Black & Gold Gala 2015 — Professional Achievement Award
College of Sciences

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College of Sciences Dean Michael Johnson presented the college’s 2015 Professional Achievement Award to James Rosengren, ’81.
James Rosengren, ’81 | Founder/Chairman/CEO, Heritage Health Solutions Inc.

The UCF Alumni Association and College of Sciences presented their 2015 Professional Achievement Award to James Rosengren at the annual Black & Gold Gala on Oct. 22.

After earning his bachelor’s degree in biology from UCF, Jim went on to earn his master’s degree in healthcare administration at Baylor University in 1991. 

Before becoming the chairman and CEO of Heritage Health Solutions Inc., he was the vice president of political and government relations for Health Net Federal Services Inc. He also served in the U.S. Army, earning multiple medals, the Legion of Merit Award and Congressional Veteran Commendation.

Jim is a fellow at the American College of Healthcare Executives, and is a member of several veterans and military organizations.

Learn more about Jim:

Black & Gold Gala 2015 — Professional Achievement Award
College of Nursing

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College of Nursing Dean Mary Lou Sole presented the college’s 2015 Professional Achievement Award to Thomas Weichart, ’04, ’14.
Thomas Weichart, ’04, ’14 | Clinical Nursing Director, ONI Medical Associates

The UCF Alumni Association and College of Nursing presented their 2015 Professional Achievement Award to Tom Weichart at the annual Black & Gold Gala on Oct. 22.

Prior to his current career ventures, Tom held various nursing positions, including the role of presidential executive nurse with the White House Medical Unit. He also served in the U.S. Army, with stints at Womack Army Medical Center in Fort Bragg, N.C.; 86th Combat Support Hospital in Baghdad, Iraq; and 240th Forward Surgical Team in Macedonia and Kosovo.

His education in the health-care field began in 1993 and continues to this day. He earned a BS in nursing from the University of Florida in 1995; an MS in health services administration from Central Michigan University in 1999; an MS in critical care nursing from UCF in 2004; a post-graduate health profession education certificate in 2004; an MA in theology/theological studies from Liberty University in 2010; post-graduate certificate as a family nurse practitioner from UCF in 2014; and is currently attending UCF for a nurse practitioner doctorate, scheduled to graduate next year.

Learn more about Tom:

Black & Gold Gala 2015 — Professional Achievement Award
College of Medicine

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College of Medicine Dean Deborah German presented the college’s 2015 Professional Achievement Award to Dr. Michael Makowski, ’80.
Dr. Michael Makowski, ’80 | Eye Physician/Surgeon, Tomoka Eye Associates

The UCF Alumni Association and College of Medicine presented their 2015 Professional Achievement Award to Michael Makowski at the annual Black & Gold Gala on Oct. 22.

Mike earned his bachelor’s degree in molecular biology/microbiology from UCF, then went on to earn his medical degree from the University of South Florida in 1984. He did his internship at Greenville Hospital System in South Carolina, and his residency at the Medical College of Georgia. 

He is an ophthalmologist and partner with Tomoka Eye Associates, Daytona’s largest and most popular ophthalmology group, with multiple subspecialists and the latest diagnostic technology. His focus is on cataract surgery, glaucoma, oculoplastics and corneal transplant. He’s a member of the American Academy of Ophthalmology, American Medical Association, American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgeons, Volusia County Medical Society and Flagler County Medical Society.

Mike received the Patients’ Choice Award in 2008, 2011 and 2014, and Compassionate Doctor Recognition in 2011 and 2014.

He’s married to fellow Knight Sandi (Wing), ’80, with whom he has two adult sons.

Learn more about Michael:

Students Who Use Wheelchairs Find Freedom on
Rock-Climbing Tower

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By Gene Kruckemyer
UCF Today

Inch by inch, participants pull themselves to the top of UCF’s adaptive-climbing rock tower, ascending high above their wheelchairs and achieving new heights that others sometimes think they can’t reach.

“It feels like a bit of freedom,” said Katherine Torres, a student majoring in health services administration who has a muscle weakness that doesn’t allow her to stand or walk. “I’ve always been one to challenge myself. And when a lot of people say I can’t do something — just watch. I didn’t know what to expect, but when I got half way there I thought to myself ‘I’m going to keep on going. I can do this.’”

Some other universities in Florida offer rock climbing to their students, but UCF is the only one to have an adaptive climbing wall, giving students with limited mobility a chance to climb, said Nathan Vink, assistant director of UCF’s Outdoor Adventure program.

This summer the Recreation and Wellness Center provided special training to eight staffers to jump-start its new adaptive-climbing program.

“This is a growing focus in recreation — to look beyond the able-bodied student and offer opportunities to all students, whether with physical or mental disabilities,” Vink said about the campus Student Assisted Workout program. “Our goals are also to try to reach the students who aren’t here yet, to open up opportunities. We have students who don’t have the same abilities, but they do have abilities.”

The adaptive-climbing program empowers students, whether beginners or experienced, to reach their potential on the 41-foot tower.

“They challenge themselves. They set their own goals,” Vink said. “We don’t tell them they have to reach the top. We’re supportive of what they want to achieve.”

The center trained staffers in the techniques of harnessing climbers in the equipment and controlling the safety ropes as the participants ascend. The climbers use a handlebar-style device that grips a rope and slowly ratchets them upwards as they repeatedly pull downward on the bar.

The ratchet system requires a quarter of the strength that other climbers would need to ascend the rope. There are different seat harnesses with various strapping and padding to help with pressure issues, and participants with prosthetic limbs can use the equipment in a way to help propel them up the rock face.

Torres, who also works in the Recreation and Wellness Center, said she heard about the campus climbing tower two years ago when she was a freshman, and has long wished she could somehow try to scale it — even if the prospect of ascending the tower was a little intimidating. And now with the staffers on duty to help, she has made the trip up twice.

Kristen Cioce, who uses a wheelchair because of a spinal cord injury, was hesitant at first to try the tower, but said she went up to fulfill a promise to one of her physical trainers — and it was an exhilarating experience that she’d do again if the opportunity came up.

“It was not something I was looking forward to doing. At first it was something I was trying to get out of,” said Cioce, who graduated last month with a master’s degree in social work. “But it’s an amazing opportunity that UCF offers.”

Vink said the staffers also talk with the climbers to allay any fears about heights or falling. And as the climbers ascend, staffers “belay” the safety ropes — or take up the slack to prevent slips.

“Every student is unique,” he said. “We just try to see how we can help them.”

Three students used the system during the summer, and now that the fall semester has started, Vink expects others to check out the adaptive-climbing experience.

What advice do the veteran climbers have for others?

“I highly recommend it to any student who has inabilities,” Cioce said. “Just follow your gut if you’re being led to do it. You don’t have to get to the top.”

And while people in wheelchairs usually feel smaller than others, Torres said, “This is a time to feel bigger than everyone. You can have a different perspective.”

For more information about the climbing program or to schedule a climb, visit http://rwc.sdes.ucf.edu/facilities/climbing-tower.

Swinging for Scholarships

UCF alumna puts on her dancing shoes to help raise money for nursing students

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Joyce DeGennaro, ’03, practices with dance partner Tony Sterling for Femmes de Coeur’s “Let Us Entertain You” competition
to help raise money for UCF nursing scholarships. (Photo: Zack Thomas, UCF Foundation)

By Angie Lewis, ’03

When Joyce DeGennaro, ’03, decided to apply for the College of Nursing’s accelerated B.S.N. program, she needed some assistance to help ease the financial burden of pursuing another degree. After all, she was a little older, and had a 6-month-old baby and mortgage at the time. That’s when she discovered the Femmes de Coeur scholarship, for which she applied and was awarded, helping her to pay for tuition and books, and graduate without student-loan debt in 2009.

Femmes de Coeur (Women of Heart) is an Orlando-based, not-for-profit volunteer organization that regularly hosts fundraising events to support numerous local community projects, including nursing scholarships at UCF, Valencia College, Seminole State College and the Florida Hospital’s Adventist University of Health Sciences.

Becoming a nurse wasn’t DeGennaro’s original plan, however. She grew up thinking she wanted to become a counselor or forensic psychologist, which is why she earned her first UCF bachelor’s degree in psychology, with a minor in criminal justice, in 2003. But, it was her work in Florida Hospital’s inpatient placement program that inspired her to go back to school to become a nurse.

Forever thankful for her opportunity to follow her passion, DeGennaro recently had the opportunity to participate in Femmes de Coeur’s annual dance competition, “Let Us Entertain You,” which raises money for exact scholarship that helped put her through nursing school.

She had no previous dance experience before the competition, but was in good hands with her 19-year dancing veteran and partner, Tony Sterling. The pair practiced twice a week since March, and took the stage June 14 in the ballroom at Church Street Station, dancing the West Coast Swing to Florida-Georgia Line’s “Cruise.” While they didn’t take the top prize, they did place third, which means about $10,000 in nursing scholarships for UCF.

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“It was my way of being able to give back to something that helped me.” DeGennaro says.

She also gives back daily, in a different way — helping to educate future nurses in the College of Nursing, where she was hired as a permanent nursing instructor in January.

Her journey from practical to practicum began while she was working as a nurse in the multisystem-transplant ICU at Florida Hospital South, where she became a certified preceptor and discovered a love for teaching. So, once again, DeGennaro re-enrolled at UCF — this time in the nurse educator master’s program, from which she graduated in 2013.

“I love being a nurse,” she says. “I love caring for people. [But,] as a nurse educator, I’m able to impart my knowledge and experience into my students. Every time they help or care for someone, I feel as though I’m a part of it. So, in essence, I’m able to touch more people’s lives than ever before!”

While she’s not planning to make a career out of dancing, DeGennaro is planning to continue her UCF education, beginning her Ph.D. in summer 2016, with plans to do research in critical care.

A Day with a Knight — ARNP

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Kate Hughes, ’10 | ARNP, Winter Park OB-GYN

By Angie Lewis, ’03

“Nobody cares how much you know, until they know how much you care.” It’s a quote that Kate Hughes, ’10, lives by as an advanced registered nurse practitioner for Winter Park OB-GYN. I spent a day with her to gain more perspective on what it’s like to be a women’s care nurse.

It was just after 9 a.m. on Wednesday, May 6, when I joined Kate in her office, after meeting with the office manager to sign a confidentiality agreement. She had already seen her first patient by the time I greeted her.

While waiting for her next patient to get settled in the exam room, she checked messages and lab results on her laptop. Then, it was off to see her second patient of the day, an 18-year-old who wanted to renew her prescription for birth control after moving to Florida.

Kate entered the room, introduced herself and me, then asked the teen to tell her about herself. It’s part of how she was trained as a nurse practitioner — to treat mind, body and soul. She says getting to know more about her patients’ lives not only helps her develop a trusted bond with them, but also gives her insight into issues that could potentially cause health issues.

After learning more about her newest patient, Kate reminded her about the risks of birth control pills, and made sure she understood that they don’t protect against sexually transmitted diseases.

Her next patient was a returning 42-year-old, who came in for an infertility consultation. Kate explained the initial tests she wanted to run, as well as the next steps, which seemed to give the patient some hope.

She was followed by a 33-year-old who was there for her 38-week pregnancy checkup on her third child. While performing the exam, Kate felt something abnormal. However, not knowing what it was, and not wanting to unnecessarily concern her patient, she stayed calm and told her she was having a difficult time finding her cervix.

After my arrival earlier that morning, Kate had explained that Winter Park OB-GYN was a collaborative practice. And, this particular patient was a perfect example of that collaboration at work, as she consulted a fellow nurse practitioner about her unusual discovery.

Thankfully, it turned out to be a varicose vein on the uterus and not an umbilical cord, which would have required emergent care.

As the morning proceeded, Kate saw four more patients — a 34-year-old for a 34-week pregnancy check, a 24-year-old in for her first pap smear, a 25-year-old with a yeast infection and a 24-year-old who came in for a Nexplanon birth control implant — before getting to take a break for lunch, through which she worked on charts, and again checked messages and lab results.

After getting a few bites in, it was time for her first patient of the afternoon, a 60-year-old in for her annual exam. She was followed by a 52-year-old who had been experiencing light spotting every couple of months and thought she may be in menopause. However, Kate assured her that was not the case yet due to her lab and ultrasound results. Instead, it was a cyst that was most likely causing the irregular bleeding.

Seven patients later, she met her last one of the day — and one of the most difficult for her emotionally, as she hates causing any of her patients pain. This one, a 40-year-old mother of one was in to get a Paraguard IUD insertion under ultrasound. It’s a particularly tricky procedure that requires directly entering the uterus through the cervix, and I cringed with empathy as the patient screamed out in pain. Thankfully, it only lasted a few seconds, but it took its toll, causing her to feel light headed for a few minutes afterward. Kate apologized for causing the unavoidable discomfort and brought her patient some juice and a snack bar to help combat the physical reaction.

Regardless of the times she has to perform painful procedures — or, worse yet, deliver painful news, like a miscarriage — Kate still does so with the utmost compassion and professionalism, even praying with her patients upon request.

Kate has been with Winter Park OB-GYN for the last five years. She previously worked as an emergency room nurse at Florida Hospital East Orlando.

“Choosing one thing I love about my work is very difficult,” she says. “I love connecting with women, meeting them where they are each day and helping them work through illness, promote healthy decisions and prevent disease.”

Throughout the day, I noticed the special connection she shares with her patients. She’s extremely personable and compassionate, and it translates through the women for whom she cares, who, one after another, told me how great she is.

“My experience [at UCF] aided me in providing compassionate care that meets the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of my patients on many levels,” she says.

Her patients love her for that. And, she loves her job because of her patients.

Beyond the Stethoscope Q&A

Q. What advice would you give to current UCF nursing students?
A.  Take time to learn the anatomy and pathophysiology very well. This foundation helps everything else fall into place.

Q. What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?
A.  My husband and I love to travel! The National Park System in the United States has some of the most beautiful places in the entire world — oceans, deserts, rainforests, mountains, valleys, rock formations. I would love to work for the National Park system!

Q. What’s something you learned in the past week?
A.  I learned about a new drug regimen for multiple sclerosis patients.

Q. What do you fear?
A.  Clowns and spiders

Q. Last thing you Googled?
A.  Guidelines for patients of advanced maternal age

Kate Hughes is a recipient of the UCF Alumni Association’s 2012 Rising Star Award. She’s been married to fellow Knight Jimmy Hughes, ’06, for nine years, and the couple has three sons, Daniel, 6, Elijah, 4, and Jonah, 2.

 

Transforming Bithlo

College of Health and Public Affairs hosts symposium on creating healthy communities

Bithlo

By Angie Lewis, ’03

Ask Central Floridians what comes to mind when they think of Bithlo, and you may hear words like “trailer park,” “Podunk” or “poor.” But, to the residents of this 10.9-square-mile town, it’s the place they call home.

Now, it’s transforming into a healthier community, thanks to some help from Orange County, United Global Outreach, Florida Hospital and Volunteer UCF.

On April 22, during a health care symposium hosted by the College of Health and Public Affairs, a panel of five guest speakers addressed the town’s residents, answering questions about the challenges they’ve faced, and how the community’s partners have addressed those challenges, as part of a Creating Healthy Communities initiative focused on improving quality of life in Central Florida.

Those panelists included Bithlo resident Enrique “Kiki” Lopez, former Orange County Mayor Richard Crotty, Tim McKinney from United Global Outreach, Verbelle Nielsen-Swanson from Florida Hospital and Anna Eskamani from Volunteer UCF.

McKinney explained that they asked residents of East Orlando’s Avalon Park — Bithlo’s more affluent neighbor — the following questions: “Is it OK for you to have brown water?” “Would you be OK with having an illegal dump in your backyard?” “Is it OK for your neighbors to deal with these problems?” And, each time, their answer was “no.”

“No zip code or neighborhood should determine your likelihood to succeed or fail,” McKinney says. “We’re trying to start a movement where neighbors care about neighbors, and friends care about friends … where the residents of Bithlo have an equal opportunity to succeed.”

Get Involved

Volunteer UCF
COHPA Alumni Chapter

Oviedo Native Makes UCF Baseball Team after Helping Alumna Mom Battle through Breast Cancer

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By UCF Athletics

She calls it the “scream heard around the world.”

UCF led 17-2 against Presbyterian on March 22, when the Knights’ No. 12 came up to the plate as a pinch hitter in the eighth inning. Big picture, this one at-bat would go down as a 10-word blip toward the end of the game story.

But for the Bates family, this moment was six months in the making.

After Oviedo native Sam Bates gave up his guaranteed spot offering from a Division II baseball team to stay at home and help care for his mother through chemotherapy and radiation treatments for breast cancer, he successfully walked on to UCF’s nationally ranked squad.

Now, here he was with a chance to register his first career hit with the Knights.

First pitch: Ball. Next two: Fouled off. Organ music pumped over the loud speaker. Then came an off-speed pitch and the ping of ball meeting bat. After that, the sound of his mother’s high-pitched “Aaahhh!” was followed by a giddy laugh as Sam dashed down the line safely to first base.

“It’s just so nice to finally see when you work so hard for something that sometimes it happens,” Mary Lou Bates said, while trying to hold back tears. “And, it happened for him.”

Mary Lou Bates and her husband, Chris, met at a local church as high schoolers. They both attended UCF — she was an education major, he, computer science — and married six weeks after graduation. The couple settled into a housing development called Stillwater, just two miles from the heart of UCF’s campus.

Their son Danny arrived first, and five years later came Sam. Like any little brother, Sam wanted to do what his big brother did. That meant baseball.

Sam started as a 4 year old with his father as the head coach of his Little League team. The family members were regulars in the stands at UCF cheering for the black and gold during the next decade of Sam’s life.

“He was the kid that was running the bases afterwards. He was the kid holding up his baseball trying to get it signed. He was that kid,” his mother said. “Baseball has always been his passion.”

While Sam always dreamed of attending UCF, he thought he had a better chance to continue playing baseball at a smaller program after he graduated from Hagerty High School. So he headed to Daytona State College, where he was a starter for two years and was named the 2014 Baseball Student-Athlete of the Year.

Around the time Sam was looking into schools following his junior college stint, doctors informed Mary Lou that she had a small, malignant tumor in her breast.

“It seemed like every test I had,” she said, “more bad news would come.”

An MRI showed another tumor on the other side of the same breast. It also revealed that cancer had spread to her lymph nodes.

Her original course of action — a lumpectomy and six weeks of radiation — now turned into a double mastectomy, radiation and five months of chemotherapy along with a five-year maintenance drug.

Sam turned down a guaranteed spot with Florida Tech’s program and decided to stay home to help with his mother’s treatment.

“I was hoping he wasn’t doing it just for me. He was,” she said. “Of course, I felt badly about that, but it was his decision. We kept asking him, `Are you sure you want to do this?’ He said, `You know I’ve always wanted to go to UCF.'”

So, he stayed by her side, supplying the fix of her new addiction, Coca-Cola Slurpees, and preparing meals for her. When she decided to go to Eden Spa at Florida Hospital to have her head shaved, Sam and his friends shaved their heads in support.

Between her husband and two sons’ shifts, Mary Lou was never alone.

“Seeing her go through chemo was tough, but she was a warrior about it. She kept me going,” Sam said of the walk-on process. “You don’t know. Am I going to get cut today? Should I just quit? And seeing her not quit chemo really helped me out.”

Sam started classes in fall 2014 and, after earning a spot with the club baseball team, attended walk-on tryouts for UCF Baseball on Sept. 15. Five ground balls, 10 swings and a 60-yard dash.

“There was a lot of pressure on those five ground balls and those 10 swings,” he said.

Head Coach Terry Rooney said Sam’s qualities as an infielder, a left-handed hitter and an experienced player thanks to his junior college years are what initially caught the staff’s attention. A day later, they called Sam while he was at home to tell him they wanted him to stick around for further evaluation.

Sam’s spot on the team wasn’t official — it would be another 135 days until that happened — but for now, he had made the cut.

Sam went into his parents’ room where he found his mother in her walk-in closet. She started to cry when he told her his news and enveloped him into a hug. He said it was the happiest he had seen her in the previous three months.

Rooney said as the weeks went on, the coaching staff was taken by Sam’s love of the game, his work ethic and infectious positive attitude.

“You could just tell that not only was he a good player, but he loved being around the guys and being a part of UCF baseball,” Rooney said. “That was something that was really important [to us].”

The coaching staff and team didn’t learn until Jan. 29, along with the rest of the world via Twitter, of the Bates’ saga:

“In the last 8 months my mom has found out she had cancer, has had 3 surgeries and 16 chemo sessions and now I get to go home and tell her I’m a UCF baseball player! Nothing beats that feeling!”

By Sam’s standards, the tweet went viral, with 58 retweets and another 179 favorites.

His parents attend games rain or shine. Sam leaves tickets for his older brother — also a UCF alumnus — at will call every night. His father, who works on Research Parkway, drives through campus every day right by the baseball stadium where his son now plays for the hometown team.

The ball Sam hit is stashed in his room. (Although the ball stayed in play immediately after Sam’s base hit, senior JoMarcos Woods was able to keep an eye on it until he could snatch it up and hand it to his teammate.)

Sam describes the past several months as a dream come true. Sam’s family and friends are overjoyed that he suits up for not only their favorite team, but a team that reached its highest national ranking in school history this season.

The experience reaffirms to him that his faith helped him to never lose sight of his path.

“This is where I’m supposed to be right now in this moment. I know it. I can feel it,” Sam said. “And, maybe my mom getting cancer in some weird way down the road led me to my dream. And, her dream was for me to follow my dreams. It’s just cool how all that stuff works out.”

Alumni Honored as “Everyday Heroes”

Last year, Nancy Ellis, '07 (left), and Sarah Goldman, '14 (right), were selected as Everyday Heroes by News 13  and Bright House Networks. On March 19, the two Knights were invited to a special Salute to Everyday Heroes luncheon,  recognizing all of the 2014 honorees. (Photo: News 13)
Last year, Nancy Ellis, ’07 (left), and Sarah Goldman, ’14 (right), were selected as Everyday Heroes by News 13 and
Bright House Networks. On March 19, the two Knights were invited to a special Salute to Everyday Heroes luncheon,
 recognizing all of the 2014 honorees.
(Photo: News 13)

Two UCF alumnae were honored at a special Salute to Everyday Heroes luncheon on March 19, 2015. Nancy Ellis, ’07, and Sarah Goldman, ’14, were among those who have made a difference in their Central Florida communities. Last year, both were featured on News 13’s Everyday Heroes segment, which airs on Mondays.

Ellis, the director for the Center for Community Partnerships in the UCF College of Health and Public Affairs, helped to create The Hub, a center at the Evans Community School that includes after-school tutoring, a career center and a health clinic that will benefit the entire community.

Goldman, who has cerebral palsy, is proving people wrong, working as an advocate for the disabled. While she was still a student at UCF, she launched the Student Advocates Reaching for Awareness and Hope Project, also known as the S.A.R.A.H. Project, on Facebook, dedicated to educating people about disability rights.

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Everyday Hero: Nancy Ellis
Everyday Hero: Sarah Goldman

UCF Students Break Holiday Record in 48 Hours

KnightsPantry

By Zenaida Kotala

In between slurping coffee to stay awake, meeting with study groups and pulling all nighters to get ready for final exams, University of Central Florida students took time out to help one another and break a food-drive record.

In less than 48 hours students dropped off 1,050 pounds of food at the Student Union to be donated to the on-campus Knights Helping Knights Pantry. The drive began Dec. 1 and ends today.  So far, more than 1,300 pounds have been collected. Last year’s record was 1,000 pounds.

Students organized the food drive to help keep the food pantry stocked during the holiday break.  The pantry began as a class project in a first-year LEAD Scholars course in 2009. The organizers never wanted students to have to choose between a meal and a textbook, so they worked hard to get the pantry started.

The pantry’s first home was a closet space in the Student Union. Today it fills an entire suite in Ferrell Commons attached to the All Knight Study facility there. The Student Union, Student Government Association and generous community donors support the pantry.

Students have access to the pantry Monday through Friday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and can select up to five food items per day. For the past few years the Student Union has organized Study Union. During that time the union and other locations remain open 24/7 so students can get ready for finals. Union coordinators plan events and programming to reward diligent students and to promote happiness and healthy study habits. The food drive was added to help keep the shelves at the pantry stocked.

This year, students received a free Study Union T-shirt in exchange for their donation. More than 210 shirts were given away in 24 hours, and when coordinators ran out of shirts, they resorted to giving away union water bottles.

The Knights Pantry accepts donations year-round.

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