Recently in Community Service/Service Learning Category
Written by Dwight Bachman and Ed Osborn
Willimantic, Conn. -- 1,256 undergraduates and 41 graduate students heard the roars and cheers of thousands of their family members and friends as they celebrated their achievements at Eastern Connecticut State University's 123nd Commencement exercises at the XL Center in Hartford on May 14.
Carlotta Walls LaNier, the youngest member of the "Little Rock Nine," gave the Commencement Address, telling the graduates "This is your moment, a time you have been looking forward to and working toward since you first arrived at Eastern. Celebrate the moment; seize it. Step out into your future bravely and boldly." LaNier noted that the graduates were bound to encounter challenges. Those experiences will be "the greatest teacher in the grand classroom of life. Those challenges will show you who you really are."
The Little Rock Nine was a group of nine African American students who desegregated Central High School in Little Rock, AR, in 1957. Due to the segregation policies of Arkansas Governor Orval Faubus and the mob atmosphere in Little Rock at the time, President Dwight Eisenhower ordered 1,000 members of the U.S. Army's 101st Airborne Division to Arkansas to provide protection and escort the nine students to class throughout the 1957-58 school year.
Despite the daily military escort, LaNier and her friends were kicked, hit with rocks, threatened, and shunned. Her own home was firebombed. As the onslaught continued, "the more determined I became to get my diploma." Today, she has "made peace with my past."
LaNier turned to the Class of 2013 and encouraged them to have the same commitment: "Finish whatever goals you have set for yourself. Find the strength, fortitude and determination to see it through. When you see injustice, how will you respond? I hope you take the heroic stand." LaNier was also awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters, Honoris Causa at the Commencement Exercises.
Eastern President Elsa M. Nunez told the graduates, "There is no other country in the world that places its future so firmly in the hands of the people. You are now the next generation of citizen leaders in our state and in our nation. . . . The world needs your energy, your enthusiasm, and your skills . . . There is a challenge out there ready for you to conquer, whether it's helping out at your church or synagogue, volunteering at the local senior center, or inventing a new surgical procedure. There is a team somewhere that needs you to complete its mission."
As an example of the contributions Eastern students are making in the world, Nunez cited more than 100,000 hours of volunteer work performed by Eastern students, faculty, and staff each year in local communities, noting that President Barack Obama's had named Eastern to his National Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll for the third time in four years that past March.At the same time, President Nunez told the graduates to "be yourself and do what makes you happy," and quoted New England bard Henry Thoreau, who wrote: "Do what you love. Know your own bone; gnaw at it, bury it, unearth it, and gnaw it still."
From the Governor's Foot Guard Color Guard in attendance, to the plaintive sound of the bagpipes of the St. Patrick's Pipe Band and the pre-event music of the Thread City Brass Quintet, Eastern's graduation ceremonies were marked by dignity, grace and elegance. Senior Jessica Johnson sang "America the Beautiful," and Senior Class President Thomas Balestracci presented President Núñez with the class gift, a scholarship funded by more than 200 donations from the graduating class. Balestracci encouraged his classmates to continue donating so that the scholarship would grow. "We have all benefited from our experiences here at Eastern. These experiences are the ones that we will keep with us forever as we move on. They will be the ones we will look back upon and realize that they have helped us become who we are today. We lived up each day like it was our last at Eastern, and now, it really is our last day. We have turned our dreams into reality during our time at this University and we made memories that will last a lifetime."
Yvette Melendez, vice president of the Board of Regents for Higher Education, the governing body for the 17 Connecticut State Colleges and Universities, brought greetings on behalf of the Board of Regents. "Congratulations to each and every one of you for reaching this incredible milestone. This is one of those moments that will forever be embedded in your memory. You are at the beginning of a future you have just begun to mold. You took the first step in that journey by enrolling at Eastern. You have much to be proud of." Meléndez urged the graduates to make their contribution to society "in the way that Eastern has taught you. You have worked exceedingly hard . . . you have learned that regardless of major, you are part of a community."
Nana Owusu-Agyemang of Ghana, West Africa, delivered the Senior Class Address. She thanked the faculty for their support, saying, "During my time here at Eastern, I have met professors that I simply cannot forget -- professors who really care for their students. It will forever strike me how much time professors at Eastern are willing to spend with each student...how much of themselves they give. It's not just the professors who make Eastern what it is. At Eastern it's not just about imparting knowledge, it's about joining hands to mold each student into a richer person academically and mentally, as well." Owusu-Agyemang closed by quoting the late philosopher Alan Watts, who once said, "The attitude of faith is to let go, and become open to truth, whatever it might turn out to be."
"May our truth be a good truth," said Owusu-Agyemang. "May our world be a good world. May our mark be a good mark."
Carlotta Walls LaNier made history at age 14 when she enrolled at Central High School as a sophomore. On the first day of school she was surrounded by an angry mob that prevented the nine African American students from entering the building. After two weeks of protests and violence, President Dwight Eisenhower sent U.S. Army troops to Little Rock to protect the "Little Rock Nine" by escorting them to class for a year. Arkansas Gov. Orval Faubus closed Little Rock schools for the 1958-59 school year, forcing LaNier to take correspondence courses. In June 1960, she became the first African American female student to graduate from Central High School.
LaNier has received numerous awards and recognitions, including the prestigious Spingarn Medal from the NAACP in 1958, and the Congressional Gold Medal, the nation's highest civilian award, which was bestowed upon the Little Rock Nine in 1999 by President Bill Clinton. She is also the author of "A Mighty Long Way: My Journey to Justice of Little Rock Central High School."
Written by Chris Herman and Anne Pappalardo
Jenn DuBois, Valerie Lewis and Lisa Forcellina present their People Helping People (PHP) Weekly Pen Pals Program with kids from the Natchaug Elementary School at the Service Expo. At the event, the Pen Pals Program received the Strengthening Communities Award.
Willimantic, CT -Several community service programs won top honors at Eastern Connecticut State University's Community Service Expo on April 19. Guest judges from the Willimantic community, as well as Eastern faculty and staff, awarded prizes in six categories, including Broadening Horizons, Putting Liberal Arts into Action, Going Green, Leadership Development, Strengthening Communities and Best New Program.
"The Service Expo is an opportunity for our students to share their experiences in the community, to reflect on their contributions and to articulate how the experience relates to their liberal arts education," said Kim Silcox, director of Eastern's Center for Community Engagement. "Eastern faculty and our community partners judge the projects in each category, and tell us how impressed they are with the dedication of the students."
Luis Rodríguez, assistant director for the Center for Community Engagement (CCE), and Jacqui De Cormier, AmeriCorps*VISTA at the CCE, pose with Jason Coombs, director of dining services at Eastern. Coombs was awarded the Faculty/Staff Community Engagement Award for his lead role in planning and organizing Eastern's annual Day of Giving Community Celebration.
The Puentes al Futuro (Bridges to the Future) middle school and high school afterschool programs won first prize in the Best New Program, Broadening Horizons, and Leadership Development categories. The program also won runner-up in the Putting Liberal Arts into Action category. The Education Club's "Science Extravaganza" was runner-up in the Best New Program category, while the Social Work Club's WAIM "Adopt-a-Family" and "No-Freeze Shelter Toiletry Drive" was runner-up in the Broadening Horizons category.
The first-prize winner in the Putting Liberal Arts into Action category was the VITA Tax Assistance program. The Going Green category award-winner was "Alternative Spring Break: Generous Gardens," a community service effort that took place in South Carolina. The Strengthening Communities category first-prize winner was the People Helping People club's "Weekly Pen Pals Program with Natchaug" effort. Runner-up in the same category was the "Brooklyn Correctional Institute's GED Tutoring Program."
Written by Danielle Couture
Willimantic, CT - - The Willimantic Lion's Club and students from Eastern Connecticut State University's Habitat for Humanity Club formed a partnership for humanity on April 13 to paint several rooms in the homes of senior citizens who live on Lebanon Avenue in Willimantic.
This is the fourth collaboration between these two local organizations. "It was rewarding for all of us to have the opportunity to work together to brighten up the living space of Willimantic senior citizens," said Charles Wynn, chairman of the Partnership for Humanity Willimantic Lions Club and professor of chemistry at Eastern. "It was also a great opportunity for Willimantic Lions to meet a group of Eastern students who have been making a difference in the community, and for those students to learn about the world's largest and most active service organization."
Lions Club International has 1.35 million members in approximately 45,000 clubs in 207 countries and geographical areas around the world. Since 1917, Lions Clubs have aided the blind and visually impaired and made a strong commitment to community service and serving youth throughout the world.
For information about the Willimantic Lions Club, visit www.willimanticlionsclub.org or www.lionsclub.org or contact Colin Rice, membership director at (860)-456-1111.
Habitat for Humanity International is a nonprofit, nondenominational Christian housing ministry. Habitat welcomes all people -- regardless of race, religion, ethnicity, or any other difference -- to build simple, decent, affordable houses for those who lack adequate shelter. Since its founding in 1976, Habitat for Humanity has built more than 300,000 houses, providing shelter for more than 1.5 million people in over 90 countries around the world. For information about the Habitat for Humanity, visit www.habitat.org.
For information about the Eastern chapter, contact Peter Bachiochi, faculty advisor at (860)-465-4551.
Written by Danielle Couture
Willimantic, CT - - Eastern's People Helping People (PHP) student club, in collaboration with Pantene Beautiful Lengths, is holding a hair donation event from 2-4 p.m. on April 29 in the Betty R. Tipton Room in the Student Center. All donated hair will be made into wigs for cancer patients. The public is invited.
For those interested in donating, hair must be a minimum of eight inches; free of dyes, bleaches or chemicals; and no more than five percent gray. Hairstylists will be available to style hair after the cut is made.
The goal of PHP is to donate enough ponytails to create 10 wigs. To sign up or for more information, contact PHP at email@example.com; Kim Silcox in the Center for Community Engagement at firstname.lastname@example.org; or Nicole Gaona at email@example.com.
Written by Dwight Bachman
Willimantic, CT - Eastern Connecticut State University has been honored by the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) and the U.S. Department of Education as one of the nation's colleges and universities that are leading the way in bettering their communities through community service and service learning.
Eastern was one of 609 institutions of higher learning acknowledged on President Obama's "Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll" earlier this month, recognized for their work in serving local communities through volunteer programs and other activities.
"Community service has been a hallmark at Eastern since our earliest days in the 1890s as the Willimantic State Normal School," said Eastern President Elsa Núñez. "Today, our Center for Community Engagement works closely with our faculty to ensure that the service that our students perform in local communities aligns with their academic programs. In providing thousands of hours a year of service to dozens of social agencies and nonprofits, Eastern students are demonstrating their social responsibility while learning valuable professional and organizational skills.
To be recognized by President Obama as a university that exemplifies such service is something that everyone on our campus should be proud of." To better coordinate student service projects in the community, Eastern's Center for Community Engagement (CCE) was launched in September 2009. A full-time director, assistant director, a shared administrative assistant, an AmeriCorps VISTA member and a part-time university assistant staff the center. The center also provides leadership opportunities through federal work-study employment for students.
Eastern's commitment to service is exemplified by the comprehensive volunteer efforts in area schools by Eastern students. Programs to assist schools with student academic performance, behavior and motivation are widespread and effective in all six schools in the district, as well as in local preschool programs. From 2008-09 to 2011-12 Eastern's Center for Early Childhood Education partnered with two area early learning centers to address early literacy. Over the three-year period ending in the 2011-12 academic year, the project improved the language and early literacy skills of nearly 600 preschool-aged children by providing professional development and literacy coaching to 50 teachers and staff. Thirty-nine Eastern students were involved in this project through academic coursework.
Eastern students are also engaged in local schools outside of the classroom. Four hundred and forty-nine students volunteered 5,180 hours in long-term volunteering programs in Windham schools through the CCE and student clubs. Including students who participated in academic service-learning, more than 1,000 students contributed more than 60,000 volunteer hours in area schools. Students in the Business Administration Department provide database and website services to area nonprofits, assisting them in providing more effective services. Nonprofits also benefit from students engaged in the Community Grant Service Corps, supported by the Office of Academic Affairs. Students learn how to assist nonprofits with grant research, through use of the University's "Work Hub," an on-campus worksite dedicated to community-campus collaborations. In all, students provided more than 100,000 hours of service to the local community in 2011-12.
The Puentes al Futuro/Bridges to the Future Mentoring Program demonstrates Eastern's commitment to community service. English Language Learners (ELL) in the Windham Public Schools struggle with assimilation into the school community both socially and academically. The Puentes al Futuro Program assisted ELL students at Windham Middle School (WMS) by integrating in-school tutoring and mentoring with afterschool and summer academic and cultural enrichment with the goal of encouraging students to excel academically and to attend college. The program is a collaborative effort between the Center for Community Engagement (CCE), WMS teachers, family liaisons, and afterschool program staff. WMS students have developed positive mentoring relationships with Eastern volunteers who have committed to continuing their mentoring relationship with the students as they transition to high school.
Students in the program showed very positive gains in math comprehension, from a mean of 17.8 on the pre-tests to a mean of 54.2 following the instruction. Comprehension remained high at the end of the six-week program, with a mean of 48.7. Students' language arts skills improved as they wrote poetry and performed before families. The project was supported by FWS, AmeriCorps VISTA and a state education grant.
The Collegiate Health Service Corps (CHSC) is a program coordinated by the Center for Community Engagement with a community partner, Eastern Area Health Education Center. The CHSC's mission is to expose undergraduate students to health careers through service learning experiences that promote culturally competent health and disease prevention education to medically underserved communities. Student volunteers participate in three program phases of 25 hours each.
In the past year, nine students contributed 234 hours of service at three elementary schools and one after-school program at a community center in Windham, CT, during the academic year. Students conducted a needs assessment to identify nutrition, public health and wellness topics of interest to the children in each of the programs. They then developed lesson plans with weekly objectives and site-specific activities; 80 lessons were provided at the four sites. Subject areas included nutrition, bullying, staying physically active, hygiene, emergency preparedness and stress and behavior management. Students also worked with a local community garden. Program coordinators at the 4 sites expressed great satisfaction with the program, indicating that the children learned a great deal and the program helped address critical public health issues in the Windham community, which has the highest obesity rate in the state. The AmeriCorps program supported this program.
Eastern's "Day of Giving," held on the day before Thanksgiving each year, has become one of the University's most highly acclaimed traditions. For six years in a row, more than 450 needy individuals and families have been served a Thanksgiving meal in the University's dining hall. This is a collaborative effort between students, faculty, administrators, contractors and service providers in the community to ensure that people who might otherwise go without a Thanksgiving meal are served with dignity and respect. More than 100 volunteers from across the campus, including student servers and staff from the University's food service provider, come together to cook, serve, clean up and provide transportation for anyone in the local community who would like to attend. In addition to the Thanksgiving meal, students work with local grocery stores to gather canned goods -- more than 5,000 items were delivered to soup kitchens and food pantries this past year.
In all, Eastern students, faculty and staff donate more than 106,000 hours of time annually to local communities, a value of $2.3 million annually. "Congratulations to Eastern Connecticut State University," said Wendy Spencer, CEO of CNCS. "Through its work, institutions of higher education are helping improve their local communities and create a new generation of leaders by challenging students to go beyond the traditional college experience and solve local challenges."
The CNCS oversees the Honor Roll in collaboration with the U.S. Departments of Education and Housing and Urban Development, Campus Compact and the American Council on Education. Honorees are chosen based on a series of selection factors, including the scope and innovation of service projects, the extent to which service-learning is embedded in the curriculum, the school's commitment to long-term campus-community partnerships, and measurable community outcomes as a result of the service.
Written by Christopher J. Herman
Willimantic, Conn. -Eastern Connecticut State University's Center for Community Engagement is sponsoring a group of Eastern students who are participating in the Alternative Environmental Spring Break Trip on March 22 and 23. The Environmental Trip project team, along with Connecticut Forest and Parks Association and the Connecticut Chapter of the Appalachian Mountain Club, is also holding a free special screening of the film, "Seeking the Current" for the public at 4 p.m. on March 24 at the Connecticut Forest and Park Association Headquarters.
"Seeking the Current" stars filmmakers Nicolas Boisclair and Alexis de Geheldere as they canoe the entire 500-kilometer course on the pristine Romaine River in Quebec before Hydro-Quebec begins construction on four hydroelectric plants. Along with Roy Dupuis, one of Canada's most renowned actors, Boisclair and de Geheldere explore a wide variety of renewable green energies and their profitability by interviewing experts across Quebec.
Volunteers from the Connecticut Forest and Parks Association and the Connecticut Chapter of the Appalachian Mountain Club are providing meaningful service projects, educational opportunities and environmental experiences for Eastern students and their trip advisor this year, Biology Professor Elizabeth Cowles. Eastern students will have the opportunity to build log and lumber bridges, based on the theories and understanding of nature of Henry Thoreau and Gifford Pinchot. They will also participate in a panel discussion with conservation and environmental experts about environmental sustainability. Participants are also hoping to perform some trail work on a portion of the Appalachian Trail in Connecticut. The student trip leader is Calvin Underwood.
For more information on the screening of "Seeking the Current" and Eastern's Alternative Spring Break Trip program, contact Kim Silcox at (860) 465-4426.
Written by Christopher J. Herman
Willimantic, Conn. - Eastern Connecticut State University's Center of Community Engagement (CCE) will host its annual Arts and Culture Series from 2:30 to 5:30 p.m. on March 21 and 22 in Mead Hall.
The Arts and Culture Series is performed by Eastern students for local Connecticut school children in elementary afterschool programs. More than 200 students are expected to come to campus on both days to engage in a variety of activities, where they will learn about this year's theme -- India.
Eastern's Repertory Dance Troupe is choreographing a dance based on traditional Indian styles to teach the students. Nanette Tummers, professor of health and physical education, will teach them yoga. Neeta Omprakash, a visiting Fulbright Scholar with the Visual Arts Department, will lead storytelling sessions. In concert with Omprakash's story, the program will have a read-a-long, borrowing a book from the J. Eugene Smith Library.
Arts and crafts are based on traditional crafts from India and will include making patakas, a traditional style of flag; kites; and cut-out hands to create henna designs. The arts and crafts program is led by students Shawn McCabe, Elliot Woolworth, Josh Beltre, Federicca Bucca and Megan Sniffin, and is advised by Omprakash and Vista/Volunteer and Event Coordinator Jacqueline De Cormier.
For more information on Eastern's Arts and Culture Series, contact Jacqueline De Cormier at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Written by Christopher J. Herman
Willimantic, Conn. - For the second year in a row, Eastern Connecticut State University's Center of Community Engagement will sponsor two groups of Eastern students participating in Alternative Spring Break trips on March 22 and 23. This year's trips have students working for the "Environmental Trip" and Hurricane Sandy disaster relief.
The Environmental Trip group will remain in Connecticut to participate in environmental programs and activities. Students will have the opportunity to build log and lumber bridges based on the theories and understanding of nature of Henry Thoreau and Gifford Pinchot. They will also participate in a panel discussion with conservation and environmental experts about environmental sustainability. The trip participants are hoping to also perform some trail work on a portion of the Appalachian Trail in Connecticut, as well as a short hike. The student trip leader is Calvin Underwood.
The second group, led by students Brielle Heinl, Christina Mazzatti and Rebecca Ingoglia, is going to New Jersey to engage in Hurricane Sandy disaster relief work. The students and their advisors, Anthony Aidoo, professor of mathematics, and Hall Director Emma Blandford, will work on volunteer projects in Ocean and Atlantic Counties. Specifically, they will work in Tom's River, Seaside Heights, Manahawkin, Atlantic City, Brigantine and several other communities affected by Hurricane Sandy. Their projects will include removing sand from buildings and homes; rebuilding dunes; improving trails and parks; working in after-school programs; painting projects and working in community food banks, just to name a few. The Alternative Spring Break Program allows students to use their spring break to perform meaningful service for the community. The trips give students an opportunity to meet new people, learn new things and to step away from traditional learning and living. Each weekend or weeklong trip integrates service, reflection and education, and focuses on topics such as poverty, hunger, housing, health care and disaster relief. Trips are offered throughout the year in local and national destinations.
For more information on Eastern's Alternative Spring Break Program, visit www.easternct.edu/cce/alternative-breaks.html.
Written by Danielle Couture
Willimantic, CT - - Eastern's Center for Community Engagement will host a post-graduate service panel in the Student Center Theatre from 4 to 5:30 p.m. on March 7, which will consist of a discussion on the personal experiences of participants in AmeriCorps, the Peace Corps, FoodCorps and Teach for America.
The panelists include Kate Callahan, FoodCorps member and registered dietitian; Liz Broussard, FoodCorps member; Chris Brechlin, AmeriCorps member and coordinator for the Nonprofit Alliance of Northeast Connecticut; Kat Womboldt, a Teach for America teacher in the Windham Center School; Brianna London '10, who served in the Peace Corps as a woman and community business development specialist in Burkina Faso, West Africa; Luke Walsh, AmeriCorps member and coordinator for the Nonprofit Alliance of Northeast CT; and Logan Place, Eastern Area Health Education Center AmeriCorps member.
Panelists will provide information about their jobs, experiences and how they initially got involved in their organization. A question-and-answer session will follow the discussion.
"This event will provide students the opportunity to broaden their career options and apply a networking opportunity in vibrant public service organizations," said Janell Lewis, a senior from Hamden majoring in psychology who organized the event
For more information on the post-graduate panel, contact Jacqui DeCormier by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at (860) 465-5158.
Written by Christopher J. Herman
Willimantic, Conn. - Eastern Connecticut State University's Center for Community Engagement (CCE) will host a forum on immigration reform and the difficulties immigrant families face when coming to the United States from 2:30-4:30 p.m. on Feb. 24 in the Betty R. Tipton in the Student Center. The public is invited. Admission is free. Participants will gain new insights into the immigration debate, as they hear from community organizers, undocumented young adults brought here as children and adults with no formal authorization.
Forum sponsors include the Foundation for Campus Ministry, Inc.; United Action Connecticut (UACT); Committee: "Embracing the Same Dream;" Corpus Christi Catholic Community of Willimantic; Office for Hispanic Ministry; and the Diocese of Norwich, CT. For more information on the event, contact Tim Eakins at (860) 752-4328 or firstname.lastname@example.org.