all the students I have worked with."

Jesse Wild, a junior biology major and secondary education minor from Littleton, Colo., is active in leadership roles. He has been a resident assistant on Saint Thomas Aquinas Hall for two years. Through Saint Cloud's YoungLife program, he mentors youth, helps raise funds and volunteers a significant amount of time. During his first year, he worked as a firefighter at the Saint John's Volunteer Fire Department, where he achieved a firefighter certification from the state of Minnesota. He spent last summer working at a Christian youth camp, Lost Canyon, in Williams, Arizona. Of that experience he said, "Our goal was to have God's beauty represented at our camp through the grass, flowers and appearance of our campsite." In 2013, he traveled to New Orleans on an ABE to help rebuild homes destroyed by Hurricane Katrina.

Jake Collins, a sophomore political science major and Hispanic studies minor from Mankato, Minn., is the student coordinator at the Eugene J. McCarthy Center for Public Policy and Civic Engagement at Saint John's, serving the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John's University. The position requires him to coordinate on- and off-campus events and programs that provide students, staff and the entire community with the opportunity to broaden their horizons based on the McCarthy Center's value of constructive, civic dialogue. He led a campus event where 75 students, faculty and community members gathered to discuss U.S. foreign policy toward the Middle East. In addition, he participated in a 10-minute radio interview on a major statewide broadcasting station, in which he discussed the McCarthy Center and its mission. He also served as a congressional intern in the office of Congressman Tim Walz. During the first semester of his sophomore year, he volunteered at Hands across the World, a program that works to "... provide a first learning experience to newly arrived immigrants and refugees who do not have the language or living skills to thrive in our community." This summer, he is volunteering in Merida, Yucatan, where he will teach English and Catechism to impoverished Yucatanians.

Kevin Curwick, a first year biology major and Hispanic studies minor from Osseo, Minn., was active in his hometown, and that has carried over into his academic career at SJU. He is an elected leader in the Bonner Leadership Program, a service-scholar program that focuses on serving the CSB/SJU community.  He is an anti-bullying spokesperson at StompOutBulllying.Org. Additionally, he is the author of a publication titled, "Student Fights Bullying with Positivity." In this publication, he discusses his view on the changing culture of cyber bullying and how to combat it. From 2009 to 2013, he helped package food for international shipment as an organizer and coordinator with Feed My Starving Children. He also has spent time contributing to religious services, such as being a sacristan, where he was in charge of preparing Mass at the Saint Vincent de Paul Church.  At this church, he also acted as a communion distributor. His humanitarian work earned him the Channel 12 Stand Out Student award, which is a recognition given by a local television station to exemplary students.