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By Alexander Saunders

Honored for 1,382.5 Service Hours and More

Nicole Osborne, a May 2023 UNC-Chapel Hill graduate with degrees in Sociology and Human Development and Family Science, received the Robert B. House Distinguished Service Award at the Carolina Chancellor’s awards ceremony in April. This award is presented annually to a student who best exemplifies the spirit of unselfish commitment through service to the University and the surrounding community. The award was established in 1980 by the Rho Chapter of Alpha Phi Omega National Service Fraternity in honor of the first chancellor of the University and one of its most revered leaders.

Osborne received the award in large part for completing an astounding 1,382.5 service hours during her four years at UNC at and with multiple organizations and clubs serving UNC and North Carolina communities, including Buckley Public Service Scholars (BPSS), The Marian Cheek Jackson Center, UNC Flourish, Albemarle Regional Health Services Intern through the SECU Public Fellows Internship Program, NCPIRG Campus Action and Ronald McDonald House. These hours far surpassed the hours required to be recognized as a Buckley Public Service Scholar.

Osborne served as a student assistant with Buckley Public Service Scholars program, where she supported the program’s administration. “During my time as her supervisor, I have grown to know Nicole as a strong competent leader who shows a deep commitment to service, community engagement, advocacy and campus leadership,” says Katelyn Bodwell, Program Officer for Community Engagement for the Carolina Center for Public Service (CCPS) and nominator for this award. “Nicole’s role was essential in the success of this program which includes planning and facilitating at least 12 orientation sessions each year, manages communications with over 1,000 students enrolled in the program and builds sustainable structures and systems to grow the program each year.”

Osborne also took the Philanthropy as a Tool for Social Change course, where she received hands-on experience in the grant-making process, learned about the nonprofit sector and the philosophy and practice of philanthropy through readings, class exercises, guest speakers and allocating $10,000 to area nonprofits.

“Nicole exemplifies how a student can both learn and contribute to the learning of others,” says Lynn Blanchard, CCPS Director and faculty for the Philanthropy as a Tool for Social Change course. “Nicole always went above and beyond what was needed to ensure that others in the class were well-informed and everyone’s voice was heard and honored. She is the best kind of leader, and I have no doubt she will continue to have a positive impact on others far beyond her time at Carolina.”

Service Hours Come Naturally

Upon receiving the award, Osborne said she was surprised and honored. “I maybe take my service hours for granted, and I kind of forget about all that work that I do, just because it’s something that I enjoy, and that I seek,” says Osborne. “So I always seek service-related opportunities because that’s just something I enjoy.”

As indicated by the volume of service hours and places worked, Osborne is exploring any work that is community-serving in some capacity. After graduation, she wants to work with various populations to learn which population she wants to specialize in and wants to learn more about various roles before potentially pursuing a graduate program.

Through Buckley Public Service Scholars, SECU Public Fellows Internship Program and other opportunities, Osborne has not only been exposed to different service opportunities but also learned about various service types.

“One of the things I did not realize before enrolling in the BPSS program was that there are so many modes of service–CCPS recognizes that there are three main modes of service, including direct; policy and advocacy; and organizational and administrative,” says Osborne. She adds that for any student who is not sure where to start or if service is right for their goals, there are many opportunities on campus that touch at least one of those service types.

More About Osborne’s Work

Osborne worked 370 hours as a full-time intern promoting rural access to health services with Albemarle Regional Health Services, 41 hours organizing a bake sale for Western Wildfire Disaster Relief and advocated for the public interest on problems that affect the public’s health, safety and wellbeing with NCPIRG for over 190 hours.

Last summer, Nicole worked with the Jackson Center in Carrboro, North Carolina. The Jackson Center advocates for housing affordability and the preservation of historically Black neighborhoods. During her time with this organization, Nicole organized and hosted a community cookout with residents in Tin Top, a historically Black neighborhood in Carrboro. Through this event, residents came together to talk about housing affordability and develop a sense of cohesion within the community.

During her spring 2023 capstone semester, Nicole interned with HOPE-NC, a non-profit with the mission to build affordable and accessible houses for the elderly and adults with disabilities. Her efforts at HOPE-NC included developing a sustainable process for the organization to recruit and manage volunteers, a project which will build the capacity of the organization for years to come!

A Quick Shout Out

Before moving to North Carolina in 2015, Osborne lived between Hawaii and Alaska when she was young. Her family moved as part of her father’s military service. She says, “I want to give a shout-out to my parents for inspiring me to be involved in service. My dad was a service member in the Coast Guard for 23 years and my mom was an in-home caregiver for several years when I was young. Growing up, I would watch her take care of folks who are elderly. Just seeing my parents dedicate their careers and time to that really inspired me to also dedicate my time to others.”

Nicole, we would say to your parents, Vanesa and Robert, not only thank you for your tireless service to others but thank you for sharing and instilling your service mindset with your daughter. Nicole’s enthusiasm and passion for public service is contagious and will no doubt have a profound impact on others throughout her career and lifetime.

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