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Tiffani Peel promised herself as a child that she would “strive to be strong even when those around me are weak,” and “help those who are not strong enough to help themselves.”

That resolve to be an advocate for others led to actions that would earn her the 2018 Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Service Award, presented to two Eastern Kentucky University students at the eighth annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration Banquet on campus Jan. 24.

Peel admits to having a difficult childhood; at age 10, she moved to Wilmore, Kentucky, to live with her grandparents. Her tumultuous youth is exactly what fuels her passion for service. Maybe her experiences are also why shortly before graduation, Peel chose to go into family law. “I’m passionate about all service for children,” she said. “Sometimes children are brought into really bad circumstances, and it isn’t their fault.” Out of her 500 hours of community service since Fall 2014, her favorite project was helping pregnant women in Laurel County, Kentucky. She hosted a Thanksgiving dinner and collected donations to throw baby showers for the women.

Peel graduated in December 2017 with a bachelor’s degree in psychology, with a minor in criminal justice and a certificate in intelligence studies. While at EKU, she restarted Golden Key; worked as service director of Alpha Phi Sigma, the criminal justice honor society; and was involved in the EKU honors program, Psi Chi and the IC CAE Scholar program. Her other service projects have included working with Habitat for Humanity, volunteering as a swim coach for the Special Olympics; helping to reintegrate criminals into society after their release; and collecting donations for Liberty Place. She also volunteered at events such as the Hope Not Heroin Walk, Paddle Out Pollution and Kids’ Fest.

Peel looks no further than her own community for inspiration: “Some of my most influential role models are just average people.” Among those everyday heroes, she counts her two grandfathers, one of which raised her for most of her life. Peel considers him her greatest source of support, and the reason she became the person she is. She also cited Lee Ann Morrison, faculty adviser for Alpha Phi Sigma, as one of the “exceptional people” she admires at EKU. “She serves her community every way she can,” she said. “I have really looked up to her these past few years.”

Peel is currently preparing to attend law school, working, and planning her wedding. Her current position as a nanny allows her to serve children, her self-declared passion and calling.

— by Madison Harris, Student Writer, EKU Communications and Brand Management