Corrigan Revels, a University of Arkansas at Little Rock alumnus, will be recognized as one of 11 Arkansas Community Service Award honorees on Friday, April 20, for his dedication and commitment to students participating in UA Little Rock’s Children International program.
Each year, the Arkansas Department of Human Services’ Office of Communications and Community Engagement, the Office of the Governor, and KARK-TV recognize individuals and companies in Arkansas that conduct outstanding volunteer services, demonstrate unselfish behaviors that benefit the community, and exemplify high ideals of humanitarianism.
These honorees are first nominated by the general public, then selected as finalists by statewide committees of community leaders and volunteers. To celebrate those who are chosen as recipients, the Gov. Asa Hutchinson hosts a televised awards ceremony and personally presents the honorees with the prestigious Community Service Award.
This year’s event will begin at 6:30 p.m. at the Embassy Suites in West Little Rock.
Hunger for volunteering
For nearly seven years, Revels has given up countless hours of his life to volunteer with Children International’s at-risk youth. From stepping to tutoring and chaperoning to facilitating, Revels has done it all in the name of love.
“I definitely feel like I have a hunger for volunteering because I’ve always wanted to have a mentor or someone I could look up to,” Revels said.
Growing up as an only child until he was 16 years old, Revels was often surrounded by much older adults, including his mom, aunt, and grandparents, with whom he lived. It wasn’t until he came to UA Little Rock in 2011 that he met people he would eventually consider mentors.
During his stint as a mentee in the African American Male Initiative (AAMI) program, Revels encountered JaCarlos Sheppard, an AAMI mentor who instantly made an impact on Revels’ life and became a large part of the reason he began volunteering so vehemently.
‘Someone was willing to invest in me’
As a kid, Revels remembers volunteering for his church during Thanksgiving, passing out food trays to the less fortunate. Although he didn’t mind lending a helping hand, Revels didn’t quite understand the true meaning or significance of giving back at that time.
“I knew it was a good thing, but I didn’t take it as ‘this person may or may not be able to share this moment with someone else, or they may not be able to eat this quality of food because they can’t help themselves because they’re elderly or sick,’” he said.
Once Revels matured and volunteering was presented to him as an exciting and meaningful experience, he was hooked.
“As a member of AAMI, I didn’t have a choice in whether or not I would volunteer because we were required to do 15 to 30 hours of service,” Revels explained. “JaCarlos, who was technically not my official mentor, began inviting me to different places like Bale Elementary, and my love for helping kind of grew from there. I was hungry for more and I loved the fact that someone was willing to invest in me, especially at that point in time.”
As a freshman and first-generation college student, Revels had never had a peer mentor or big brother that he could look to when he needed help dealing with circumstances in and outside of the classroom. Because he grew up surrounded by his elders, he always saw himself as a leader when he was among his peers.
“Having someone that I could look up to and admire was big for me because, besides the adults I had as a kid who I really appreciate, I never had that,” Revels shared.
Bridging the gap, building relationships
Being led by Sheppard, Revels found himself waking up at wee hours of the morning to volunteer for events like Race for the Cure, or spending hours after class and on weekends to assist students at Bale or Children International. As time passed, Revels became truly inspired by Sheppard because he saw him not only willingly give up his time for others, but he also witnessed Sheppard build meaningful relationships with those he helped so selflessly.
“When AAMI started going to Bale, I saw that JaCarlos already had relationships with some of the students,” Revels said. “I was like, ‘Man, how is that,’ and I started realizing it was because of Children International and that he was working with them on and off the clock.”
In 2014, Revels followed in Sheppard’s footsteps and began working for Children International in conjunction with the numerous positions and roles he held at UA Little Rock. From his sophomore to senior year, Revels served as an AAMI mentor, was a University Program Council committee chair member, media crew assistant for Trojan basketball games, intramural sports supervisor and referee, and member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc.
“I didn’t shy away from using my weekends to do something for the children,” Revels said. “Wherever they had an opportunity for me to help out, or whatever they asked me to do, I was there to do it.”
For this reason and more, the Children International students were drawn to Revels.
“People would be amazed at some of the things these kids deal with when they go home,” Revels said. “They’re either not eating enough, not getting enough love, not getting enough attention, or they could be successful in the future, but they have no one to push them at home or they have to work just to help out their families.”
Success comes from service
When Revels spent time with the students, his approach as a mentor was to not concern himself with what they were lacking, but to be all that he could be for them. He was intentional in his ability to make the students feel comfortable around him and motivated about their futures.
“Where I am now and even in higher education, we’re here for the students and we’re here to serve the students,” Revels said. “We may get paid for it, but everything you do for the students, if you invest and really take your job seriously, you’ll receive much more than money in return.”
Revels now works as a college and career coach at University of Arkansas – Pulaski Technical College. Although his schedule has changed and work doesn’t allow him to participate with Children International as much, he’s still passionate about the organization and open to helping in any way that he can.
“I love to do it, I enjoy it, and I know that it’s something that the students can benefit from,” Revels said.
Outside of work, Revels continues to pursue his passion as an up-and-coming filmmaker. He says he enjoys telling stories that people can relate to and that uplift those who watch them.
“I am big on changing the narrative and I think that’s a service also,” he said.
Revels graduated from UA Little Rock with a bachelor’s in mass communication with an emphasis in motion pictures in 2015. He received a graduate degree in higher education and student affairs in 2017. Last year, he and Sheppard were recognized by Children International as outstanding volunteers of the year.