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CCE students make 'IMPACT' at Texas conference

Published on March 04, 2024

CCE students make 'IMPACT' at Texas conference

From left: Nicole Leyner, Lexie Mastroianni, Amilya Williams, Alysha Wedler, Olivia Gardner

Amilya Williams, a CCE student leader, presented on opportunities for those in positions like her to be welcomed and empowered.

The CCE representatives enjoyed the weather, culture and food in Nacogdoches, TX.

Eastern Connecticut State University’s Center for Community Engagement (CCE) recently showcased its leadership initiatives on a national stage. Four CCE student leaders traveled to the IMPACT Conference, which took place Feb. 22–25 at Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, TX.

The CCE representatives (from left: Williams, Wedler, Leyner, Gardner and Mastroianni) enjoyed the largely new experience of traveling to Texas.

“The IMPACT Conference is historically the largest annual conference focused on the civic engagement of college students in community service,” said Lexie Mastroianni, community engagement coordinator for the CCE, who traveled with the students as an advisor.

The conference attendees included students, administrators, faculty members, AmeriCorps Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA) members, and nonprofit professionals. The conference presented opportunities to “be inspired and challenged to sustain our efforts" in community engagement, said Mastroianni.

Eastern student representatives included Amilya Williams, who presented at the conference, Olivia Gardner, Nicole Leyner and Alysha Wedler.

Williams’ presentation topic was “Leaders Empowering Leaders.” Rather than giving a traditional presentation, she conducted a roundtable discussion. “My main objective was for the audience to understand that there is no one right way to be a leader,” she said.

Williams had a personal reason for creating a welcoming environment for aspiring leaders. Two years ago, her new role as a student leader was daunting. “I doubted my capabilities as a leader and it took me some to realize the potential I had,” she said.

For Williams, the conference presented opportunities to inspire others and to be inspired by others. She was particularly inspired by a panel discussion on the first day of the conference. “The panel featured three powerful women: an attorney, a non-profit organization manager and a political science senior from Stephen F. Austin State University,” she said.

“These women dove into the questions of how we can effectively do important and challenging work to create lasting changes in our communities,” she said. “I found myself jotting down bullet point upon bullet point of all the insights they had to offer.”

Gardner, Leyner and Wedler also found the trip to be an enriching experience. Last year’s IMPACT conference took place in Massachusetts, making for a much different climate than this year. “The campus was so hard to walk around since (the temperature) was in the negatives,” said Leyner.

“Where Massachusetts was city, Texas was country,” said Gardner. “I was born and raised in a more city area and this country experience was new for me.”

Like Williams, Gardner found this year’s conference relatable. “The conference, especially my coworker Amilya’s presentation, allowed me to find a safe space in others who are experiencing similar situations to me,” she said.

Written by Noel Teter