By Sara Torres
Circle K stole the show at the 51st Annual District Convention Awards Ceremony, taking home awards for Distinguished Editor, Distinguished Secretary, Distinguished Vice President, Distinguished President and Distinguished Newsletter. The club was also honored with the William Paterson Outstanding Club Achievement Award, as well as $5,000, collectively, in scholarships.
The awards ceremony was held on Saturday, March 21, as part of a weekend-long event for the 10 chapters of Circle K across the state, at the Hotel Somerset-Bridgewater in Somerset, N.J.
Circle K President Daniel Kaplan is thrilled with the club’s accomplishments.
“I think we officially came away with the second most (awards), but we won a lot of the top ones, the big ticket items,” the senior secondary education and history double major said.
Vice President Kerrin McLaughlin, a junior interactive multimedia major, said the club was not only celebrating its own accomplishments, but also those of notable member Dawn Kreder.
Kreder, a senior sociology major at the College, served as District Governor during the past year, presiding over each New Jersey Circle K club.
“We were just celebrating her great year, as well,” McLaughlin said.
Kreder was awarded the Kiwanis Centennial Award, one of the largest donations for an award in the organization, in recognition of her accomplishments as District Governor. As the 57th recipient internationally, the reward signifies that $1,500 is donated in her name toward The Eliminate Project, an initiative to eliminate maternal and neonatal tetanus.
“To see every club receive awards at District Convention for everything that they had accomplished this past year was incredible,” Kreder said. “It is at this event, where we celebrate the old and new, that I believe CKI members remember why they joined and realize the impact that they are making on a local and global level through their actions.”
Kreder describes the experience winning the Centennial Award as truly humbling.
“It showed that the people around me, that support me each and every day, thought I was worthy of receiving it,” she said.
Members of Circle K at the College engage in two kinds of service projects, one being weekly on-campus projects such as Eickhoff cleanup, wrapping utensils for the soup kitchen and tutoring, according to Kaplan. Larger scale projects are done in collaboration with other clubs in the overarching organization Kiwanis Service Leadership Programs, such as 5K runs for Autism and benefit dinners.
Reflecting on his experiences in Circle K, Kaplan said his favorite project has been volunteering during Eickhoff cleanup, an initiative that the organization started two years ago.
“It’s a way to give back to the campus directly. All of us have eaten at Eick, and it’s nice to return the favor now that we have the chance,” he said. “And it’s just so fun. It’s a really good time.”
McLaughlin said she has most enjoyed their work with the Ronald McDonald House Charities, which provides a home away from home for family members of patients being treated in hospitals in locations far from where they live. Circle K members helped by cleaning the space and cooking dinner for the families.
Kaplan said he joined Circle K during his sophomore year when he was simply looking for a way to get involved.
“(Kreder), who lived on my freshmen floor, actually dragged me along to a meeting, and I just kind of instantly fell in love with the club,” Kaplan said. “As crazy as it sounds, it really is like a family. There’s something really special about the passion that everyone in Circle K shares for community service.”
Kaplan says that the involvement opportunities in Circle K immediately impressed him when he joined.
“It’s always amazing when members are proposing new service projects or presenting an idea or just saying something they want to see in the club, because one thing that drew me to the club is that it’s very democratic,” he said. “If you present an idea like that, it’ll come to life, and I guess that blew my mind as a sophomore. It kind of continues to blow my mind now.”
McLaughlin said she knew Circle K was something she wanted to join since she had been a member of Key Club in high school, an affiliate of the Kiwanis Service Leadership Programs. The junior will fill the position of Circle K’s president starting next week.
“I think it includes the most genuine people on campus,” McLaughlin said. “There are other organizations where people have a service requirement, but I think that the people in our club are there for the service because they want to be doing it, not because it’s required of them.”
Meanwhile, Kreder is grateful for the ways in which her involvement in Circle K has enriched her experience in college, as well as her future.
“This weekend was a fantastic way to end my four years in this organization,” Kreder said. “CKI has helped me grow as a leader to myself, others and the community, and without these experiences, I am not sure what I would be doing with my life. Certainly, I would have missed out on a lot of opportunities I’ve been lucky to have, and friends that I’ve met.”
Students interested in Circle K can visit its website at http://circlekattcnj.weebly.com/.