Easterseals Arkansas honors graduating student as Volunteer of the Year

UA Little Rock student Derrick Alexander has been recognized as Volunteer of the Year for the Academy for Easterseals Arkansas. Photo by Ben Krain.

A University of Arkansas at Little Rock student who is graduating this month has been recognized for his outstanding volunteer service with children in the community. 

Derrick Alexander, a 36-year-old senior from Little Rock, was recently honored by Easterseals Arkansas as a Volunteer of the Year for the Academy. He will graduate from UA Little Rock on Dec. 15 with a bachelor’s degree in health education and promotion.

Alexander is an intern for Easterseals Academy at Riverdale, a school for children with developmental disabilities.

Alexander jokes that he was selected as a Volunteer of the Year “because I’m awesome.”

“The kids love me. The staff loves me,” he said. “I am there every day except Wednesday when I am here at class. I participate in all the activities. I’m just really involved. There are 35 kids in the academy, and I know everyone of them by name.”

He call himself a “jack of all trades” who has done everything from working with the students, answering phones, assisting with lessons, and supervising recess, to installing security cameras in the classroom and organizing books in the library. His favorite activity was volunteering during the Special Olympics earlier this semester.

“Working the Special Olympics was very fun,” he said. “I got to see the excitement on the kids’ faces when they bowled a strike, picked up a spare, and were just having fun. Whenever they won a medal, there were a lot of laughs and a lot of fun.”

Dr. Janea Snyder, assistant professor of health education and promotion and Alexander’s internship supervisor, said it was a joy to witness how much the students and staff at Easterseals adored Alexander during internship site visits.

“Health education and promotion majors often have a passion to serve, and this is true for Derrick as he has also served our country,” Snyder said. “While completing his 200-hour health education internship at Easterseals, his heart for serving others and going above and beyond was recognized in him being awarded their Volunteer of the Year Award for the Academy for 2018. He is respectful, generous, and overall just a great guy.”

Alexander is a veteran of the U.S. Army, having served a tour in Afghanistan as well as relief duty during Hurricane Katrina. He started at UA Little Rock in 2016 after attending University of Arkansas-Pulaski Technical College. He remembers visiting UA Little Rock as a sixth-grader at Franklin Elementary to visit Derek Fisher, former NBA player and coach, who played for the Trojans at the time.  

Alexander, a father of a son and two daughters, said his own kids made him want to major in health education and promotion.

“One day, I know they will go off to college, so whatever knowledge I have can help them,” he said.

In the end, Alexander’s time at Easterseals has left an impression. After graduating in December, he is considering attending graduate school to study special education, a decision he says was influenced by his time at Easterseals.

“Everything about the kids and their progress makes me want to work in special education,” Alexander said. “They are all very amazing, the kids and their progress. There are a lot of things about them that are amazing.”

In the upper right photo, UA Little Rock student Derrick Alexander has been recognized by Easterseals Arkansas as Volunteer of the Year for the Academy. Photo by Ben Krain. 

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