Clarksville, TN – Navdeep Saini, who may well be the nicest student attending Austin Peay State University, doesn’t like to talk about himself that much. If pressed, he’ll admit that he speaks six languages and has a degree in biotechnology (that he earned in Russian), but talking about his accomplishments seems to embarrass him.
He looked particularly shy at APSU’s Einstein Bros. Bagels coffee shop earlier this month when someone asked Saini about another accolade.In April, he became one of only five college students from across the state to receive the Tennessee Higher Education Commission’s Harold Love Outstanding Community Service Award.
“The biggest thing for me is, thanks to the Army, I’m here,” he said. “And what the Army instilled in me is service. If I’m not in the field, I should be giving my time to the community.”
Saini, a native of India’s Punjab region, is an active-duty soldier in the U.S. Army. He arrived at APSU in 2014 to study nursing through the Military’s highly selective Army Nursing Scholarship program. In his short time at APSU, he has become one of the school’s most active community volunteers.
“I have known Mr. Saini for two years through his volunteer work, and during that time I have witnessed a strong work ethic and a passion for helping others,” Alexandra Howard, director of the APSU Center for Service-Learning and Community Engagement (CSLCE), said.
In early January, Saini participated in an alternative break trip, sponsored by the CSLCE, to the Jungle Friends Primate Sanctuary in Gainesville, Florida. During that trip, he spent several long days performing manual labor and caring for the some 300 rescued monkeys at the sanctuary.
“I was extremely impressed to see that Navdeep was as humble as he was hard-working,” Dr. Sheryl Byrd, APSU vice president of Student Affairs and a trip chaperone, said. “He displayed a strong commitment to accomplish the jobs assigned to the group, even if it meant longer hours or more challenging conditions.”
Shortly before Spring Break, Saini helped organize Zika Virus Awareness sessions across the APSU campus. The sessions provided updated information on the infection for students planning to travel to epidemic areas in the Caribbean during the spring holiday.
“He is an outstanding example of selfless service to the community by his numerous community service hours,” Dr. Patty Orr, APSU nursing professor, said.
Saini also created a multicultural diversity awareness group within APSU’s Student Nursing Association, and that group received the University’s 2016 Thousand Points of Light Award for establishing a new standard in APSU campus life.
“Because of the Army, I feel if you’re not directly serving the country, you need to serve indirectly,” he said. “And the Army really helped me for my dream of being a nurse to come true. I’m so proud of my University. I’m proud to be an Austin Peay student.”
Earlier this month, Saini also received the APSU Impact Award, the APSU Outstanding Campus Service Award and the University’s Halbert Harvill-Civitan Citizenship Award. With the THEC Harold Love Award, named for a late member of the Tennessee General Assembly, Saini will receive a $1,000 cash prize.
He has already announced that he is donating the prize money back to the APSU programs he serves.