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To honor the values that bind the rugby community and Penn Mutual together, each year a Penn Mutual Collegiate Rugby Championship player is presented with the Penn Mutual Life of Significance Award. In its fifth year, the award highlights how college rugby players demonstrate the values of integrity, respect, loyalty and community in their everyday lives.
This year, eighteen individuals from 11 states and Singapore were nominated by their coaches and peers for their commitment to creating a better future for all. The award nominees range from big schools to small college programs and are a diverse group of candidates that have differentiated themselves in the various ways they give back to the community.
Owen Blaschak, Susquehanna University, Dillsburg, PA
Owen is extremely involved on campus and is an active member of Tau Kappa Epsilon Fraternity, doing more than 50 hours of community service and outreach in each semester. As a Community Residence Assistant in the Office of Student Life, he represents the university as an Office of Admissions Tour guide and as part of the Student Ambassador Leadership Team.
Matthew Crowe, Iona College, Malverne, NY
Matt is the leader of the Iona chapter of the Midnight Run, an organization that schedules monthly trips with 30 or more student volunteers to donate food, clothes and other essentials to the homeless of NYC. In addition, he has traveled to Ireland to help the poor and marginalized in Dublin and Belfast as well as participated in various other service programs including Abraham House, Project Bro and Wellspring.
Dong Dinh, University of Denver, Seattle, WA
Dong sacrificed his rugby career to donate a kidney to his uncle requiring a transplant but has remained an integral part of the DU rugby program. Dong has donated his time for many DU Rugby fundraisers with 50/50 raffles, ice crew and activities outside of rugby. Dong is a 'Graduate Assistant of Students Rights and Responsibilities', where he sits on the student council’s board and helps students with university life challenges.
Atalyia Eisenhauer, Bloomsburg University, Scranton, PA
Atalyia student teaches at North Central Secure Treatment Unit, an all-girls juvenile detention center to help educate youth. Over the summer of 2018, she taught low-income students in Newark, NJ at North Star Academy Charter School through the Uncommon Schools Organization. On top of her teaching experience, she volunteers for the local ASPCA, Camp Victory, Griffin Pond Animal Shelter, Friends of the Poor Food Shelter, and as an assistant coach for a teen travel softball team.
Gio Ferguson-Lewis, Army West Point, Rockaway Beach, NY
Ferguson-Lewis grew up in the inner city of Rockaway Beach NY discovering rugby when she was a teenager. Rugby has not only provided her the opportunity to attend college, but put her in a spot to graduate from the world’s most preeminent Military Institution. She embodies every aspect of what a cadet-athlete is — Duty, Honor, Country — all rooted from the sport of rugby.
Jeston Glish, University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, Fond du Lac, WI
Jeston has worked tirelessly at the Wisconsin Lions Camp for the summers of 2016, 2017, and 2018 working with populations such as the visually impaired, the deaf or hard of hearing, intellectually disabled individuals, children with autism, and those with type 1 diabetes. In addition, he has coached athletes competing in the Special Olympics and is currently working for the YMCA in both before- and after-school childcare.
Damon Jones, Thomas More University, Philadelphia, PA
Damon has been volunteering at the Covington Food banks, Be Concerned, Parish Kitchen and Welcome House since he came to Thomas More. He has accumulated 40-60 hours of volunteer work during his college career helping on weekends when not playing rugby or working.
Jocelyn Jones, Life University, Ogden, UT
Jocelyn spent some time in 2018 in Haiti on a medical mission trip. With the group For His Glory Outreach, partnering with Maison des Enfants de Dieu, an orphanage in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, they sought to care for and meet the needs of local orphans.
Matt Lydon, St. Joseph’s University, Staten Island, NY
Through high school, Matt was a "Big Brother" (mentor) for a student at Gompers Elementary School. He visited him weekly to help him with his school work as well as with life lessons. Matt has also given back to those with special needs by building a gazebo for those with disabilities for his Eagle Scout project and teaching kids to ice skate in the “On Your Mark” program.
Eamonn Matthews, St. Bonaventure University, Jersey City, NJ
Eamonn is a student athlete that has shown great leadership through his actions on and off the field. His passion for the team and its growth is immeasurable. He puts the team first in everything that he does and has been a mentor for younger students on the field and in the classroom
Yanick Mendes, UCLA, Indian Trail, NC
Yanick leads quarterly events on campus to make sandwiches & meal bags for the homeless population of Downtown LA and as President of the UCLA Rugby Club has initiated and organized community service events for the club such as team visits to the UCLA Children's Hospital or Midnight Mission, a nonprofit soup kitchen in Los Angeles. Yanick maintains a close relationship with ICEF (Inner City Education Foundation) Rugby Club, his middle school alma mater, making visits to speak with the kids, encouraging them to continue playing through higher education.
Scout Muzikowski, University of Notre Dame, Chicago, IL
For the last three years, Scout has mentored high school girls at a local inner-city public school, Clay High School, through an organization called Young Life. Through one of the University of Notre Dame’s psychology programs, she spends four hours each week with a high school student diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. In addition, every summer she volunteers at Chicago Hope Academy, an inner-city high school on the West Side of Chicago.
Jake Parmater, Indiana University, Mishawaka, IN
Jake volunteers his time at local youth centers, aiming to improve social capital and personal growth through rugby. Jake has been instrumental in getting multiple youth programs off the ground, while continuing to be a top student and top leader on the rugby field.
Kraig Puccia, Fordham University, Whitestone, NY
As part of Fordham's GO! (Global Outreach) Program, Kraig went to Bethel, Alaska to learn about issues of drug and alcohol abuse in the local community, primarily assisting the Tundra Women's Coalition, which works to protect women in the community from their partners because of alcohol or drug-induced episodes that threaten their safety. Last summer, Kraig volunteered to work in the Domestic Violence Bureau at the Queens District Attorney's Office and this year will continue his altruism working at the Veterans Advocacy Project through the Urban Justice Center doing pro-bono work for neglected veterans throughout New York City.
John, “Jack” Ramirez, Loyal University Maryland, Philadelphia, PA
John has organized volunteer opportunities for the rugby club with the Healthy Kids Running Series at Loch Raven High School in Towson, MD, working with kids on their fitness and helping to run events and races. He also organized a fundraiser for ALS at Loyola U in honor of their head Coach, Matt Cipriano, whose best friend from Iona Rugby is suffering with ALS. Additionally, while studying abroad at Assumption University in Bangkok his junior year, he volunteered at a grade school to help Tai children learn English.
Jack Russell, University of Wisconsin, St. Charles, IL
After joining a social entrepreneur club called Enactus, Jack helped in creating the “Caring Closet,” a program at UW that offered free school supplies, toiletries, and clothes to students in need of financial assistance. In order to bolster the program that he helped build, Jack assisted in organizing a charitable 5K called the “Chubby Turkey Trot” in which participants would wear excess layers of clothes and donate the clothes in designated bins along the route. In addition, Jack helped raise money for the MACC Fund for pediatric cancer research at their annual philanthropy event and has volunteered at the local St. Vincent De Paul and The River food pantry.
Jeremy Seow, Claremont McKenna College, Singapore
Jeremy is the most involved member of the community on the rugby team. An active member on campus, he is employed as a tour guide for school, which entails an extensive and selective interview process. In addition, Jeremy uses his personal filming equipment to take professional photos for fellow students, make professional videos that appear on the college’s home screen, and create gifts for coaches for our end-of-the-season banquet.
Justin Stallworth, New Mexico Highlands University, Tucson, AZ
Justin is active with his church and their youth program filling voids and providing comfort and trust to young kids. This young man is a graduate student, rugby player, part-time employee and exemplifies great commitment to each and every one of his purposes in life.
Thomas Ward, Christendom College, Norwalk, CT
At Christendom, Thomas is a member of the Student Activity council and a member of the Mother Teresa Club, a DC homeless ministry. He also participates in the Christendom Day of Service at a local retirement home where he and others visited with residents, set up and played bowling and shared a meal with them. In addition, he was part of a missionary trip to Peru, where he helped build stairs up a mountain for the poor and homeless to use to safely get to their shacks.
The winner of this award receives a $5000 donation to the charity of their choice and $1000 worth of Rhino Rugby equipment is donated to their college rugby team.
The 2019 Life of Significance Award will be presented at a private event on May 31. The winner will also be recognized in a live on-field presentation during ESPN’s broadcast of the Penn Mutual Collegiate Rugby Championship.