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Community Engagement

Community Engagement Day
Eastern wrapped up its spring semester series of 125th Anniversary celebrations with Community Engagement Day on May 2. The day began with a luncheon and panel discussion featuring four alumni in the Paul E. Johnson Sr. Community Conference Room. Anabelitza Lozada '11, Levar Mitchell '12, Matt Blocker-Glynn '03 and Victoria Nimirowski '87 discussed how they turned their community engagement experiences at Eastern into successful careers. The event was sponsored by the Center for Community Engagement, the Center for Internships and Career Development, and the Office of Alumni Affairs.

In the afternoon, the CCE sponsored the annual Service Expo, during which time student volunteers displayed posters and other visual manifestations of the various service projects that have taken place during the 2013-14 academic year. The annual Distinguished Service Awards ceremony took place in the Student Center Theatre following the Service Expo.

Kimberly DePaolis, a junior double-majoring in early childhood education and psychology, won the Student Community Engagement Award for her leadership, fundraising and volunteer work locally and abroad-in such countries as Jamaica and Ecuador.

Professor of Anthropology Ricardo Perez earned the Faculty Community Engagement Award for working with Eastern students in service projects with Willimantic schools in the Puentes al Futuro (Bridges to the Future) program. The Community Partner Engagement Award was given to '09 alumnus Christopher Brechlin, who worked as an AmeriCorps volunteer with ACCESS Agency and is now the CEO of Blueprint for a Dream, a "social enterprise" that focuses on northeast Connecticut. Professor of Sociology Cara Bergstrom-Lynch won the Service Learning Award for her fundraising efforts and community organizing. Since 2007, more than 550 students in her senior seminar have organized more than 120 community projects. The Community Event Award was given to Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA). From January to April of this year, the 10 students involved in the program put forth more than 456 hours of tax assistance, filing approximately 9,500 returns for low-to-moderate income individuals and families.

In the evening, "La Familia de Mucho Colores," a community cultural celebration in the Betty R. Tipton Room, concluded Community Engagement Day. Arnaldo Rivera and his band Vente-Tú played Latin Jazz and Salsa; children from the Puentes al Futuro ("Bridges to the Future") program danced to Mexican polkas, a Puerto Rican bomba and other Latin American music. Dancers from the El Sagrado Corazón Catholic Church also joined in the festivities.

Plunge for Hunger 2014
On Feb. 1, Eastern students and members of the local community jumped into the frigid waters of Lauter Park to raise money for the Covenant Soup Kitchen. Plunge for Hunger had more than 200 participants and raised more than $5,000 for the soup kitchen. More than 40 Eastern students attended the event. The Eastern crowd was chiefly represented by the baseball team, which raised more $900; the rugby team, which raised more than $2,200; and the Center for Community Engagement team, composed of Student Government Association (SGA) members and resident assistants. The ECSU Foundation also donated $1,500. "Luckily it was a nice day," said Max Goto, AmeriCorps VISTA with Eastern's Center for Community Engagement, remarking on the event's sunny, 40 degree weather. "I wasn't planning to plunge, but some friends convinced me, so I undressed and jumped in and immediately regretted it. But upon getting out, the crowd was warm spirited and welcoming."

"Usually when people tell you to jump in a lake, they are being rude," said Reuben Rivera, a freshman majoring in computer science. "Now, to me, 'go jump in a lake' means to do good. It means to try and make a difference. All in all, it was a good experience and I will be doing it next year."

Eastern Students Volunteer at Martin Luther King Jr. Services
Eastern students volunteered at elementary schools throughout the Windham area for the Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service on Jan. 14. The day of service, organized by Eastern's Center for Community Engagement, took place at Windham Center School, North Windham School, Sweeney School and the new STEM Academy.

Forty-five student volunteers split up among the four schools and led more than 100 children through diversity-themed activities. The program began with a brief presentation on King's life. Following was a reading of Dr. Seuss's book "The Sneetches," which teaches that we can coexist peacefully despite our external differences. "MLK and Me" work packets were also filled out, which taught about King's life by having the children draw on similarities and relate to the legendary civil rights leader. Concluding was an arts and crafts activity that involved brainstorming ways in which the world could live more peacefully.