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Nicki Thoma wins University’s student leadership award for volunteerism

Rose Cologne Award
Nicki Thoma, left, shares a laugh with fellow 2011 THON dancers Deanna Mazur, Kiki Wilkinson and Megan Pulaski.
3/12/2012 —


Recipient of  “Rose Cologne Keystone Citizen Award”

Penn State New Kensington junior Nicki Thoma was selected as a recipient of a 2012 Student Leadership and Service Award by the Division of Student Affairs at Penn State.

Thoma earned the “Rose Cologne Keystone Citizen Award,” a University-wide honor that recognizes students who have made contributions to their campuses and the local communities in the areas of service and volunteerism. She was nominated by Lauren Blum, student life coordinator at the New Kensington campus, and chosen by the selection committee at the University Park campus.

“Nicki has demonstrated the qualities of exceptional character, scholarship, leadership and citizenship, both inside and outside the classroom,” said Blum, who will earn a master's degree in Student Affairs in Higher Education this summer from Indiana University of Pennsylvania. “She served as THON finance chair and maintained a high grade-point average.”

A business administration major with a minor in information sciences and technology, Thoma’s road to the Cologne award was paved with successful fundraising activities on behalf of THON, known formally as the Penn State IFC/Panhellenic Dance Marathon. The annual student-run event, which raises money to defeat pediatric cancer, is held every February at the Bryce Jordan Center at University Park. For the past two years, Thoma has been instrumental in the collection of more than $100,000 by the campus for this philanthropic endeavor.

Moving seamlessly within the THON hierarchy, she was equally adept on the floor, in the stands or behind a desk. As one of four campus dancers in 2011, she stayed on her feet for 46 hours and helped raise $52,392, the New Kensington record. As the finance chair for the campus THON committee this year, she cheered on her dancers for 46 hours and managed the collection of $50,467, second best in campus history. The two-year total for Thoma’s tenure bettered the combined total accumulated by the campus during the past decade.

“Nicki recruited more than 50 campus students for THON and motivated them to do all they could to support the cause," said Blum, who is advisor to the campus committee. “She taught the volunteers by example, and from her they learned about empathy, selflessness, caring and hard work. She is a dynamic and influential leader who drives others to do their best.”

Thoma also leads by example. In October, she handled all aspects of the THON kick-off event -- a spaghetti dinner fundraiser in her hometown of Saxonburg, Pa. By procuring food and raffle items through gifts and donations, Thoma garnered a $10,000 profit while cementing her status as a hands-on role model for her cadre of volunteers, neophytes as well as veterans.

“It was awesome to see all the hard work and planning for the dinner come together and flourish,” said Thoma, a graduate of Knoch High School. “I always thought I didn't have enough time to get this involved with something at school, but THON changed that for me. It has made my time at Penn State even more memorable.”

When not studying and handling extra-curricular activities on campus, Thoma can be found working at the family business, Thoma Meat Market, a third-generation company in Saxonburg, or as the bookkeeper for a local restaurant, Saxonburg Hotel. In addition, she is active in her borough and has organized benefits and raised money for local charities, including Lexi’s First Sight and the Alex Summers Scholarship Fund, as well as participating in local events for national organizations such as the American Lung Association and March of Dimes. 

“Her drive to succeed at everything is what makes her stand out,” Blum said.

Down time for Thoma includes, what else, additional community activities. However, during these periods the activities involve the equine community. Since 2003, Thoma has been an equestrian enthusiast. Riding and showing horses has become her ideal recreational activity. She is a member of the Western Pennsylvania Professional Horseman Association, Mountaineer Hunter Jumper Association, United States Equestrian Federation, and the American Quarter Horse Association.

Thoma expects to earn her bachelor’s degree in spring 2013, and plans to work for a non-profit organization or continue in the family business. Another option is to follow Blum’s footsteps to graduate school for a master’s in student affairs. Whatever the future holds for Thoma, her THON experiences will be a guiding force.

“I believe that THON is something that no other university can offer their students,” Thoma said. “I’ll carry THON with me where ever I go in life.”

Thoma and other award winners will be recognized officially on April 22 at the Student Leadership and Service Awards Ceremony at the University Park campus.


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