BUIES CREEK -- On a Saturday morning last fall, Campbell University student Jordan Zepher helped sort clothes at the Buies Creek Memorial Baptist Church’s Clothes Closet, which provides clothing to families struggling financially. Zepher heard “squeals of joy as little girls and boys picked out clothes” and saw “relief on parents’ faces” as they filled up big garbage bags with them, she said.
That “was the best reward I could have ever asked for,” she said, because “it made me realize that we can make a difference with whatever we have -- our time, our thoughts or our money -- right now, if we just go out and do something.”
The North Carolina Campus Compact, an association of colleges and universities committed to fostering campus-community engagement, has recognized Zepher for all the times she has gone out and done something by awarding her its 2013 Community Impact Student Award, which honors outstanding students who are making a difference in their communities.
“I am honestly speechless,” said Zepher, a senior from Raleigh, N.C., who is majoring in religion and psychology. “I feel very happy to, first, have been nominated at all; I didn’t even know the award existed. And then once I found out I won, it was absolutely surreal. I am beyond grateful for Campbell and for the staff, faculty and students here that worked with me, challenged me, believed in me and inspired me to make a difference on this campus and in my community.”
At Campbell, Zepher helped start SHINE, a campus group focused on service and ministry and oriented around building relationships, objective accountability, and faith through actions. SHINE is the first female-led campus student ministry group at Campbell, and is a chapter of the Woman’s Missionary Union of North Carolina. The other co-founders of SHINE -- which stands for Serving God, Helping Others, Inspiring Believers, Networking Community, and Experiencing Christ -- are 2013 Campbell graduates Jessica Beaver, Caitlyn Fry and Taylor Smith and Campbell students Courtney Matthews and Kelsey McGaha.
“God has provided opportunities for me to be a part of amazing things here on this campus and work alongside a diverse and well-rounded student body,” said Zepher, who is on track to graduate in May 2014 and who plans to attend seminary. “There is not a doubt in my mind that these opportunities have helped to shape the person that I am now and prepare me for the things I will do in the future.”
In addition to her work with SHINE, Zepher is the president of G-Force, a student organization dedicated to interfaith conversation and engagement. She was also a team member for the White House Interfaith Service Challenge and spent a summer as an intern at Love Wins Ministries, an organization that supports poor and homeless residents in Raleigh. She recently coordinated events to raise awareness on campus and in the community about the issue of human trafficking.
“Jordan’s passion and ability to advocate and inspire others has put her on the front lines of service on our campus,” said the Rev. Faithe Beam, Campbell’s campus minister.
Zepher grew up in a service- and missions-minded family, working alongside her father and siblings doing service projects through their church. “However,” she said, “it stopped being one-dimensional for me once I got to Campbell University. Yes, I want to help people, but I’m also being given an opportunity to learn about a new perspective from someone else.
"I am helping people help themselves; and really, I am no one special," she added. "I am going and doing and giving, because I see no reason not to, and they are showing me how to be more appreciative of the things that I have and more humble in the circumstances that I am in.”
Zepher will be presented with the Community Impact Student Award on Saturday, Nov. 2, during the N.C. Campus Compact’s 20th annual student conference at Central Piedmont Community College in Charlotte, N.C. More than 175 student leaders from 27 campuses in three states are expected to attend the conference, and Zepher will be one of only 19 students to receive the award.
“Life is often unfair, and sometimes things don’t make sense. But service has taught me that no matter how bad it might be for you, someone else always has it worse than you do,” Zepher said. “And with working alongside each other and helping one another, it helps to remind us that we aren’t ever alone.
“It’s the best lesson I could have learned here at Campbell.”
About the North Carolina Campus Compact: North Carolina Campus Compact is a statewide association of nearly 40 colleges and universities that seek to develop civically-engaged students and strengthen communities. Presidents and chancellors commit their institutions to being “engaged campuses” that enhance a student’s sense of responsibility, citizenship, and leadership, and impact the community by partnering with local organizations to address real needs. For more information about the Compact or the student conference, visit www.nccampuscompact.org.
Adapted from a press release by the North Carolina Campus Compact.