From left: IUP Ambassadors former recruitment chair Kyle Dovidio, a psychology major from Glenmoore; IUP Vice President for Student Affairs Tom Segar; and former president of the organization Milady Lagunas, a political science major from Nottingham.

Indiana University of Pennsylvania’s student alumni association, the IUP Ambassadors, are turning the group’s win into a win for all students at IUP.

When the IUP Ambassadors learned they had won the first-place prize for the 2023 IUP homecoming parade float competition, the group immediately made the decision to donate $500 of the prize funds to the IUP Food Pantry and Help Center.

IUP opened the Food Pantry in 2019; it expanded to the current Food Pantry and Help Center in 2021 and offers food items, toiletries, and school supplies for students. Alumni, friends, and students, including a number of student groups, continue to support the Food Pantry and Help Center with both monetary donations and supplies. The Food Pantry and Help Center is located in Wallwork Hall and is coordinated by the Office of the Vice President for Student Affairs.

The IUP Ambassadors, founded by the IUP Alumni Association Board of Directors, celebrated its thirtieth anniversary in fall 2023. The group is a link between prospective students, current students, administrators, faculty members, alumni, and friends of IUP. It works to engage alumni and current students with campus life and makes students more aware of their potential roles as alumni and focuses on the importance of “giving back” to IUP.

The group provides service to the university at a number of events throughout the year and has raised more than $150,000 for the university through a number of fundraisers, providing support to the construction of the Kovalchick Convention and Athletic Complex and Jane E. Leonard Hall, and to the Allegheny Arboretum and the IUP Libraries.

The group also established the IUP Ambassadors Endowed Scholarship and has raised funds for book scholarships for students. Its Tuition Raffle program fundraiser resulted in more than 20 semesters of free tuition to students and more than $5,000 in book scholarships.

In addition to providing support for university events and its success with fundraising, the IUP Ambassadors have made calls to more than 20,000 prospective students and led hundreds of tours for incoming freshmen in collaboration with the Office of Admissions. The group also has been active in donor appreciation events and organized “Conversations with Alumni,” which invites successful alumni back to campus to speak to classes and student groups.

The Ambassadors cosponsor the Young Alumni Achievement Awards program with the IUP Alumni Association, to recognize one graduate from each academic college who has had great success in their career within 15 years of receiving their degree from IUP. This event brings recognition to IUP, and also provides networking opportunities for the Ambassadors and other current students. The organization has received more than 30 awards for excellence from the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education, including a number of international awards.

Students must apply for membership and go through an interview process to be selected for the group. There are a total of 31 members in the group this year.

 “Being able to give to programs like the IUP Food Pantry and Help Center is such a blessing and a wonderful way of giving back to our community,” said Milady Lagunas, former president of the IUP Ambassadors. “As a first-generation student, I know how tough it can be to afford college, so knowing that there is help available is a weight lifted off our shoulders. The IUP Ambassadors work diligently to promote the importance of being a family, and being a family means being there in difficult times, which is why we decided to donate our money to a program that helps our Hawk family.”

“One of the honest to goodness things about IUP Ambassadors is that it’s an organization, but most important, it’s a family that comes from different backgrounds,” said Monica Ramirez Perez, former philanthropy chair of the group.

“Some of us know what it’s like to struggle and, even now, many continue to confront personal battles. Somewhere along the way, there's been someone who has given to us selflessly with the expectation of nothing in return, which is why philanthropy is such an important pillar of value to Ambassadors. As a group, we chose to pass on the very same kindness, and this time around, we have the privilege to do so with programs like the IUP Food Pantry, where we can help fight the issue of food insecurity on campus.”