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Outstanding Humanitarian Efforts Recognized at Service Expo

Published on April 08, 2015

Outstanding Humanitarian Efforts Recognized at Service Expo

Students at Eastern Connecticut State University gave almost 11,000 hours of community service during the 2014-15 academic year. “Volunteering is a big part of the Eastern experience,” said senior Lily Egan, a student leader with the Center for Community Engagement (CCE), the office that coordinates community service at Eastern. “That’s what today is all about,” referring to the annual Service Expo and Awards, which was held on April 8 at 750 Main Street in Willimantic.

Throughout the year, Eastern’s volunteer programs address a variety of social causes and humanitarian efforts. From helping out at the No Freeze Hospitality Center, to volunteering at after-school programs with Windham Public Schools, to working with disabled adults at the High Chase Live-in Center, to coordinating clothing drives, Eastern students make an impact throughout the region.

The Service Expo and Awards program showcased the numerous student-led volunteering projects and programs that have been addressing the needs of the local community. The highlight of the event was the award ceremony, where outstanding programs and individuals were recognized for their exemplary service.   The Service Learning Award went to Professor Nicolas Simon for his course in media inequalities, which brought his students into the community to survey high school students’ perceptions of Willimantic and compare them with stereotypes portrayed in the media.

The Faculty/Staff Community Engagement Award went to Christine Dombkowksi, the assessment and systems coordinator for the CCE and after-school program coordinator for Windham High School. One of her achievements this past year was organize and grow the after-school program, which went from having only six students to more than 25.

The Community Partner Engagement Award went to Bill Stover, director of engagement for Windham Public Schools, whose advocacy of after-school programs in Windham Public Schools resulted in increased funding through grants.


The Student Community Engagement Award went to senior Katharine Ferrone, whose leadership as president of Eastern’s chapter of Best Buddies resulted in it being named the “Outstanding College Chapter in the World”—hundreds of chapters throughout the United States and 21 other countries applied for this award.

The Outstanding Community Event Award went to the Connectiuct Food Bank’s Mobile Pantry, which distributes more than 5,000 pounds of food every month to community members at the First Congregational Church in Willimantic. Pastor Rick Haverly accepted the award; his coordination and volunteer engagement has kept the program alive.

Max Goto, an Eastern alumnus who has served as an AmeriCoprs VISTA for the past two years, was recognized for his efforts as a volunteer and event coordinator with the CCE. Speaking to the effect Eastern’s culture of service has had on him, Goto said, “Service to others has become such a big part of me. I don’t know what I’ll do after this job, but I’m sure it will involve helping others.” Goto’s VISTA term will end in August.

While more than 30 student-led community service programs are active at Eastern, six outstanding ones were recognized. The recipient of the Broadening Horizons Award went to Puentes al Futuro, an after-school program for middle school English language learners that engages them in cultural activities such as cooking and dancing.

The Strengthening Families and Community Award went to the Connecticut Community for Addiction Recovery (CCAR), where students assist recovering adults in applying for jobs, interviewing and resume writing.

The Windham High School After School Program was the recipient of the Kids First Award and the Leadership Development Award. From tutoring and helping out with homework to facilitating enrichment activities, Eastern students volunteer at this after-school program throughout the week.

The Going Green Award went to CliCk, a local nonprofit that operates a locally sourced community kitchen and garden.

The Best New Program Award went to Jump Start, a program that engages students with preschool children to help develop reading, writing and social skills to prepare them for elementary school.

The Committee Choice Award, chosen by a panel of judges, went to KBA (Kids, Books, Athletics), a program that stimulates children with interactive reading and physical activity.

Speaking to the crowd of students and community members, Luis Rodriguez, assistant director of the CCE, said, “Not all students make this commitment, so your example is important in growing this movement.”

Written by Michael Rouleau