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Awards presented to Riley Institute’s Emerging Public Leaders


The Richard W. Riley Institute at Furman University has announced winners of its service project competition for high school seniors participating in the institute’s Emerging Public Leaders (EPL) program.

The EPL students for 2017-18 receiving special recognition for their initiatives are:

Emerging Public Leaders spend a week on the Furman campus investigating topics like community engagement, critical issues, and ethical leadership. They also develop communication and presentation skills, and plan for the implementation of service projects which address needs in their communities.

First Place—Jennie Allen, Union County High School, Union, South Carolina. Allen received a $500 award for creating teacher and parent/student packets about medical homebound instruction. She also led a professional development presentation for faculty members at Union County High to offer ways to improve homebound services for both the student and teacher, and to expose those with no experience in homebound instruction to this mode of learning. Said Allen, “Working on this project solidified my choice to pursue a career in education and helped me uncover the passion I have for education.”

Second Place—Duncan Winburn, Westwood High School, Blythewood, South Carolina. Winburn received a $300 award to build on “Star Day,” a program he created that celebrates special education students and the arts. For the event, which drew 100 participants, arts students taught special education students how to dance, sing, sculpt, improvise, and make and perform puppetry. While Star Day took months of planning and logistics, Winburn said, “Seeing the smiles on everyone’s faces, especially the students in special ed, made all the effort worth it.” The project also generated ongoing dialogue between special education students and their regular education counterparts. Star Day was voted to become an annual event at Westwood High.

Third Place—Mary Laurel Patrick, Greenville Senior High Academy, Greenville, South Carolina. Patrick received a $200 award for her role in creating the Juanita Butler Garden at the Juanita Butler Community Center. With a goal to establish a sustainable garden, Patrick worked with volunteers, friends, family and “curious” neighborhood children to build raised beds. The project evolved into a gardening club at the center where Patrick now meets with children to teach them about gardening, composting and the benefits of fresh produce. Her efforts have become an integral part of the Juanita Butler Center as well as Greenville’s Greater Sullivan Neighborhood. Said Patrick, “The Riley Institute and the EPL program have encouraged me to make a difference in my community and finally transform my vision for a community garden to reality.”

Honorable Mention winners each received an award of $100 to further their projects. Students receiving honorable mention awards are:

Farehaa Hussain, Riverside High School, Greer, South Carolina, Public speaking empowerment at Riverside High

Manning Snyder, Porter-Gaud School, Charleston, South Carolina, Book Sale for Charleston Freedom School, and building awareness of Charleston Area Justice Ministry (CAJM)

Erica Daly, Fort Mill High School, Tega Cay, South Carolina, “Mentoring Future Women Leaders”

EPL is a program designed to impart public leadership skills and knowledge to high school seniors. During summer, participants spend a week at Furman where they investigate topics such as engaging in the community, analyzing critical issues, and practicing ethical leadership. They also develop communication and presentation skills, and plan for the implementation of service projects which address needs in their communities.

Over the course of their senior year, students plan and implement projects, and then present completed projects the following spring. Projects are judged on the basis of vision, planning, execution, program impact, presentation skills and project sustainability. Winners are awarded cash prizes to expand or replicate projects.

Established in 2002, EPL has seen 255 students come through the program. Students participate in EPL at no cost thanks to sponsors including Cox Industries, the Pazdan family, the Riley Institute at Furman, State Farm, and Walmart.

For more information, contact Melanie Armstrong at 864-294-3688 and

Last updated May 9, 2018
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Clinton Colmenares
News & Media Relations Director