In nominating Grace Ison for a Charles J. Ping Student Service Award, Ohio Wesleyan University President Rock Jones, Ph.D., praised the sophomore as a “shining example of all that is best about this new generation.”
Ison, of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, is one of 12 students across the state being honored with a 2021 Ping Award, presented by the Ohio Campus Compact “to recognize and honor undergraduate students for their outstanding leadership and contributions to community service or service-learning on their campus and within their community.”
Of Ison and her work, President Jones said: “Grace is the ultimate example of the coming together of service and leadership in a way that is meaningful and productive, and evidence of her work abounds on our campus and within our community. … Grace has changed the service landscape at Ohio Wesleyan. Her deep passion, her vision, and her sustained commitment are a shining example of all that is best about this new generation.”
Ison’s impact on campus has included collaborating with classmate Carissa Silet of Buffalo Grove, Illinois, to create the Service, Engagement, and Leadership (SEAL) House, one of Ohio Wesleyan’s small living units. Each house provides a themed living and learning opportunity for up to 12 students interested in a specific issue, such as the environment, cultural awareness, or, in Ison’s case, service to others.
To increase the SEAL House’s impact on campus, Ison also helped to create the Friends of SEAL to involve even more Ohio Wesleyan students. One of the group’s ongoing projects is cooking meals for clients of Family Promise of Delaware County, a 24-hour emergency shelter and rapid rehousing referral center.
“This service – and our learning and reflection – truly allowed our house to spread awareness about the issue of homelessness and engage more students in the positive impact we hope to create,” said Ison, who also has partnered with The Salvation Army of Marion, Ohio, to obtain groceries to cook the Family Promise meals.
“This project has truly become more than I had ever imagined,” said Ison, a volunteer-turned-intern for Family Promise. “I love that there are many people involved in creating delicious meals for individuals who are working hard to find affordable housing.
“On a personal level,” Ison continued, “it was amazing to see more people getting involved in a mission that I have become increasingly passionate about during my time at OWU. I believe that these types of opportunities on campus strengthen the college environment and show the commitment of our student body to care for other people. I cannot wait to see how this inspires and energizes other students to continue working toward solutions to homelessness, hunger, and other global challenges!”
In addition to her work with the SEAL House and Family Promise, Ison also has served as a tutor at the Columbus Bilingual Academy North and Linden STEM Academy in nearby Franklin County.
In addition, Ison is a member of the Food Recovery Network, a national organization that seeks to prevent food waste at colleges including Ohio Wesleyan, and she is an intern for the Cristian Rivera Foundation, a nonprofit working to “create a world without DIPG (a brain tumor) by funding research toward a cure, spreading awareness, and providing family support.”
As an Ohio Wesleyan student, Ison is majoring in neuroscience and minoring in both psychology and chemistry. She plans to apply to a physician assistant program after graduation with a long-term goal of working in women’s health or pediatrics.
As for why the 2021 Ping Award winner chose Ohio Wesleyan for her undergraduate journey, Ison said: “I chose OWU because I loved the feel of community on campus. Everyone I met during my overnight stay and scholarship competition made me feel very welcome. I also loved that at OWU I would be able to explore the areas I was interested in and find what I wanted to do.
“My time at OWU has allowed me to have more opportunities than I could have ever anticipated,” Ison concluded. “I have been exposed to many leadership roles, clubs, friendships, and developed a strong idea of my future goals.”
Learn more about Ohio Wesleyan’s commitment to community service at owu.edu/service and more about its Small Living Units, including SEAL, at owu.edu/SLU.