Two nominated for #TroyTrojanHeart challenge after volunteering at Troy Elementary

Zach Henson

Assistant News Editor

During a six-week period from January to March, Daniel McCray and Austin Hayes visited Troy Elementary School every Thursday morning to help improve the school’s nature trail and build an outdoor classroom.

Both McCray, a freshman history major from Demopolis, and Hayes, a freshman communication major from Dothan, have been nominated to win the Troy Trojan Heart Challenge. Janice Hawkins, university chancellor Jack Hawkins’ wife, started the challenge to reward good deeds done by Troy students through a $1,000 donation to the winner’s choice of nonprofit charity.

According to Hayes, who volunteered for the project through the Troy Baptist Campus Ministry, the work included leveling ground, building a perimeter with cross ties, filling the area with rocks and then placing benches for the students.

“We’ve got a great outdoor classroom out there,” said Teresa Sims, the principal at Troy Elementary School. “It’s a wonderful opportunity for kids to go outside and be in a different environment to learn.”

Max Herman, a graduate assistant in the office of civic engagement who nominated Hayes, recalled the students working through suboptimal weather conditions.

“(Hayes) was definitely a huge part in boosting the morale,” Herman said. “He was telling jokes the whole time, like making everyone laugh.

“Whenever you’re out and it’s cold as can be, it’s kind of raining and you’re shoveling gravel and dirt, it’s not very fun. But he was out there making it fun.”

McCray said, as a Christian, he wanted to follow the example of Jesus Christ and be a servant to others.

“(McCray) came out every Thursday for six weeks — rain, shine, snow or heat ­— to help make sure it got done,” wrote Clay Graham, a junior psychology major from Moulton, in his nomination of McCray. “To be a one-time volunteer is great, but to come week after week so to complete a project that benefits our community is noteworthy.”

It was “truly a labor of love,” Sims said. “They exemplified service to our students; they showed them what that really means in action.”

Anyone who has the “Troy Trojan Heart,” which encompasses the spirit of servant leadership, can be nominated through the Office of Civic Engagement in Eldridge Hall or at, according to Avery Livingston, the coordinator of civic engagement.

Applicants and others are encouraged to use the #TROYTrojanHeart on social media to encourage others to apply and embody the Troy Trojan Heart.

Applications are due April 25, and a winner will be announced May 1.

The first donation will be sponsored by the Hawkins family, who will also be a part of the selection committee. The committee will choose the winner and will include members representing Troy administration, faculty, staff, students and alumni.

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