Elizabeth Markley ,Bradley Mercer,Bob Schnarr received the U.S. President's Volunteer Service Award

 MACOMB, IL – Three Western Illinois University students recently received the U.S. President's Volunteer Service Award for their work with the Cass-Putman Rescue Squad.

Elizabeth Markley ,Bradley Mercer,Bob Schnarr received the U.S. President's Volunteer Service Award

Sophomores Elizabeth Markley, a political science major from Smithfield, received the silver award, and Bradley Mercer, a geographic information systems major and Taylor Lester, a fire protection services major, both from Cuba, received the gold award. They were recognized with the service award at a ceremony on Sept. 11 in Cuba. The trio were nominated by Cass-Putman Rescue Squad Chief Bob Schnarr

"As I've been saving lives in my community for 43 years, it's time to train the next generation of first responders, which is why I started the program to educate students first hand," Schnarr said. "By providing a vocational program like this, we allow our students to make better career choices and succeed in life. I am very proud of these students for volunteering their time to save lives in our community. One day it may be your life they save."

The Cass-Putman Rescue Squad is the only program in the state and one of a few in the nation, to establish a cadet program for teens (16-18). Markley, Mercer and Lester started as cadets in 2018. Mercer and Lester continue to serve on the Cass-Putman Rescue Squad.

"Volunteering has caused me to learn not just amazing things about my community, but about myself," Markley said. "The best way to give back is to volunteer."

As cadets, Markley, Mercer and Lester have earned provisional first aid state licenses in order to serve as first responders.

"I am honored and humbled to have received such recognition. It is a testament to the work put forth by Chief Schnarr to ensure our efforts are recognized," Mercer said. "I feel very lucky to be able to work with him and the others on our rescue squad. My goal after graduation is to find a job as a GIS technician. I hope the experience in the rescue squad will allow me to achieve a leadership position in the GIS field."

The Gold service award given to Mercer and Lester is the highest honor for their age bracket. It's given to those individuals based on the number of volunteer hours they've served with the rescue squad. The volunteer service award was founded in 2003 by the President's Council on Service and Civic Participation to recognize the important role of volunteers in America's strength and identity.

"Receiving the award was a great experience that I'll remember for the rest of my life. I love volunteering and helping people. It has been my passion for as long as I can remember," Lester said. "Getting the chance to help people in my community is an honor. In the future, I plan to become a firefighter/paramedic. I'd love to eventually rise through the ranks as I further into my career."

At WIU, Mercer is involved in and Lester is involved in Alpha Sigma Phi and Omega Gamma Phi and works for University Technology. Following graduation, Markley plans to attend law school.

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