Political Science Major/History and Africana Studies Minors
Ann Arbor, Mich.
“It was tough at times (studying at Wittenberg), but the best part was that the professors helped. They were always available to advise me, to help me stay on track.”
Upon learning he had been awarded a William C. and Sally A. Martin Scholarship, Jeff Wilbur’s college decision became very easy. He knew he would have to work hard to retain the honor, but the full-tuition scholarship was a perfect incentive, and Wittenberg’s outstanding football program made it that much easier to choose the university.
He more than lived up to the opportunities that came with the award – he graduated May 15 with University Honors, a 3.7 grade point average, a member of Mortar Board, a national senior honorary recognizing scholarship, leadership and service, and a two-year football letterwinner who received 2009 CoSIDA/ESPN The Magazine Academic All-District honors. Also a two-year letterwinner in track and field, Wilbur further was honored for athletic and academic accomplishments with induction into Chi Alpha Sigma, the national student-athlete honorary.
In addition, Wilbur served as president and editor of the journal of Wittenberg’s chapter of Pi Sigma Alpha, a political science honorary, was involved in Wittenberg’s Peer Mentor program and volunteered for Oesterlen Child Services, where he served the city of Springfield for three years as an undergraduate. He worked as a group assistant for STAR Group, an after-school counseling group, and he also developed Saturday Sports, which provides opportunities for playing sports to many underprivileged children.
“Our agency and our clients have greatly benefited from the service provided by him,” said Mark VanNoord, the therapist who oversaw Wilbur’s programs at Oesterlen Services. “Jeff used his energy and insights to inspire clients to do their best in the group.”
STAR Group, which was Wilbur’s first project, is a counseling group that uses active learning to work on self-control, teamwork and respect. He used metaphors and examples from sports with the clients to build social skills and improve anger-management. In 2009, Wilbur and VanNoord developed the Saturday Sports program, which gave underprivileged kids and kids with mental health or physical disabilities opportunities to play pick-up sports, to learn more about fitness and healthy eating, and to have fun playing sports.
“Saturday Sports provides a welcoming environment for kids to learn and play sports on Saturday from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., where Jeff was always willing to give his time and effort to help the kids,” VanNoord said.
Wilbur’s associates at Oesterlen Services agree that they will never be able to tell him how truly grateful they are for his services. “His ability to give himself to others and help those who need it more is amazing,” Van Noord said.
“When Jeff talks to a sixth-grade student at Fulton Elementary about what it takes to be a student-athlete, or teaches a six-year old girl how to shoot a jump shot or reminds a hyper client to ‘turn his motor off’ during a group discussion, we know that Jeff is a true blessing to our mission to develop strong, skillful and healthy kids,” he added.
In addition to serving the local community, Wilbur traveled to Lesotho, Africa, where he performed service and earned classroom credit.
“Lesotho was awesome,” Wilbur said. “It was the best thing that happened to me.”
Following graduation, Wilbur headed to Phoenix, Ariz., where he joined the “New Teacher Project.”
“I knew by my sophomore year that I wanted to teach,” he said. “However, the teacher education program is too rigorous to start so late. The New Teacher Project trains non-education majors like me. I will teach Title One and other poorly served students.
“It was tough at times,” Wilbur admitted of the heavy load he carried while at Wittenberg, “but the best part was that the professors helped. They were always available to advise me, to help me stay on track.”
Written By: Phyllis Eberts