Hopkins, who is majoring in jazz performance with a minor in Community Leadership and Civic Engagement, cited a legendary civil rights leaders as an inspiration behind his passion for giving back and paying it forward.
“Dr. Martin Luther King once said, ‘Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, “What are you doing for others?” ’ I always had a heart to help others, but I wasn’t introduced to service until I came to college,” Hopkins wrote in his application.
“As I approached my senior year, I noticed that as much as I was becoming more engaged in organizations and making change at the university, it didn’t mean anything if I wasn’t being a leader in the Chicago community where I was born and raised,” he wrote. “In the summer of 2013, I started a nonprofit organization called the Remember Project, which engages college students in coming back to be positive role models for inner-city youth in Chicago.”
The Newman Civic Fellows Awards, made possible through the generous support of the KPMG Foundation, honor inspiring college student leaders who have demonstrated an investment in finding solutions for challenges facing communities throughout the country.
Through service, research, and advocacy, Newman Civic Fellows are making the most of their college experiences to better understand themselves, the root causes of social issues, and effective mechanisms for creating lasting change.
These students represent the next generation of public problem solvers and civic leaders. They serve as national examples of the role that higher education can – and does – play in building a better world.
“Randiss’ student leadership continues to inspire others to make the most of their college experience through service, advocacy and leadership,” NIU President Doug Baker wrote in nomination of Hopkins.
More than 200 NIU student leaders collectively accounted for more than 1,000 hours of service by being positive role models for Chicago youth, Baker added.
“Through hosting student panels for Chicago Public Schools about overcoming life obstacles and the importance of higher education,” the president wrote.
“Randiss engaged a number of NIU students in service throughout several inner-city communities where students were able to prepare meals for the homeless, complete several landscaping projects while sharing their college experience and impacting the lives of over 300 youth.”
During NIU’s recent spring break – the week of March 9 – the Remember Project partnered with After School Matters to offer volunteer opportunities in four programs focusing on the performing arts in Chicago, including music, dance, theater and poetry sessions.
Hopkins, who grew up on Chicago’s West Side, called it a “true blessing” to partner with the nonprofit organization that offers Chicago high school students innovative out-of-school activities.
“I am a product of After School Matters,” he said, “and it has a special place in my heart because of that.”
Volunteerism became a way of life for Hopkins during the spring semester of his sophomore year when he joined the B.R.O.T.H.E.R.S. organization and participated in NIU Cares Day. The sight of so many college students unified for a common cause made a huge impact.
Less than two years later, in January 2015, he received the P.E.A.C.E. Award (Probity. Equality. Achievement. Community. Excellence.) at NIU in honor of Dr. King. “As much as possible,” Hopkins wrote, “I try to remind myself of (Dr. King’s) famous quote and (to) be the answer to his most persistent and urgent question.”