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Calvin Junior Wins Prestigious Awards
posted April 25, 2007

A Calvin College political science and communications major recently won a trio of awards for his work as an intern in the Michigan Legislature.

Nate KnapperNate Knapper, a 21-year-old junior who hails from Clarkston, Michigan, was honored with the Congressman Paul Henry Integrity Award, the Daniel Rosenthal Legislative Intern Award and the Frank M. Fitzgerald Public Service Award for helping to create “Curriculum Beyond The Classroom,” an innovative program for fellow interns.

“I’ve been in the legislature for more than 20 years, and Nate is one of the finest individuals to ever intern here,” says Kendall Wingrove, the Media Services Manager for the Michigan Senate Majority Communications Office and the man who helped Knapper launch the program. “In both the Michigan Senate and House, his quiet but effective leadership style changed lives for the better.”

Curriculum Beyond The Classroom was designed to take interns beyond making coffee and copies to give them a more up-close-and-personal acquaintance with the Legislature. The program hosted lunches and other events that brought the interns together with important policy makers.

Wingrove credits the success of Curriculum Beyond The Classroom largely to Knapper’s creativity, diligence and persuasiveness. The young intern also proved himself an able teacher.

“Thanks to Nate’s mentoring skills, several of the interns have earned paid positions with the Michigan Legislature,” says Wingrove.

To accept the Congressman Paul Henry Integrity Award, bestowed by the Founding Values Initiative at its second annual luncheon on April 23 at the Peninsular Club, Knapper had to travel from Washington D.C., where he was enrolled in, appropriately enough, Calvin’s Paul B. Henry Semester.

“It was a surprise and an honor at the same time,” says Knapper, who won the student version of the award, which came with a $500 scholarship, an engraved pen and a certificate.

U.S. Representative Vernon J. Ehlers was also honored with a Congressman Henry Award. Mary Ann Keeler received the Ambassador Peter Secchia Award and former Michigan State Representative Bill Van Regenmorter received the Congressman Hal Sawyer Award. Along with Knapper, students from Aquinas College, Cornerstone University, Grand Rapids Community College and Grand Valley State University were each given $500 scholarships in those major award categories.

Knapper was also in Washington on April 17 when he received the Daniel Rosenthal Legislative Intern Award, which is granted every year to an outstanding intern. Knapper accepted the award, which this year celebrated its 30th anniversary, via teleconference and in the company of Ehlers.

“The Rosenthal ceremony was just 24 hours after the incident at Virginia Tech,” Wingrove says. “Nate accepted the award and added that it was important to remember the victims in our thoughts and prayers. Even when he was winning an award for excellence as a volunteer, he remembered to honor others.”

Still to come is Knapper’s acceptance speech for the Frank M. Fitzgerald Public Service Award.

“It recognizes talented young people active in the Michigan Legislature who have shown extraordinary dedication and a marked capacity to help others,” Wingrove says of the honor, which recognizes three qualities of excellence: scholarship, communication and volunteerism. “Nate excels in all three.”

Knapper is understated in his appreciation for the many laurels that came from his stint in government.

“You work hard, and sometimes you see the benefits, and sometimes it’s not as clear to you. But this time it certainly has been clear,” he says, adding, “and the Lord has blessed.”

He came to his internship not through a zeal for politics, he maintains, but through the need for a job. Wingrove gave him the opportunity to prove himself first with an unpaid internship until a paid position opened up.

Altogether, Knapper worked in Lansing from February through August of 2006, first for Michigan Senator Ken Sikkema and then for Michigan Representative Fulton Sheen.

“The work ethic was outstanding every day,” Wingrove says.

Knapper’s service was all the more impressive, he adds, because he had to commute to perform it.

“For one part of his internship he came in from Clarkston, and for one part he came in from Calvin. During the time he came from Clarkston, he was already here at 9 a.m., working hard before others had arrived.”

Knapper is considering law school following his 2008 graduation.

“I have sort of a general interest in entering the intelligence community: FBI, CIA, Homeland Security, something like that,” he says.

Wingrove believes the student’s skills fit him for any number of careers.

“He embodies the best of what Calvin has to offer.”

~written by Calvin staff writer Myrna Anderson

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