These awards support community engagement projects with grants up to $750 each.
“The common theme is that they all want to positively impact the greater Middletown community,” said Rhea Drozdenko, JCCP community participation coordinator. “There is no one right way to do community engagement, and the Innovation Fund supports nontraditional ideas. It’s important that our grantees are grounded in the ideas of mutual respect and collective responsibility as they go out into the community.”
All applicants are required to read the Cardinal Community Commitment —the University’s collective approach to civic engagement—before starting their work.
“Students also must become familiar with the community they wish to serve, practice ongoing self-reflection, embrace a spirit of humility with their work, and be an adaptable collaborator and partner,” Drozdenko said.
The spring/summer recipients were announced in a ENGAGE blog post on April 8. The grantees are the following:
Adolescent Sexual Health Awareness Club
Elsa Dupuy d’Angeac ’22, Robie Scola ’23, Carolina Mahedy ’21
This group will use the grant to create a website that can serve as a comprehensive plan for the community to learn more about sexual health. The website will include information from their sexual health awareness curriculum, a live chat for students to ask questions, a blog, a video component, and more.
Middletown Community Fridge
Bryan Chong ’21 and Emily McEvoy ’22
The Middletown Community Fridge was created in 2020 as a place for people to donate food to Middletown residents in need. The grant will go towards keeping the fridge clean, safe, and well-stocked.
Middletown Mutual Aid Fundraiser with Student Creators
Tara Nair ’21
Nair aims to create a partnership between the Middletown Mutual Aid Collective (MMAC) and student creators so they can sell their art, products, designs, and merchandise and the profits will go to MMAC. The grant will serve as compensation for the student creators so they can still receive payment for their labor and materials.
MIRA (Middlesex Immigrant Rights Alliance)
Margarita Fuentes ’21, Marlen Escobedo ’21, and Ivanna Morales ’21
This group aims to partner with different immigration rights organizations in Connecticut to create a more action-based coalition. They also want to host webinars and meetings to empower non-native English-speaking members of these organizations.
Oddfellows Musical Mentoring Program
Julia Kan ’22
This program matches Wesleyan students with children in Middletown for one-on-one individualized music lessons and mentorship. The lessons help children develop their creativity and form valuable relationships with their mentors. The grant will go towards expanding the program into Middletown’s Elementary Schools and partnering with the Wesleyan Music Department.
Sophie Williamson ’22, Nyaiah Lamb ’21, Sam Kurlender ’22, Abigail Maymi ’22, and Emma Powell ’21
Traverse Square is an after-school program run by Wesleyan students to support children in the Traverse Square public housing community. Leaders will use the grant to update and expand the program in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Wesleyan Book Buds
Ricardo Vega ’21, Leila Etemad ’21, Stephanie Corrales ’22, and Margarita Fuentes ’21
This student group hosts book drives to provide reading material to children in need. This semester, they hope to partner with WesNEAT, The Middletown Mutual Aid Collective, and the Middletown Schools to better support children in the community, especially since many of the typical Book Bud events were unable to safely happen due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Wesleyan Food RescueClaire Isenegger ’21 and Gina Gwiazda ’22
Wesleyan Food Rescue is a student organization that partners with Eddy Shelter to provide essential kitchen and food resources to community members in need. The grant will allow the group to better combat food insecurity and support initiatives such as clothing drives and maintenance projects for the shelter.
Wesleyan Habitat for Humanity
Zelda Galdenzi ’22 and Julia Rumberger ’23
Wesleyan’s Habitat for Humanity club will use the grant money to set up a Candygram fundraiser for the Middlesex Habitat for Humanity and National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum. This group is dedicated to addressing issues of affordable housing, as well as homelessness in the community and the country at large.
Wesleyan Refugee Project Education Initiative
Ji Yoon Park ’21 and Lizzie Edwards ’21
The Wesleyan Refugee Project’s Education Initiative was founded to teach middle and high school children in the Middletown community about global displacement and to create spaces for reflection on what such displacement means. The grant will support expanding the program and reaching a wider audience.
WesNEAT High School Community Organizing Program
Noah Kline ’21, Emily McEvoy ’22, Maya Gomberg ’22, Lincoln Alkind ’22
This WesNEAT program works with youth in the community to build leadership and bonding. Wesleyan student facilitators have led many trainings on social justice work, and the grant funds will go towards bringing in other local leaders to teach youth about community organizing.
WESU Interviews – Alumni in Audio and Podcasting
Kate Harvey ’23
Harvey will use the grant to conduct a series of interviews with Wesleyan/WESU alumni to serve as a space to share ideas around civic engagement and how WESU can help current students launch into future careers.
Angie Fike ’21
Wild Wes works to improve the physical Wesleyan grounds through gardening and permaculture. Fike aims to create a framework to preserve the institutional memory of Wild Wes and partner with Middletown community members and student farmers at Long Lane Farm.