Alexis Thompson, a UCF Biology and Health Science major, has her sights on becoming a physician assistant and then someday starting a nonprofit organization that provides healthcare for children in need.

“I have always been taught that if the opportunity presents itself to help people less fortunate, it is imperative that you do so,” she said. “I believe that no one should be denied healthcare based on their location or the amount of money they have.”

Thompson on Tuesday was named the 2012 recipient of the John T. Washington Scholarship Service Award, named in honor of one of the first African-Americans to hold a faculty position at UCF.

Thompson, a senior from Oviedo, is a former LEAD Scholar and a member of the National Society of Collegiate Scholars, Association of Pre-Physician Assistants, and the March of Dimes Collegiate Council.

She also has been a volunteer with The Ronald McDonald House, Shepherd’s Hope, Give Kids the World, and Florida Hospital for Children. While at UCF, she has accumulated more than 300 hours of community service.

“We are wise to give graciously of ourselves today because we never know how much grace we ourselves may need tomorrow,” she said.

She was presented with a $1,500 scholarship during the John T. Washington Community Service Awards and Scholarship Luncheon.

Also honored at the annual luncheon were Margaret Miller of Dr. Phillips Charities, who was awarded the Adult Community Service Award, and Anthony Cooper, an Evans High School student, who was chosen for the Youth Community Service Award.

Miller, of Orlando, retired in 2002 as assistant dean of undergraduate studies and clinical experiences, but has continued to work at UCF as an adjunct professor in the College of Education.

She is active in several community organizations, including United Way, BETA, Washington Shores Presbyterian Church and others. She previously was a public school teacher.

“I grew up as a PK – a pastor’s kid – and you knew you had to go out of your way to help others,” Miller said.

Anthony, a 17-year-old Orlando junior who wants to become a hospital administrator, is involved in the National Junior ROTC, National Honor Society, Junior Class Council, United Nations Student Alliance, American Heart Association, and other organizations.

“In the past, many people labeled Maynard Evans High School to be a ‘factory for failure,’ but since its rebirth many students like me have taken the initiative to help Maynard Evans High School to become ‘A Place of High Achievement,’” he said.

The awards luncheon honors the legacy of Washington, an associate professor of Sociology from the mid-70s until his death in 1983. The awards recognize the people who live his goals of community involvement and service, and were established to carry on the humanitarian involvement started by the namesake professor more than three decades ago.

Referring to the day’s three honored guests, keynote speaker Kevin Washington said: “They have been transformative agents of the community.”

“Dr. Washington had care and concern for others,” the psychologist and minister said. “He built a bridge to make sure that others could pass and have an education.”

The annual awards are presented by the African American Studies Program, which has given more than $30,000 in scholarships in Washington’s name over the years.

“He taught us how to embrace each other,” said Melvin Rogers, associate dean of the College of Health and Public Affairs. “If there ever was a time to embrace each other, it is now. Not tomorrow – now. When you think about Dr. Washington, how can you make a difference?”