Silver Paw Award

The Silver Paw Award is a recognition program sponsored by the ASUN Center for Student Engagement. The goal of the award program is to recognize students who embody the ideals and spirit of an engaged student. Winners are students or groups of students who have made exemplary contributions to their community in civic engagement work. "Civic Engagement means working to make a difference in the civic life of our communities and developing the combination of knowledge, skills, values and motivation to make that difference. It means promoting the quality of life in a community, through both political and non-political processes." (Ehrlich, 2000, vi).

Civic engagement can take many forms, which are outlined in the Student Engagement Model (Center for Student Engagement, 2015).

Student Engagement fosters the development of student's civic responsibility, responsible citizenship, leadership and personal growth. Recipients of The Silver Paw Award will exhibit this spirit. This award will celebrate student leaders whose contributions deserve the campus community's appreciation.

Recipients of The Silver Paw Award will be chosen every month during the academic year.  The student or group of students will receive a personalized certificate at an annual awards ceremony and will be recognized with a public profile in our electronic communications.

To nominate a student or a group of students for this award, follow the link below to the nomination form. Professors, advisers, community members, and students are encouraged to nominate whoever they feel would be a good candidate for this award.  Students are also encouraged to self-nominate.

New in 2017, ASUN and the Center for Student Engagement will be issuing the new Richard & Bonnie Bryan Family Public Service Award. This is a $1,000 award and will be issued in April to one undergraduate Silver Paw Winner from the 2017-18 academic year.

Silver Paw Award Nomination Form

2017-2018 Silver Paw Winners Recognized at the Annual Civic Learning and Democratic Engagement Breakfast

Haley Passione

Haley Passione

The Silver Paw Award represents our students here at the University of Nevada, Reno who demonstrate a remarkable commitment to leadership, community engagement, and academic modeling. For Haley Passione, a Nevada student who is graduating in the spring of 2018 with a major in Political Science and minor in Communication Studies, that means dedicating her time to an organization she is passionate about. This organization is Court Appointed Service Advocates (CASA).

Haley has been volunteering with the Washoe County CASA Foundation since the summer of 2016, where she has devoted an estimated 500 hours of service. Haley has helped plan and attend events and board meetings. According to the chair of the Board of Directors for CASA, Haley has single-handedly improved the organization's ability to serve our local children. Haley has been involved with multiple aspects the organization from administrative functioning to fundraising efforts to strategic marketing efforts. For example, she organized the Annual Volunteer Recognition Dinner. She worked collaboratively with program staff, board members, community members, volunteers, and supervised other interns. Haley has led the planning for multiple auctions raising more than $6,000 for the organization.

Haley has also assisted with social media, the website platform, and blog/marketing efforts for CASA. With Haley's help, CASA has developed a plan that focused on the strengths of the organization focusing on the community solution presented rather than functioning from past perspectives. Since Haley has been a volunteer at CASA some of the benefits include a 300% increase in attendees for volunteer trainings over the course of 1.5 years, increased attendance at information sessions by 5-10 attendees per session, 3 blogs including 1 volunteer spotlight, and 1-2 monthly presentations to community organizations.

Haley also helped coordinate the philanthropy between Kappa Alpha Theta and CASA, Theta's national philanthropy. Her fund-raising efforts in this event have brought $15,000+ from Kappa Alpha Theta Beta Mu to Washoe CASA Foundation in the more than three years she has interned and served as a volunteer.

"Haley is talented, committed and conscientious and the Washoe CASA Foundation has benefited greatly from her support. As Haley moves on to graduate school in another state, she will be missed by our Foundation. It is for all of the above-mentioned reasons that I recommend Haley Passione for the Silver Paw Award," said Susan Nissenbaum, a CASA Foundation Board Member.

Nate Deaton

Nate Deaton

The Silver Paw Award represents our students here at the University of Nevada, Reno who demonstrate a remarkable commitment to leadership, community engagement, and academic modeling. For Nate Deaton, a Nevada student graduating in the spring of 2018 with a major in chemical engineering and a minor in mathematics, that means seeing an opportunity to benefit our community through social entrepreneurship. Deaton recognized the problem of plastic water bottles being left behind on the beaches in Lake Tahoe and decided to create the first environmentally conscious lifestyle brand that would allow Reno-Tahoe natives to buy reusable vacuum insulated thermoses to replace disposable plastic water bottles.

Nate Deaton, with the help of another UNR student Nat Bessette, created Rootblue. Not only are they selling reusable water bottles to promote being environmentally conscious, they also teamed up with two local charities, The Tahoe Fund and Keep Truckee Meadows Beautiful. Each year a portion of the profits made from Rootblue are donated to these charities to ensure that eco-friendly initiatives are properly funded to keep the Reno-Tahoe community clean. Rootblue is about six months old and has already partnered with over 15 retail stores in the Reno-Tahoe area. Rootblue has also branched out to provide wineries and breweries with promotional thermoses for beverages insulation purposes.

Community service is also important aspect of Rootblue. Nate has organized trash clean ups with Keep Truckee Meadows Beautiful and have also partnered with them on other environmentally friendly projects that seek to rid the tumble weed build up in the Truckee River and Great Basin Valley. His partnerships have also supported work in protecting Lake Tahoe trees from bark beetle erosion and for keeping invasive mussels from entering the Lake Tahoe through boats. These are some of the different community services initiatives that Rootblue works to support.

After graduation, Nate is planning on making Rootblue his full time employment. He hopes to be the first vacuum insulated thermos manufacturer in the United States to allow for a complete cradle-to-grave American business model. While the original business model is based around the Reno-Tahoe area, the idea for business expansion and charitable partnerships can be replicated in all communities and can help promote being environmentally conscious.

Liberatus J. Rwebugisa

Libertatus J. Rwebugisa

The Silver Paw Award represents our students here at the University of Nevada, Reno who demonstrate a remarkable commitment in leadership, community engagement, and academic modeling. For Liberatus J. Rwebugisa, a Nevada student studying for his PhD in Educational Leadership, this meant applying his knowledge, skills, and abilities not only on a local level, but internationally as well.

Liberatus has assembled a team of faculty and students here at the University of Nevada, Reno, which is helping to support an asset-based community development initiative in Tanzania, his native country. In Tanzania, where developmental setbacks create challenges in rural communities relating to education, health, clean water, sanitation, food systems and energy, he's worked hard to research and develop a plan working with these communities. During visits to Tanzania, he has organized more than a dozen community meetings with local Tanzanian government leaders as well as community members, where approximately 1,000 people in total have attended. He has also had a number of smaller meetings in schools with the local officials and teachers, which contributed to the success to the construction of toilets and classrooms when the Tanzanian schools lacked such resources.  

Further, he's been able to gather about 200 individuals from the local communities in Tanzania, but who now live all over the world, through an online app. The group has raised more than $1,300 to pay for temporary science teachers in Tanzania because there was a shortage of teachers. Through this social media network, they also communicated the need for water infrastructure improvements. The information ended up reaching a UDSM professor and elected officials, who negotiated a water supply project for three villages totaling more than 67 million Tanzania Shilling. 

In addition to this small sampling of Liberatus's community organizing and development work in Tanzania, he has also been involved in the local Reno community. This includes involvement in the iLeadNevada 100-Hour Challenge, Martin Luther King Day of Service, volunteering at places like the Food Bank of Northern Nevada and Veteran & Military Center, and donating to local charities.

Miyah Wilson

Miyah Wilson

The Silver Paw Award represents our students here at the University of Nevada, Reno who demonstrate a remarkable commitment to leadership, community engagement, and academic modeling. For Miyah Wilson, a Nevada student graduating in the spring of 2018 with a major in Biology and a minor in Community Health Science, that means using her drive and passion to help young women on and off campus. She recognizes the need for providing greater support to the young women on our campus and the young women in our community at large.

Miyah Wilson founded Queen Connection on February 1, 2017. The Queen Connection is an on-campus organization which works to cultivate young women's minds by stimulating and challenging their personal, educational, professional and social aspirations. The club is able to connect women with positive mentors who will provide guidance, motivation, emotional support which will, in turn, create strong, confident, cultured, talented young Queens. Over the past nine months, the club has doubled in size and expanded to include a mentorship pipeline for high school and middle school students. The club has developed partnerships with members of the community like Northern Nevada Black Cultural Awareness Society (NNBCAS), the Washoe County School District, Renown, Upward Bound, various churches, campus departments, sororities and fraternities, and more.

One of Miyah Wilson's dreams was to plan a women's summit to empower young women. In the fall 2017 semester, she was able to achieve this goal. Led by Miyah, the Queen Connection partnered with Upward Bound to host their first Queen Empowerment Summit called Claiming Your Crown. The summit was a daylong event, on November 11th, 2017, that included enriching workshops, inspirational panels, a luncheon, and outstanding speakers. Participants were a mix of middle and high school students from the Washoe County and Lyon County school districts. After the summit, Upward Bound conducted a program evaluation. It was found that 100% of summit participants left the summit feeling empowered. It was also reported that young women felt increased feelings of self-esteem, self-confidence, and self-determination.

Miyah says, "I really believe the organization I have worked hard to build has made a long-lasting impact on campus and in the community. The network we have been able to build and the magnitude of programs I was able to host have been impressive for the time the club has been established (exactly one year in February). I have worked hard to educate those around me on the impact of mentoring and how it relates to civic engagement and community service-a lot of people still do not see mentoring as a traditional form of service. However, I think mentoring is the ultimate way to impact a community and give back to others walking in your shoes."

Christian Bak

The Silver Paw Award represents our students here at the University of Nevada, Reno who demonstrate a remarkable commitment to leadership, community engagement, and academic modeling. For Christian Bak, a Nevada student, this means dedicating his passion and drive to start an on-campus organization filling the missing needs of students on campus. He felt the need to start the Musical Therapy Club on campus because he knew there were people who played music or who were involved with music that were not music majors and there was not a specific club or organization on campus for those students to be involved in.

Christian founded the Musical Therapy Club in September 2016. In just one and a half years, the club went from having one member to having 400 sign ups and 200 active members. The members of the club have also volunteered on and off campus regularly. The club also had 100 people sign up and stay with the club the first semester it was founded. Christian was able to create a system that separates musicians into groups that function as bands. He said was able to do this, "By asking their instrument, expertise, genre preference, and analyzing their interaction with peers around them I was able to create over 20 groups that had an 80 percent retention rate. Within these groups, the members became friends and later became a family unit that would socialize even outside of club events." Led by Christian, the Musical Therapy Club connected with two different hospitals and three different care homes. They continue to volunteer every Saturday, giving musical performances and socializing with the people there.

In addition to organizing weekly volunteer opportunities, Christian's organization has also participated in numerous philanthropy efforts. These include raising money for Puerto Rico relief efforts through UNICEF and also helping another student organization raise money for the Student Outreach Clinic at the UNR Medical School.

The Musical Therapy Club was also able to participate in the candlelight vigil on campus following the Las Vegas shooting. After Christian found out the vigil he connected with the people involved with organizing it. With the support of the Joe Crowley Student Union staff and ASUN, they contributed a beautiful musical performance as part of the candlelight vigil.

Organizational Winner - Residence Hall Association Outreach Board

Res Hall Association Group

The Silver Paw Award represents our students and organizations here at the University of Nevada, Reno who demonstrate a remarkable commitment to leadership, community engagement, and academic modeling. For Resident Hall Association Outreach Board that means being committed to fostering a diverse community and a welcoming environment for residents to voice their perspectives and engage in service and leadership opportunities. This student-run organization provides readily available resources to encourage communication and social and personal growth.

This year the Residence Hall Association's Outreach Board held multiple events in an effort to raise awareness for causes and events benefiting the community. In October, the Outreach Board supported Breast Cancer Awareness month within the halls. Board members set up a table and engaged with student passersby about breast cancer and its effects on communities. Students who interacted and learned about breast cancer received cupcakes and contributed to a ribbon display.

They also hosted an event called Paws for Cause in collaboration with the SPCA. Volunteer participants made dog toys and socialized with dogs from the shelter. They were able to have over 300 dog toys made, which were donated to the SPCA. In the last two weeks of February, the Outreach Board tabled with the organization, With Purpose, to raise awareness for childhood cancer. During this tabling event, RHA Outreach Board invited others to write and draw on postcards that were sent to children suffering from cancer. In March, the RHA Outreach Board learned about The Reno Valley Assisted Living and Retirement Center, which is in close proximity to campus. They visited and hosted a "Senior Prom," which allowed them to meet and connect with the residents there.

Organizational Winner - MEDLIFE


The Silver Paw Award represents our students and organizations here at the University of Nevada, Reno who demonstrate a remarkable commitment to leadership, community engagement, and academic modeling. For the organization MEDLIFE that means being civically engaged both on and off campus.

MEDLIFE is a student organization on campus whose goal is to help families achieve greater freedom from the constraints of poverty, empowering them to live happier and healthier lives. MEDLIFE stands beside those in need, in the pursuit towards a better life. They have made a positive impact, both on campus at the University of Nevada, Reno, and in the community. Some of the organizations and events with which they have worked within the last year include: Dogfest Reno, Remote Area Medical, RISE and Dine, Northern Nevada HOPES, the VA Hospital, the City of Reno, the Boys and Girls Club, and MEDLIFE international. The members of MEDLIFE accumulated over 500 hours of service during the 2017 Fall Semester. They were also able to raise over $700 for their different volunteer initiatives.

Some examples of the service that MEDLIFE has provided include making handmade dog toys to give out at Dogfest Reno. They also assisted medical professionals in running a Remote Area Medical clinic that provides free healthcare to those that would otherwise go without it. On multiple occasions they have created snack packs and blankets for over 200 homeless people and distributed them through RISE and Dine. They also participated in Northern Nevada HOPES syringe and prescription medication round-up, where they were able to help people safely dispose of their old medications and needles. During the holiday season, they also created and distributed hundreds of cards at the VA Hospital.

One of their largest projects was the mural that they helped paint. The mural is located at Neil Road Recreation Center and looks out onto Miguel Ribera Park. The Recreation Center sits next to a Boys and Girls Club and Community Health Alliance Center. MEDLIFE reached out to the City of Reno Arts and Culture Commission and asked about creating a mural in the community. The design was developed through talking with people at the Recreation Center and taking into consideration activities that happen in the park and neighborhood, as well as MEDLIFE's identity and mission. The hope was the mural would help stop the graffiti in the area and create a welcoming environment. The organization was able to work with the city's Blight Fund Initiative and a stipend to pay the design fee and make the project happen. The students were able to work with the designer and collaborated with the design work and the painting.

Past Silver Paw Winners

  • Homeless Initiative
  • Website Resource Reno
  • Nevada Stemducation
  • Mallory Friedman &
  • Lauren Czarnecki
  • Travis Wilmoth
  • Hannah Jackson
  • Genevieve White
  • Latinx Student Advisory Board
  • Dennis Green
  • Lindsy Sullivan
  • Brynn Williams &
  • Sierra Gonzales
  • Aaron Alexander
  • Liberatus J. Rwebugisa
  • Haley Passione
  • Miyah Wilson
  • Nate Deaton
  • RHA Outreach Board
  • Christian Bak

To submit a nomination for the Silver Paw Award, fill out our Nominations Form.

For more information on how to join a club or organization at Nevada, visit our Clubs and Organizations page.