Luke Cielonko, a college senior at the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor in Belton, Texas, is one of two students being honored today with the Gary and Diane Heavin Servant Leadership Award for demonstrating outstanding servant leadership. Cielonko plans to give away 90 percent of the $1,000 award to the organization through which he sponsors an impoverished Peruvian child – Compassion International.
Cielonko’s achievements include involvement with Temple Bible Church, volunteering at Cedar Park Regional Hospital, exceptional academic achievement and other accomplishments.
Cielonko was presented with a check for $1000, and per his request, Compassion received a check for $900 of his award at the university’s fall convocation today. Following the convocation, Dr. Randy O’Rear, president of the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor, hosted a lunch for Luke and his family as well as Andrea Johnson, Compassion’s Foundation Relations Director.
Although the recipients of the award are encouraged to give away a portion of the scholarship to an organization of their choice, the amount they share is their own personal choice.
“Throughout my life, God has provided financially even in times where I didn’t know how I would pay for school, my diabetes, and all the other unknowns life throws at us,” said Cielonko. “This award has been a blessing out of nowhere and because of God’s provision, I felt it was necessary to meet the needs of others.”
The funds will be split evenly between two of Compassion’s programs, the medical fund and the Leadership Development Program. Luke, a pre-med student, wishes to help poor children with medical conditions overseas while at the same time assisting children with college potential through the Leadership Development Program, which identifies young leaders in Compassion’s sponsorship program and provides them with a university education and leadership training.
”What an honor and blessing it is to receive this gift from one of America’s own up-and-coming leaders,” said Mark Hanlon, Compassion’s senior vice president, USA. “This is the kind of selfless choice that rings of genuine charity.”
Cielonko first became a sponsor through Compassion in March 2010, sponsoring a six-year-old boy named Luis Jimmy Velasquez Castillo. Luis lives with his mother and three siblings and helps by running errands. His mother is sometimes employed.
“I felt the Lord leading me to give back and sponsor a child since I was a freshman in college,” Cielonko said. “As soon as I started earning my own money, I decided to sponsor Luis while attending a concert where they were talking about Compassion. I hope to sponsor more children.”
Compassion International is the world’s largest Christian child development organization that permanently releases children from poverty. Founded in 1952, Compassion successfully tackles global poverty one child at a time, serving more than 1.2 million children in 26 of the world’s poorest countries. Recognizing that poverty is more than a lack of money, Compassion works through local churches to holistically address the individual physical, economic, educational and spiritual needs of children - enabling them to thrive, not just survive. Compassion has been awarded ten consecutive, four-star ratings by Charity Navigator, America’s largest charity evaluator.