Student News

Born to be Wildcats: UK student leaders ready for their next steps

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LEXINGTON, Ky. (May 1, 2024) — They were born to be Wildcats.

When it was time for Lizzy Hornung to be born, her mom drove all the way to Lexington, so her daughter would take her first breaths at the University of Kentucky instead of in Louisville.

Caroline Sumner was “unfortunately” born in Louisville, but she had a UK beanie placed on her head the second she entered the delivery room.

Both girls grew up in Louisville, but when it was college decision time, they knew exactly where they would be going.

“Since birth, I have been a lover of the University of Kentucky, and we have a three-generation family history with the university,” said Hornung. “I wanted to continue that legacy and pursue the greatest education I could get in the state.”

For Sumner, even though she toured multiple colleges, Lexington always felt like home.

“I’ve always traveled to Lexington for basketball and football games, this was home to me,” said Sumner. “On campus, I found a good community and wanted to spend my four years here.”

In August 2020, both Sumner and Hornung moved to Lexington to become Wildcats and embark on a college experience of a lifetime at UK.

They met each other for the first time during their freshman year and by junior year, they became best friends and roommates. Throughout their college experience, they both took advantage of every opportunity for involvement UK has to offer.

At the end of their junior year, they were elected to be leaders of the two largest student organizations on campus, DanceBlue and the Student Government Association (SGA). During the 2023-24 school year, Sumner served as the DanceBlue overall chair and Hornung as the SGA president.

DanceBlue is a student-led, year-long fundraising campaign to support patients and families in the DanceBlue Kentucky Children’s Hospital Hematology/Oncology Clinic. The organization is known for their 24-hour, no-sitting, no-sleeping dance marathon. This year the organization, led by Sumner, raised a record-breaking $2.1 million.

Sumner’s first exposure to DanceBlue was from other students on campus, they knew she would like the organization’s mission and encouraged her to get involved. Seeing the passion of other like-minded students fighting for the same goal was inspirational to her.

“DanceBlue is really special in that way,” said Sumner. “I found a family within UK’s campus here. Once I saw its impact on the people around me, I knew I wanted to do more and give more to the organization and the clinic.”

As the DanceBlue overall chair, Sumner sits at the head of a 180-person committee and oversees the function and planning of both the fundraising campaign and dance marathon.

“I get to go to the clinic and see the kids,” said Sumner. “I see the joy they bring and the smiles they have even in really hard times. It makes you want to continue doing more for them.”

The Student Government Association is a representative body of students on campus. The organization’s goal is to improve the quality of students’ experiences while they are on UK’s campus. They work to advocate for students and relay student interests and needs to the university’s administration.

Hornung’s Tri Delta Sorority sisters always told her she had strong leadership skills and continued to encourage her to take on larger roles. After being heavily involved in her sorority, she decided she wanted to advocate for all students at a higher level.

Her involvement in SGA started as holding a student government senator position. After that, she felt she was ready to take the next step and represent the student body as a whole and advocate for all students every day.

“Supporting the students at this university is something I’ve developed a passion for,” said Hornung. “It’s been an honor to be able to serve in this capacity.”

As president of SGA, Hornung serves as the leader of the executive branch. At this level, she can speak directly to UK administration and keep them updated on all things involving the students and inform them of any student needs.

“My goal is to make sure students have the tools they need to get across the graduation stage and make sure they are having a little fun while they are doing it,” said Hornung.

All great leaders need support. Luckily, for Hornung and Sumner, they have each other.

The girls share similar experiences in their roles and lean on each other during the successes and challenges of leading the largest organizations on campus.

“People always say it’s lonely at the top,” said Hornung. “But when you have someone like Caroline by your side and as your roommate, it’s not as lonely up there. She’s been an integral person in my support system.”

Not only do they rely on each other, but they also have great support from their other friends and family around them.

“The friends we have are amazing,” said Sumner. “Your peers being your role models is something that is really special and unique. They keep me going and inspire me every day.”

This week, Sumner and Hornung are gearing up for graduation. On May 3, 2024, both girls will walk across the stage at Rupp Arena to officially receive their degrees.

Sumner will graduate from the College of Arts and Sciences and the Lewis Honors College with her bachelor’s degrees in neuroscience and biology. Hornung will be graduating from the Stanley and Karen Pigman College of Engineering with a bachelor’s degree in biomedical engineering.

This will be their first time walking across a graduation stage. When they graduated high school in 2020, their graduation ceremonies were canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I’m just going to hope I don’t trip across the stage,” said Sumner. “It’s surreal to think about because we’ve never experienced anything quite like it. My family is excited too because they didn’t necessarily get to celebrate my high school graduation.”

For Hornung, although she’s looking forward to walking across the stage, she is even more excited to sit on the stage in Rupp Arena along with the other members of the Board of Trustees.

“I’m most excited to cheer on my friends and peers as they walk across that stage,” said Hornung. “Everybody deserves to be celebrated at graduation, so I’m going to be there as everyone’s number one cheerleader, clapping for everyone.”

But once they walk the graduation stage, their Wildcat journey isn’t over yet. In the fall, both Hornung and Sumner will be returning to UK to take on medical school in the College of Medicine.

“We’re going to be Wildcats for four more years, that’s something I’m super excited about,” said Sumner. “It’ll be a new chapter of life and working toward our future careers.”

It will be an opportunity for a fresh start and for both girls to use the skills they’ve learned from their leadership positions and apply them to something new.

“It’s a big opportunity for us to find a new niche and find more things that we’re passionate about,” said Hornung.

One advantage of staying at UK for medical school is that they already know the ropes. They are looking forward to sharing their knowledge of UK’s resources to other students and being a resource themselves to help others.

“I hope we can be a resource to our fellow students next year in a big way,” said Hornung. “Even just knowing where buildings are on campus can be helpful. I hope I can provide some of the mental health and physical health resources to others who may not be as familiar with our campus as we are.”

For anyone joining the UK campus community for the first time, the girls say to go for all the opportunities that are placed in front of you, take the time for figure out who you are and try new things.

“College is big and new, it can be scary at times,” said Sumner. “But finding new people and learning about your community can make it feel smaller. Find what you love, pour your heart into it and enjoy every second because it does go by fast.”

Sumner (left) will graduate from the College of Arts and Sciences and the Lewis Honors College. Hornung (right) will be graduating from the Stanley and Karen Pigman College of Engineering. Carter skaggs | UKPhoto
Hornung has loved UK since she was a baby. She comes from a three-generation family history of being involved with the university and knew she wanted to continue the legacy. Photo provided by Lizzy Hornung.
Sumner and Honung will celebrate their graduation on May 3, 2024, but they will be returning to UK in the fall to begin medical school. Carter Skaggs | UKPhoto
During their time at UK, Sumner served as the DanceBlue overall chair and Hornung was the Student Government Association president. Carter Skaggs | UKPhoto

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