by Ohio Wesleyan University Online (Delaware, Ohio)
As a sophomore at Ohio Wesleyan University, Jessica Schaffner’s life was changed during a 2005 mission trip to Vietnam to study the effects of Agent Orange, a toxic herbicide used during the Vietnam War to destroy both food and foliage.
Now, as a senior, Schaffner has earned national and state recognition for her dedication to assisting Vietnam residents still suffering from the herbicide’s lingering effects.
The Diamond, Ohio, resident is one of four students nationwide to receive a community fellowship award from California-based Volunteers in Asia. Founded in 1963, the private, non-profit organization is dedicated to increasing understanding between the United States and Asia. As part of her fellowship, Schaffner will return to Vietnam this summer and remain for two years, teaching English in Hanoi and designing service projects.
Schaffner also is one of eight students honored in Ohio with the prestigious Charles J. Ping Award, which recognizes undergraduate students for outstanding leadership and contributions to community service or service learning. The award is presented by the Ohio Campus Compact, a non-profit coalition of 46 Ohio colleges and universities based in Granville, Ohio. This year, the award includes a $500 honorarium given to the student’s charity or community partner.
As a result of her experiences in Vietnam, Schaffner and other members of her 2005 Ohio Wesleyan mission team founded Voices for Victims of Agent Orange, an organization dedicated to raising awareness about the long-lasting consequences of Agent Orange.
“Many of my classmates had no idea what Agent Orange was until our group formed on campus,” she says. Today, people from all over the country visit the organization’s Web site (ffrd.org/Voices.html) and e-mail Schaffner to find out how they can become involved in similar advocacy efforts.
Ohio Wesleyan Chaplain Jon Powers, who worked with Schaffner on several volunteer projects, praised her for her selflessness and dedication to helping others.
“There are few young people in this nation with such a compelling combination of personal character, academic rigor, and vocational commitment to the people of Vietnam as that possessed by Jessica Schaffner,” Powers says. “The measure of her maturity is far beyond her years.”
Founded in 1842, Ohio Wesleyan University is one of the nation’s leading liberal arts colleges, dedicated to preparing students for a lifetime of learning, service, and leadership. Located in Delaware, Ohio, 20 miles north of the state capital, Ohio Wesleyan is a coeducational, residential, privately supported undergraduate institution. The university is ranked consistently by U.S. News & World Report as one of the nation’s top 100 liberal arts colleges and is featured in the book “Colleges That Change Lives.” The faculty includes more than 135 educators, all of whom actively teach and hold either doctoral degrees or the highest recognized professional degrees in their fields. Approximately 1,850 students representing 44 states and 45 countries attend Ohio Wesleyan.