University of Mississippi student Peter Bowman Hitchens of Charlotte, N.C., received recognition in the recent Governor’s Initiative for Volunteer Excellence Awards.
Bowman was honored with a GIVE award for Outstanding Achievement by a College Student. He was one of more than a dozen individuals or organizations recognized by the Mississippi Commission for Volunteer Service, in partnership with the Office of the Governor and the state’s first lady, Marsha Barbour.
“Haley and I applaud Bowman Hitchens for his award, ‘Outstanding Achievement by a College Student,’” she said. “Bowman has truly made an impact on his community while being a student at Ole Miss, and we are proud to have such an exceptional young man here in the state of Mississippi.”
“I am so blown away and honored to be receiving the recognition that comes from such a prestigious award as the GIVE,” said Hitchens, a senior double major in religion and history. “For me, the most rewarding part is that all the work I have done is simply a product of the heart that Jesus has given me to love serving his kingdom.”
The award comes on the heels of Hitchens’ national recognition as one of 50 semifinalists in competition for the national Students in Service Award. Coordinated by the Washington Campus Compact and Inspireum in Bellingham, Wash., the awards recognize outstanding college students whose volunteer efforts positively impact society and inspire others to serve.
One amazing service effort by Hitchens that has attracted recognition is his role as founder of the year-old organization UM Homeless Outreach, which has 37 student members. In partnership with Oxford’s Homeless Task Force, the core UMHO members have worked closely with Hildreth Davis, Americorps VISTA to the College of Liberal Arts. The Dean of Students Office has co-sponsored events and has played a large role in helping the organization meet its goals, Hitchens said.
In its first year, UM Homeless Outreach projects included assisting with the creation of More than a Meal, a soup kitchen in Oxford; holding an on-campus drive that collected enough nonperishable food items to fill a 10-by-10-foot storage unit; and partnering with the university to create the annual fundraiser UM Chili Bowl for the Soul, which raised $2,350 in its first year.
Hitchens said he “developed a heart for community service when I became a Christian on a mission trip to Gulfport while doing Hurricane Katrina relief work during my junior year in high school.”
The summer after his freshman year at UM, Hitchens and three friends spent five weeks doing mission work in a slum in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil.
“Bowman Hitchens is, indeed, deserving of this national and statewide recognition,” Davis said. “He is extremely dedicated to service and to spending his youthful strength to benefit those in need.
“I met Bowman on my second day at Ole Miss, and it has been my pleasure to support him, as he and his fellow student Haley Hill brought the first Annual Chili Bowl for the Soul, benefiting the homeless ministries of Interfaith Compassion Ministries, from a fledgling idea to a successful conclusion. These students have spirit and vision and the ability to motivate others.”
Hitchens, another UM student and two LSU students plan to kayak the entire length of the Mississippi River this summer to raise funds for Oxford’s ICM and a charity organization in Baton Rouge. Those who wish to follow this effort in support of these students can visit the trip website at http://www.awakeinthecurrent.com/.
Hitchens expects to complete his degree this fall, after which he plans a service career.