(PHILADELPHIA, Pa.) - After receiving 19 nominations for the 2019 Penn Mutual Life of Significance Award, Penn Mutual has narrowed the field to three finalists. These individuals have consistently upheld the values of the rugby community and Penn Mutual.
Matthew Crowe, Iona College
Hometown: Malverne, NY
Matt is the leader of the Iona Chapter of Midnight Run, an organization that coordinates 30 or more student volunteers on a monthly basis to donate food, clothes and other essential items to the homeless of New York City. In addition, he has traveled internationally to help[ the poor and marginalized in Dublin and Belfast, Ireland and serves as a campus Minister, organizing a bi-weekly Bible Study that brings people of different faiths and backgrounds together to discuss different viewpoints.
He has also spent time volunteering with a number of organizations in New York City. Matt has worked with Abraham House, a group that offers children whose parents are incarcerated an outlet to get their school work done with the help of volunteers willing to aid them. With Project Bro, Matt organizes students to visit Christian Brothers that have retired from active service. Volunteers interact through conversation, playing games and other various activities.Finally, Matt is involved in Wellspring, an organization that collects all of the recyclable bottles and cans around campus and donates the money made from cashing it out towards building clean drinking wells in Africa.
Jeston Glish, University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point
Hometown: Fond du Lac, WI
Jeston has spent the past three summers 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 at the Wisconsin Lions Camp. Jeston has assisted with raising funds, and even organizing a fundraiser, for the Lions Camp which has led him to be a keystone in the community and within the leadership of the organization.
He has also spent two years coaching Special Olympic athletes in track and field, basketball, and bowling and has served as a coach for Stevens Point Senior High freshman basketball team. In addition to coaching, Jeston is currently working for the YMCA in both before- and after-school childcare as well as undertaking an internship through the world-famous Mayo Clinic. Jeston will be working at the Lions Camp for his fourth summer in a row following the completion of his internship and undergraduate degree.
Kraig Puccia, Fordham University
Hometown: Whitestone, NY
Kraig is a member of Fordham's GO! (Global Outreach) Program and has gone to Bethel, Alaska to learn about issues of drug and alcohol abuse in the local community. In preparation for the visit, he helped raise thousands of dollars in donations to aid programs in the Bethel community to combat drug and alcohol abuse. While in Alaska, Kraig primarily assisted 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.
He spent last year as a volunteer with the Domestic Violence Bureau at the Queens District Attorney's Office. This summer, Kraig 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. Kraig is also a volunteer for the Bronx Italian-American History Initiative, which works to preserve the cultural past of various parts of the Bronx by collecting, recording, and archiving the stories of past residents.
About the Award
The Life of Significance Award is presented to one student-athlete participating in the CRC, either male or female, who upholds the values of the rugby community and Penn Mutual. The finalists demonstrate characteristics such as integrity, respect and loyalty-on and off the pitch– through mentorship, giving back to their community and working with various charitable organizations.
This prestigious award was inspired by the book, "Living a Life of Significance," by Joseph Jordan, which details the positive impact the life insurance industry has on society.
The Grand Prize
The winner of this award receives a $5000 donation to the charity of his or her 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.
We are also proud to recognize the outstanding field of nominees.
Owen Blaschak, Susquehanna University
Hometown: 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.
Dong Dinh, University of Denver
Hometown: Seattle, WA
Dong sacrificed his rugby career to donate a kidney to his close friend 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
Hometown: 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 has volunteered for the local ASPCA, Camp Victory, Griffin Pond Animal Shelter, Friends of the Poor Food Pantry, and as an assistant coach for a teen travel softball team.
Gio Ferguson-Lewis, Army West Point
Hometown: Rockaway Beach, NY
Gio 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.
Damon Jones, Thomas More University
Hometown: 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
Hometown: Ogden, UT
In 2018, Jocelyn spent some time 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
Hometown: 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
Hometown: 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,
Hometown: Indian Trail, NC
Yanick leads quarterly events on campus to make sandwiches & meal bags for the homeless population of Downtown Los Angeles. 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
Hometown: 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
Hometown: 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.
John, "Jack" Ramirez, Loyola University Maryland
Hometown: 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
Hometown: 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
Home Country: 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 their end-of-the-season banquet.
Justin Stallworth, New Mexico Highlands University
Hometown: Tucson, AZ
Justin is active with his church and its 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
Hometown: 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.