Each May, as friends and family members visit USC’s campus in support of another accomplished graduating class, the Trojan Athletic Parents Association (TAPA) honors an athlete who brings a special sense of pride to the commencement ceremony. The TAPA Community Service Award recognizes an athlete who’s extra-curricular involvement has shaped an impressive career. But often, this volunteer work extends beyond the four years of athletic eligibility to a lifetime of service.
This year, Jackie Dion of Track & Field garnered the honor for her tireless dedication to the local community. A consistent volunteer at the TAPA Community Bowl, a Day in Troy, and a range of other outreach activities, Dion embraced the opportunity to give back.
“USC has given so much to me, so it was important to me to give back to our community,” said Dion, who graduated with honors and as a Pac-12 All-Academic Team member. “Service helped me grow as a person, because I now realize how much of an impact just one individual can have in the community.”
As a runner with impressive bests at the 400 and 800 meter distances, Dion has become accustom to evaluation based on time. But her zeal for service cannot be expressed by the clock alone, though her more than 20 volunteer hours each season wouldn’t fail to impress.
Dion dedicated her studies to helping others as well. A Gerontology major, she plans to begin a career aiding the elderly after volunteer experience at Meals-on-Wheels and similar organizations.
“Before coming to USC, I had no idea that one person could make such a big difference,” said Dion. “Fortunately, this school provided me with the opportunities to help others and grow from those experiences.”
A Southern California native, Dion experienced a unique connection with neighborhood residents. When looking back on her experiences, her involvement with the mentor-based Girls PLAY program stands out.
“Girls PLAY made me realize that the kids in neighboring communities really look up to Trojan athletes and hope to be like them one day,” said Dion. “I was proud to be able to represent USC in that way and hopefully inspire the youth to pursue higher education.”
As she hangs up the track spikes, Dion plans to continue her service. This summer, she will work for a website called Stitch which aides older adults as they combat loneliness. Next semester, she will pursue a Masters in Aging Services Management at USC’s Davis School of Gerontology and focus in Gerontechnology, a field that uses today’s technology to help ease the aging process.
TAPA is proud to honor an athlete whose community work will not end with her last race, but carry on to greater distances as she enters the world.