Reece Thompson has been involved in community service since he was a little boy. He started in Scouts when he was just 6 years old and stuck with the program for the next decade. That included his Eagle Scout project of restoring the only Black cemetery in Thorntown, Indiana—a project that earned state and national recognition.
“My most rewarding moments have come from civic engagement,” Reece says. “Contributing a small portion of your life to change someone else’s is an experience that you will carry through life.”
Now, Reece is being honored for his involvement in improving communities during his time at IUPUI. The university awarded him the William M. Plater Medallion for Civic Engagement; an honor reserved for graduating students who have excelled in their commitment to the community.
Reece is one of six O’Neill students to earn the award for 2022. O’Neill’s deeply rooted connections to the community are what brought him to the school in the first place.
“O’Neill has community relationships and opportunities that allow students to gain real-world experience while making a positive difference in their community,” he adds. “From the first class I took at O’Neill, I knew what I learned would have an impact on my future civic engagement endeavors because my classroom interactions directly translated to support the projects I was leading.”
Some of those projects were through nonprofits outside of IUPUI. Others were based on campus. He helped lead service opportunities through his fraternity, Alpha Sigma Phi—an organization he helped found at IUPUI in 2019. He also volunteered with Paw’s Closet and IUPUI’s Jagathon on campus.
But one of his most memorable ways of connecting with his community also allowed him to combine his Public Safety Management major by joining the IU Police Department as a cadet.
“The cadet program involves a lot of community engagement,” he recalls. “You’re a constant presence on campus, talking to young people and faculty. You get the opportunity to impact their perceptions and what they may have been told their entire lives. They may have never had a single police interaction, but you could change that.”
That continues to be the case for Reece. After earning his degree in December 2021, he began his law enforcement career as a sheriff’s deputy in Clinton County, northwest of Indianapolis.
“My history in civic engagement selected my career path for me,” he admits. “Being in law enforcement allows me to be part of the community. I can use my past experiences in civic engagement and my O’Neill education to do the best for my community.”
Making a difference wherever he goes is never far from Reece’s mind. After he completes his field training, he plans to get involved with nonprofits in his area. He says he also hopes to return to O’Neill to further his education in Public Management and find new ways to continue living a life of service to those around him.