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Morrisville State College Student Receives Volunteer, Leadership Award

MORRISVILLE, N.Y.—It’s 1 a.m. Tom Swart’s adrenaline is still racing as he takes a shower, washing soot off of his face and the stench of fire from his hair. He wastes no time hopping into bed, knowing he has a full day ahead of him tomorrow.

It’s a part of life for the 20-year-old Morrisville State College student who is also a volunteer firefighter with the Morrisville Fire Department.

Back in his hometown, Geneva, N.Y., Swart has been a volunteer firefighter with the Oaks Corners Fire Department for five years.

He’s been involved in countless other volunteer efforts, too—a drive that seems inherent in Swart, an information technology: network administration bachelor degree major, who was recently awarded the college’s Rays of Light Servant Leadership Award.

The Rays of Light Servant Leadership Award recognizes a student of junior status who provides selfless and ongoing service which substantially benefits others and has made a unique and exceptional contribution to the community through selfless volunteerism fostered by an independent and generous spirit.

Given at more than 40 campuses nationwide, the award is partially sponsored by a grant through the Barney II Foundation. Winners receive a $700 award, of which $200 is to be donated to a charity of choice. The recognized charity this year is the Oaks Corners Fire Department.

“Tom’s commitment to volunteering is exemplary,” Lisa Rusch, a member of the award committee and assistant professor in the college’s sports, nutrition and fitness management program, said. “His selflessness shows his commitment to making his community and the world a better place.”

To Swart, volunteering is a way of life.

“Helping others is key,” he said. “Just a little bit of effort can help somebody a lot.”

It’s a trait passed down from his father and grandfathers who instilled in him at an early age the spirit of helping others.

His father is a member of the Oaks Corners Fire Department with him, while his maternal grandfather was a volunteer in the Geneva Fire Department. His father and paternal grandfather were both also actively involved with Boy Scouts.

A 2005 graduate of Midlakes High School, Swart is a junior assistant scout master in Troop 46, Phelps, N.Y., and holds the rank of Eagle Scout. Throughout his participation in Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts for nearly 14 years, he has performed various community service activities including collecting cans and non-perishable items for food pantries, distributing gift and food baskets and working fundraisers for the Lions Club.

His efforts extend to the classroom, where he is always willing to assist students having difficulty with any type of school work.

“No matter how jammed my schedule is, I can always find time to help someone else, even if it is just for a half-hour,” Swart said. “There is always time to volunteer.”

Carrying a full course load of college credits, Swart is also a member of the men’s lacrosse team and played football before being sidelined with a shoulder injury.

Excelling academically, he was named to the Dean’s List and was the recipient of an Academic Merit Scholarship. He was also named to the Honor Society in high school.

"Tom is a terrific young man who continually strives to achieve excellence in the classroom, on the lacrosse field, and serving as a volunteer firefighter,” Stephen Klingaman, associate professor of computer and information technologies, said. “His enthusiasm for taking on difficult challenges will serve him well as a young person entering the highly demanding information technology profession."

Through volunteering, Swart has discovered a lot about life and himself.
“I have learned not to take what I have for granted—to appreciate what I have,” he said.

Swart’s future plans include moving to the Mid-Atlantic where he hopes to do networking for a large corporation— and volunteering, no doubt.

He is the son of Ed and Donna Swart of Geneva.

Morrisville State College offers more than 75 bachelor and associate degrees and options. Considered to be one of the most technologically advanced colleges in the nation for its ThinkPad University program and wireless technology initiative, the college was the first in the nation to comprehensively replace landlines in residence halls with individual cellular phones. Morrisville State College was also chosen as one of the top five colleges in the nation for campus activities by Campus Activities magazine.

The Morrisville State College Norwich Campus offers associate degree programs in accounting, business, computer systems technology, office administration, liberal arts transfer, nursing, early childhood, criminal justice and human services to south central New York residents and employers. Students may also apply coursework to other associate or bachelor degrees at the main campus.