CSB's Ranta, SJU's Markon named 2014 Newman Civic Fellows

April 11, 2014

Leah Ranta '15

Justin Markon '15

College of Saint Benedict junior Leah Ranta and Saint John's University junior Justin Markon have been named 2014 Newman Civic Fellows by Campus Compact, a national coalition of approximately 1,100 college and university presidents committed to fulfilling the civic purposes of higher education.

They will be recognized with four other winners from Minnesota colleges at Minnesota Campus Compact's 20th Anniversary Summit and Awards Luncheon April 16 at the Anderson Student Center, University of St. Thomas, St. Paul.

Ranta, a junior global business leadership major from Stillwater, Minn., participates in the Bonner Leader Scholarship program. As a part of this program, Ranta has volunteered with Southside Boys and Girls club, running after-school programming for diverse at-risk youth in St. Cloud, Minn. She has also spent a winter break learning about sustainable composting practices in Holden Village, Wash., and a spring break in Kansas City, Mo., working for an organization that cares for children living below the poverty line.

During her sophomore year at CSB, Ranta studied abroad in Kolkata, India. While there, she taught English to women who had been abused and trafficked. Additionally, Ranta works with Enactus, CSB/SJU's entrepreneurial team, mentoring students volunteering for the first time.

"Leah is a student leader committed to meeting the basic human needs of people around the world: clean water, a bed with blankets, clothes and shoes, food, a home with a roof and freedom," said CSB President MaryAnn Baenninger in her nominating letter for Ranta. "She believes the most effective way to address poverty is to listen to the local population about what they need, and to collaborate with them to meet those needs."

Ranta hopes to work internationally before applying for a position within the federal government, and is particularly compelled by the mission of the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Markon, a junior political science major from Maple, Wis., has had a variety of experiences working with diverse populations, but especially with youth. Markon works with high school students through the Upward Bound program, younger children's programming through Saint John's Outdoor University, and worked with youth in the slums of Kolkata, India, while studying abroad.

Markon has had the chance to provide opportunities for others through the Bonner Leader program, where he has spent time at a local nursing home, served food at a community picnic and participated in other community service opportunities. Markon has also traveled to the state of Washington for an Alternative Break Experience. His family colors his view of service, having grown up with the idea that service has a value to it.

"The right to education for all is a social justice issue that is particularly important to Justin, as he realizes that not every child has the chance to receive the strong educational background that is so central to their future success," said SJU President Michael Hemesath in his nominating letter for Markon. "Justin sees the work of civic engagement as vital and a matter of principle."

Markon plans to continue his volunteer and service efforts next year as a senior at SJU. He believes that serving others will always be an important part of his life.

Campus Compact has honored 197 students from 36 states as Newman Civic Fellows for 2014. These students were nominated by their college and university presidents as student leaders who have demonstrated an investment in finding solutions for challenges facing their communities. According to the Campus Compact website, Newman Civic Fellows are making the most of their college experiences to better understand themselves, the root causes of social issues and effecting mechanisms for creating lasting change. 

Newman Civic Fellow awards are presented in honor of Frank Newman, a former president of the University of Rhode Island and one of the founders of Campus Compact. The awards are sponsored by the KPMG Foundation.