Ross Township veteran honored with top La Roche award

| Wednesday, June 18, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

A Ross Township veteran who was a founder of a veterans organization at La Roche College has received the college's most prestigious award for an undergraduate student.

Nicholas Yund, 28, received one of the 2014 President's Awards for Leadership and Scholarship during commencement last month.

The two President's Awards for Leadership and Scholarship — one for a nontraditional student age 25 or older and another for a traditional student — are regarded as the most prestigious awards La Roche gives to its undergraduate students and are based on exemplary academic achievement and effective leadership on campus and off.

“Nick was the hands-down winner (in the nontraditional student category) because of everything he did. He started a veterans organization and sponsored so many activities here. He was our go-to student to help us keep a pulse on what students were thinking,” said Colleen Ruefle, vice president for student life and dean of students at La Roche.

Yund served two tours of duty in Iraq as an armor crewman in the Army after graduating from North Hills High School in 2004.

“I was around the tanks. We went on missions to capture high-value targets. We delivered medical supplies. We did all kinds of stuff,” he said.

Upon returning home from the service in 2008, he volunteered to lead a Sunday school class at his church — Faith Lutheran Church in Ross' Laurel Gardens neighborhood.

“From that experience, I was inspired to get an education degree,” he said.

He enrolled at the Community College of Allegheny County and then transferred to La Roche, in McCandless.

While at La Roche, he worked in the college cafeteria.

He was the facilitator for the math club at Providence Heights Alpha School in McCandless.

Yund tutored science and helped students with science fair projects at St. Mary of the Assumption Catholic School in Glenshaw.

He taught economics to students at St. Ursula School in Hampton Township and West View Elementary School as part of the Junior Achievement program.

On campus, he served as president of the La Roche Student Government Association and was a founder and vice president of the La Roche College Veterans Organization.

“There are a little more than 40 veterans at La Roche. Most of them attend classes, then go home. We wanted to form a community of vets to help them make friends and get more involved on campus, as well as to help them with GI Bill paperwork and benefits,” Yund explained.

He organized a Veterans Day panel through which vets who were students or faculty members at La Roche could share their military experiences with other students during a one-hour program.

While doing all of that, he was able to maintain a grade-point average of 3.97 on a 4-point scale and graduated with a bachelor's degree in middle-level education, specializing in social studies.

Yund was one of four nontraditional students nominated for the President's Award by La Roche faculty or staff members. He submitted a resume and attended a luncheon during which each nominee spoke about himself or herself in front of college officials.

The college's president, Sister Candace Introcaso, chose the winner, said Ruefle, 48, of Hampton Township.

“What always impressed me about Nick is that he was so committed to La Roche,” Ruefle said.

Laurie Rees is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.

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