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Student journalist and champion of the homeless wins RCBC’s Civility Award

Lauren Purnell with Civility Award

Rowan College at Burlington County (RCBC) journalism student Lauren Purnell received the college’s Civility Award in recognition of her effort to tear down negative connotations for the term homeless by telling the stories of people she meets on the streets of Philadelphia.

The Civility Award honors a graduating student who has promoted tolerance in their community and made positive contributions in a diverse population.

“Many Civility Award recipients have gone on to do amazing things in their community, although few, if any, have made the type of impact that Lauren has before they have graduated,” said Dr. Jonathan Alexander, associate professor of English and Holocaust Studies, and founding director of the award. “Instead of looking the other way when encountering people who have experienced hard times, Lauren’s compassion pulls her toward them with a helpful hand and an attentive ear.”

Inspired by her journalism instructor, Tim Zatzariny, Purnell sought to begin a blog last fall. She chose to venture to Philadelphia with care packages to put human stories to the faces that are too often ignored. Her effort at namingthehomeless.com has been chronicled by several regional media outlets and has attracted more than $1,000 worth of donations.

“I wanted to write about something a lot more meaningful than my life that would connect with others and raise awareness of individuals who are homeless,” Purnell said. “I am so grateful for the support Naming the Homeless has received and hope to continue building upon it as long as there are people who help, compassion and connection with society.”

Purnell, 20, of Florence, plans to continue her journalism studies at Rowan University in the fall after graduation this month. She also won RCBC’s journalism award at the annual Academic Awards ceremony that recognizes outstanding student achievement in several disciplines.