A Troy University student with a passion for giving won the second annual TROY Trojan Heart during a ceremony Tuesday at the International Arts Center.
Jasmine Denson, a senior sociology major at TROY’s Montgomery Campus, won the award, which is given to the individual who best embodies TROY’s motto: “Educate the mind to think, the heart to feel and the body to act.”
Denson, who was selected from a field of 36 nominees, manages a community garden at Tutwiler Women’s Prison in Montgomery.
She works side-by-side with the inmates, teaching them about nutrition and horticulture through an outreach project led by Dr. Sharon Everhardt, the faculty member who nominated Denson.
“I’m overjoyed,” Denson said. “I didn’t expect this. I’m grateful for the opportunity, grateful that I’m able to give and to represent TROY.”
In addition to her work at Tutwiler, Denson has also served as the assistant coordinator for the Troy University-Valiant Cross Academy School Garden, teaching gardening and nutrition classes to middle schoolers and installing a garden at the Montgomery Campus.
She also serves as president of the Social Justice Club, helping with a variety of drives designed to help those in need.
But for Denson, the work she does at Tutwiler is especially impactful.
“These women are already in an environment where they feel discouraged and may have low self-esteem,” she said. “These women are great individuals. We all make mistakes, but when you deal with these women on a daily basis, you learn that they’re human beings too. They are great people who have impacted me emotionally, and working with them has given me a different perspective on inmates.”
The Trojan Heart is a University-wide challenge for Trojans to nominate students, faculty and staff members who deserve the award.
TROY First Lady Janice Hawkins developed the concept to recognize the outstanding efforts Trojans make to help others.
“It’s part of our motto — ‘the heart to feel’ — so that’s one of the reasons we started this, but mostly it’s to showcase who we are at this University, because I believe we have so many people doing so many good things, and there’s just not enough recognition for them,” she said. “We truly have a culture of caring.”
In addition to her recognition as the Trojan Heart winner, Denson won a $1,000 donation to the charity of her choice, Adullam House, a Wetumpka-based charity that houses inmates’ children.
“This money will help them continue their mission of providing a home for these children, as well as school clothes and the things they need to survive,” Denson said. “For the children who are missing their mothers, they’re placed in an environment with love and care, and they’re able to grow and minimize that impact.”
Other outstanding Trojans were honored at the ceremony, including:
- Benson and Joan McClendon, longtime TROY supporters who have awarded more than $700,000 in scholarships to students in honor of their late son, Lance McClendon. Lance, a Sorrell College of Business alumnus, died in 2001. To honor his legacy, the McClendons founded the Lance Robert McClendon Scholarship in 2007.
- Dr. Kelly Berwager, Professor of Art Education, who in 2014 donated one of her kidneys to a stranger. Her courageous act saved the stranger’s life.
- Emily Fisher, a junior nursing major who created an organization for individuals with special needs in the Troy community. The organization, Truly Chosen, holds events such as arts and crafts, karaoke and social mixers for special needs children in Pike County.
- Members of TROY’s Alpha Tau Omega fraternity, whose annual Walk Hard event raised more than $70,000 for Jeep Sullivan’s Wounded Warrior Outdoor Adventures this year.