Trojan Heart winner announced

Taylor Walding

Variety Editor

While 36 nominations were submitted this year for the Troy Trojan Heart Award to honor individuals or groups for their service to the community, there were only four finalists and one winner selected. Jasmine Denson, a senior sociology major from Birmingham, won the overall Troy Trojan Heart Award for her work as an educator for incarcerated women at Julia Tutwiler Prison in Wetumpka.

She chose the Adullam House as the nonprofit beneficiary of the $1,000 Trojan Heart award. The Adullam House serves and cares for the children of incarcerated parents through focus intervention, education and wrap around services. They are also located in Wetumpka, not too far from the prison. 

“I love to give, and these women at this prison — I wish all of you could meet them, because they are such great people,” Denson said through tears in her thank-you speech. “I chose the Adullam House because some of their children wind up there.

“Just as I give to these women every week, I saw an opportunity to give to some of their children, as well.”

Denson said she is honored by the award and grateful for the opportunity to represent Troy in this way.

“Each week Mrs. Denson works side by side with the women at Tutwiler modeling and teaching vocational and life management skills,” said Jonathon Cellon, the associate dean of the John W. Schmidt Center for Student Success. “Each visit, Jasmine brings the values of dignity, respect and humility to each woman she comes in contact with.”

While Denson won the overall award, there were four other finalists. 

“At this university, there’s a code for caring that exists,” said Chancellor Dr. Jack Hawkins Jr.. “It’s not a marketing cliche — it’s a real part of the value structure at Troy University.”

During Hawkins’ speech, he shared the story of Alexis de Tocqueville, a French philosopher who visited the U.S. in 1831 to figure out why democracy was succeeding in the U.S.

“He said, ‘America is great because America is good, and when America ceases to be good, it will cease to be great,’” Hawkins said, quoting Tocqueville. “The goodness of America is demonstrated in this room today through the actions of those who have placed others first. 

“May God bless them as they continue to do that good work.”

The faculty and staff finalist for the Troy Trojan Heart Award was Kelly Berwager, who donated a kidney to a complete stranger through UAB’s famous donor chain.

Benson and Joan McClendon were also recognized for the Lance Robert McLendon scholarship which has been awarded to 100 Troy students in excess of $700,000.

The student finalist of the Troy Trojan Heart Award was Emily Fisher, a junior nursing major from Pensacola, Florida. Fisher was honored for creating an organization called Truly Chosen for individuals with special needs in the Troy community.

ATO was recognized as the student organization finalist for its annual Walk Hard philanthropy where fraternity brothers walk 128.3 miles to Panama City Beach over spring break in order to raise funds to help wounded warriors. This year, they raised more than $73,000.

Alex Breitling, a senior sports management major from Pensacola, Florida, is an ATO brother who walked in the event last year. 

“It was excruciatingly painful; it was the most pain I’ve ever been in — mentally and physically,” Breitling said. “Thinking of the veterans who have done so much and felt the pain of a bullet to the chest or shrapnel hitting them in the leg … me complaining about how my legs hurt was really foolish of me when I understood what I was doing it for.”

At the end of the ceremony, Janice Hawkins, the first lady of Troy University, announced that the Chancellor leaned over to her during the ceremony to say that next year he intends to double the award amount to $2,000.

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