Stephanie Sweany, ’05, Kent State Advocacy Award Recipient 2020

“I am a firm believer in being a good steward of your community. Treat your neighbors with kindness, take pride in your neighborhood. There is no limit to how much you can give back to your community. Lifting up the folks in your community who need it the most makes your community stronger.”

Stephanie Sweany, ’05, and her love of giving back stems back from her time at Kent State. As a student, Stephanie worked at the Child Development Center on the Kent Campus where she cultivated a passion for education and making a difference.

“When I finished my junior year, the directors at the Child Development Center approached me about helping them plan a summer program for school children. I worked with them to build the program from top to bottom,” Stephanie said. “Getting project development and management experience at Kent State gave me the confidence to take on new projects in my professional life and in my work in the community.”

It was because of these positive experiences at Kent State that Stephanie felt compelled to give back after graduating. In addition to her full-time job fighting hunger as the assistant director at the Stark County Hunger Task Force, Stephanie also volunteers with many organizations.

She is the vice president of the Stark County Alumni Chapter and has been a part of the chapter since 2015. Stephanie leads the chapter with engaging event ideas. According to her nominator, “Stark Co. Alumni Chapter events always have the ‘Stephanie’ touch – creative games, projects, photo booths – extraordinary ways to get alumni to interact.”

One of her favorite chapter events is the Stark County Clothing Drive.

“We collect gently used professional clothing that students can get for free and wear to internships, practicums, and interviews,” Stephanie said. “It’s not about giving them something to wear, it’s about giving them the confidence to succeed. They could have landed their dream job in that outfit!” 
In addition to giving back to Kent State, Stephanie impacts her community. Stephanie started the Canton Kindness Coalition to “make kindness contagious” in November 2018.

The Canton Kindness Coalition has more than 30 members, including many Kent State alumni. They spread cheer into the community by making holiday cards for local veterans, hosting a food drive for a local animal shelter and helping in many other ways.

“It’s the simple gestures in life that can turn someone’s day around. The person who looks rushed and hurried, stressed from having to run from meeting to meeting, how great would it make them feel to get a surprise coffee,” Stephanie said. “Kindness gives people hope and strength. There’s always room for a little more kindness.”

She also works as a tour guide for Canton Food Tours, taking participants to restaurants in Canton and discussing historical facts about the city along the way.

Stephanie hopes to continue giving back to her community in every way possible and to inspire others to do so as well. She plans to start other Kindness Coalition chapters across the state and “make the world a kinder place one community at a time.”

Between her full-time job and volunteering, Stephanie joked it is hard to find time for fun hobbies. However, when she does find time she enjoys binge watching TV shows, spending time with family, exploring the best local eats in new cities and reading about inspiring people and events.