Tag Archive for community service

Students in Rural Access Group Receive Davis Peace Grant

The Rural Access team of Wesleyan students has won a coveted $10,000 Davis Projects for Peace grant. Members (l to r) are: Edelina Marzouk ’20, Momi Afelin ’20, Betty Bekele ’20, Emanuel Fetene ’21, Nebiyu Daniel ’18

The Rural Access team of Wesleyan students has won a coveted $10,000 Davis Projects for Peace grant. Members include: (front row, from left) Edelina Marzouk ’19, Momi Afelin ’19, and Betty Bekele ’19; (back row, from left) Emanuel Fetene ’20 and Nebiyu Daniel ’18. (Photo by Olivia Drake)

Five Wesleyan students determined to make life better for girls in rural African areas have received a prestigious $10,000 Davis Projects for Peace grant.

Their start-up nonprofit, Rural Access, seeks to expand access to health and education in impoverished areas, while also raising awareness of pressing health issues. Among those is the need to address lack of menstrual hygiene products, which frequently keeps girls out of school and leads to high dropout rates, poverty, and other harmful outcomes.

This summer, Rural Access will be working in Ethiopia and Guyana to make menstrual hygiene kits and distribute them to girls. The project is far more complicated than it sounds because it involves establishing partnerships, winning the trust of communities, and overcoming adverse conditions, including near–civil war in Ethiopia.

Nebiyu Daniel ’18, the founder and leader of Rural Access, says that, “Work like this requires a lot of commitment. It takes a dedicated team, and we work on this every day.”

The team consists of Daniel, Momi Afelin ’19, Edelina Marzouk ’19, Betty Bekele ’19, and Emanuel Fetene ’20.

Daniel founded Rural Access on the principle that connection to the community served is essential. He was born in Ethiopia and spent his childhood there. In the summer of 2016, he returned to his native region of Garamuleta to work with elderly individuals and to distribute first-aid kits to 500 families.

Cardinal Community Classic Raises Funds for Local Cancer Center

Jordan Bonner ’19, at right, presented a check for $3,088.26 to Middlesex Hospital’s Comprehensive Breast Cancer Center on April 15. The funds were raised during the Cardinal Community Classic basketball tournament held at Wesleyan.

According to the National Cancer Institute, approximately 1 in 8 American women will develop invasive breast cancer over the course of their lifetime, and every day new cases of invasive breast cancer are diagnosed.

On April 15, more than 40 teams from Wesleyan and the Middletown community participated in the inaugural Cardinal Community Classic, a 3v3 basketball fundraising tournament. All proceeds, totaling nearly $3,400, were donated to Middlesex Hospital’s Comprehensive Breast Center to support local individuals affected by breast cancer.

The event was spearheaded by men’s basketball team member Jordan Bonner ’19, whose aunt is a breast cancer survivor. Bonner recruited Lina Marzouk ’19, Remi French ’20 and local business owner Ernesto Vargas to help organize the event. In addition, men’s basketball team members JR Bascom ’18 and Jordan Sears ’18, football player Brandon Morris ’19, and assistant basketball coaches William Battaglia and Tyler Gaffaney helped Bonner with planning and logistics. Several other student-athletes volunteered to serve as referees, scorers, and registration table staff.

“I really wanted to put together an event to honor my aunt and support people who are going through the same journey,” Bonner said. “This event benefited not only patients, but our community as a whole. We believe this event and the generous donations made will touch the lives of those most affected in the greater Middletown community. The tournament also fosters a better sense of community between Wesleyan students and Middletown residents as we come together to support individuals affected by this disease.”

Bonner hopes that in subsequent years, Wesleyan can establish a Cardinal Community Classic scholarship fund that can be awarded to Middlesex Hospital’s Comprehensive Breast Center and other entities that are doing similar work.

Pearce ’08 Directs LoveYourBrain Yoga for Patients with Traumatic Brain Injuries

Kyla Pearce ’08 works with people who have suffered a traumatic brain injury, teaching yoga as a technique to calm their minds and develop mind-body connections through the LoveYourBrain yoga program. “For me, yoga has been a pathway to connecting with myself in a more authentic and kinder way,” she says. “For much of my life, I was constantly pushing myself to achieve and measuring my self-worth based on these outcomes and how others perceived me. Yoga and meditation have helped me learn to recognize that my strength and value comes from within, and also how to observe instead of becoming entangled in my thoughts.”

Kyla Donnelly Pearce ’08, a government major at Wesleyan with a certificate in international relations, is now senior director of the LoveYourBrain yoga program, an outgrowth of the work her husband and the Pearce family are doing for those who suffer from traumatic brain injury. Their journey began after snowboarder Kevin Pearce, Kyla’s brother-in-law, was injured in a training accident in Utah on Dec. 31, 2009, as he prepared for the Olympic trials. The previous year he had won three medals at the 2008 Winter X Games XII in Aspen, Colo. He spent the first six months of 2010 in rehabilitation hospitals with brother Adam (Kyla’s spouse) at his side, before returning home to Vermont to continue healing.

Kyla Pearce’s interest in yoga has become an integral part of that healing.

“I vividly remember being in Dharamsala, India, with my 200-hour yoga teacher training program nearly completed—when I received an excited call from Adam. Kevin, he said, was finding a sense of peace, accomplishment and vitality in yoga and meditation that were unavailable elsewhere,” she recalls.

When she returned, she saw it for herself. “I noticed that he loved the feeling of accomplishment from engaging with what he deemed a fitting challenge (be it focusing his mind in meditation or holding a strength-building yoga posture), instead of assessing his progress based on some medical benchmark. When he practiced yoga, he no longer felt defined by his injury.

“The LoveYourBrain yoga program grew out of the need that my husband, Adam Pearce, saw for supporting his brother—and others affected by TBI—in the healing process.”

While it admittedly seems a circuitous path—from government major to therapeutic yoga instructor, Pearce notes it is actually more linked than it might appear. At Wesleyan, she was on a premed track with a clear goal:

“I wanted to be at the helm of delivering women’s health care services, specifically maternal health and family planning, in underserved communities abroad,” she says, noting her undergraduate interest in international relations. As for yoga during that period, she sporadically showed up in the basement of the Butterfield dorms, where her friend taught a yoga class. Pearce still keeps one track of her life back on her original health-care goals, completing an MPH at Dartmouth with a focus on women’s health. She is now midway through a doctorate there, investigating the quality of abortion care in the United States. On the other track, yoga has come into prominence.

Students Use Mapping Skills to Collaborate with Community Partner

Earth and environmental sciences major Jackie Buskop '19 collects field data along a hiking trail in Connecticut. (Photo by Melissa Luna)

Earth and environmental sciences major Jackie Buskop ’19 collects field data along a hiking trail in Connecticut while working on a class project. (Photo by Melissa Luna)

Last fall, 19 students enrolled in the Earth and Environmental Sciences 280 course, Introduction to GIS, assisted a local organization while learning data analysis skills.

At the start of the semester, the class teamed up with community partner Emma Kravet, education director at the Connecticut Forest & Park Association (CFPA). Kravet expressed a need for a mapping tool that shows the location of schools and other community resources near the CFPA’s blue-blazed hiking trail system. If such a map existed, she could facilitate more meaningful connections to schools and organizations near the trails.

The class broke into five thematic groups to address the CFPA’s needs: recreation, environment, trail access, educational opportunities and public history.

Students first learned about GIS (geographic information systems) and ways they could capture, organize, store, edit, analyze and display spatial and geographic data.

Students Teach DNA, Self-Awareness Workshops to Local Children

On Nov. 30, Alex Shames '18, Alison Biester '19, Sojeong Park '18, Alexa Strauss '19 and Mikaela Carty '18, who belong to the Molecular and Biochemistry Department's undergraduate student group Major Groove, lead workshops on DNA.

Wesleyan students recently hosted special 1/2 day programs for the Green Street Arts Center AfterSchool students. On Nov. 30, Alex Shames ’18 (pictured), Alison Biester ’19, Sojeong Park ’18, Alexa Strauss ’19 and Mikaela Carty ’18, who belong to the Molecular and Biochemistry Department’s undergraduate student group Major Groove, led workshops on DNA.

Miranda ’02 up for Moana Grammy, Receives Special Latin Grammy Award

Lin-Manuel Miranda ’02, here in a still from the official video for “Almost Like Praying,” which he wrote and recorded with a number of other artists to benefit hurricane relief efforts in Puerto Rico. He recently was honored at the Latin Grammy Awards and has been nominated for a Grammy Award for a song he wrote for Disney’s Moana.

Lin-Manuel Miranda ’02, the Pulitzer Prize winner, MacArthur Genius, and Tony Award winner for Hamilton and In the Heights was honored with the Latin Recording Academy President’s Merit Award at the 18th annual Latin Grammy Awards on Nov. 16. This is a special award, not given annually, and it was presented to the well known composer, lyricist, and performer by Latin Recording Academy President/CEO Gabriel Abaro to honor Miranda’s many outstanding contributions to the Latin community.

Abaroa told  Billboard, “Lin-Manuel’s urban and social poetry have provided strength and encouragement to every Latino motivated to get ahead. He has brought pride to our community by reminding us of the resilience and fortitude we demonstrate on a daily basis.”

Most recently he composed and released “Almost Like Praying—Relief Single for Puerto Rico, (Atlantic Records, Oct. 6, 2017). Miranda, who performed the song with various artists, donated all proceeds to The Hispanic Federation’s UNIDOS Disaster Relief Fund to help the survivors of Hurricane Maria

Additionally, when the Grammy nominations were released on Nov. 28, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s work appeared in two categories, both related to his work on the soundtrack for Moana, Disney’s animated adventure-comedy. Moana: The Songs, a compilation of works by various artists, including Miranda as singer and performer, appears in the category of Best Compilation Soundtrack For Visual Media. Additionally, a song he wrote for that film, “How Far I’ll Go” (performed by Auli’i Cravalho), appears in the Best Song Written For Visual Media category.

In an interview with Hollywood Reporter Melinda Newman, Miranda explained that the insight into creating “How Far..” for the title character of the film came in recalling his own teenage years:

Where she [Moana] and I met was having a calling — not necessarily even understanding the calling, but knowing that it’s there inside. I knew I wanted a life in some creative endeavor for as long as I can remember. For me, I think the song took the final turn it needed when I realized it’s not a song about a young woman who hates where she is and needs to get out, it’s a song about a woman who loves where she lives and her family and her culture and still has this feeling. So what do you do with it? I related to that as well and so that was the final insight we needed to get that moment to really strike a chord because it’s messier, it’s complicated.

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Wesleyan Film Outreach Volunteers Teach Local Youth about Filmmaking

Luisa Bryan ’21 helps fourth-grader Justin and third-grader Franchesca film a short movie as part of a class taught by Wesleyan Film Outreach.

Sarah Lucente '21 works with MacDonough students Isaiah and Violet on how to operate the videocamera.

Sarah Lucente ’21 watches Isaiah direct a scene.

“Press this button and say, ‘Action!'” Sarah Lucente ’21 explains to third-grader Isaiah as he intently peers into a videocamera’s viewfinder. “Think about this scene. Think about doing a closeup.”

Isaiah is one of 10 area youth learning about filmmaking though Wesleyan Film Outreach, a program that provides school-aged children with the skills to write, film, direct and edit themselves.

The class is taught by Wesleyan students as part of the YMCA’s Kids’ Korner, an after-school enrichment program held at MacDonough Elementary School in Middletown.

Stephen Collins ’96, associate professor of film studies, teaches the community-engagement class for two hours every Tuesday with Film Outreach volunteers Lucente, Caris Yeoman ’21, Luisa Bryan ’21 and Nick Catrambone ’21.

Collins modeled the class after a pilot he ran in 2016 at MacDonough with his youngest daughter’s fourth grade class.

“Having two kids in the public school system, I see how starved they are for arts education,” Collins says.

Wesleyan-Middletown Collaborations Strengthen Community

The Wesleyan Upward Bound Math-Science Program is designed to help low-income and first-generation college students recognize and develop their potential, to excel in math and science, and pursue post secondary degrees. The Upward Bound Program is benefiting from new federal funding and is one of many Wesleyan-Middletown collaborations. Pictured are Upward Bound students in 2016. 

A new $1.3 million grant funded by the U.S. Department of Education over five years to Wesleyan’s Upward Bound Math-Science program has brought federal funding for an important collaborative initiative in Middletown that will help provide low-income, historically underrepresented high school students with pathways to success in science and math.

The grant is the latest in a growing list of initiatives that are bringing Middletown and Wesleyan together in projects large and small.

“We don’t often pause to appreciate the full scope of collaborations between Wesleyan and Middletown,” said Wesleyan President Michael Roth, “but when we do, the many ways they are contributing to the growth of our strong local community become so apparent. We couldn’t ask for better partners than we have here in Middletown.”

Wesleyan Refugee Project Hosts Panel, Exhibit on Refugee Resettlement

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The Wesleyan Refugee Project is hosting an exhibit, “Stronger Shines the Light Inside” at the Center for the Arts Green. SSTLI traces processes of refugee resettlement though a series of photographs and interviews with the refugee community in Boise, Idaho.

On April 21, the Wesleyan Refugee Project (WRP) hosted a speaker panel in Memorial Chapel about refugee resettlement. WRP is a student-led group dedicated to volunteering, advocating, fundraising, and raising awareness of current refugee crises. The team works with a number of international and local nonprofit organizations, assisting in areas such as tutoring, legal aid, and refugee resettlement.

Angie Smith, a photographer based in Los Angeles, Calif. and the founder of Stronger Shines the Light Inside (SSTLI), delivered the keynote address. SSTLI traces processes of refugee resettlement though a series of photographs and interviews with the refugee community in Boise, Idaho. Smith spoke about the inception, development and execution of SSTLI, refugee resettlement in the U.S., using photography to tell impactful stories, and applying skills from a liberal arts college in the real world to create new initiatives promoting social justice and change. During her presentation she shared a series of photographs from the project that have been featured in numerous publications online and in print including National Geographic, WIRED, The New Republic, and The New York Times Magazine. She also read excerpts from interviews that accompanied the photographs.

In addition, brothers Maher Mahmood and Mahmood Mahmood spoke about their experiences with resettlement in Connecticut. Both described their journey from Iraq to Connecticut

QuestBridge/First Class Volunteers Read to Green Street TLC Students

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From left, Yuhsuan Liu ’20, Aysha Khan ’19, Jada Jenkins ’20 and Mya Valentin ’19 speak to Green Street Teaching and Learning students about being the first in their family to attend college.

Four Wesleyan students participated in a literacy program March 24 at the Green Street Teaching and Learning Center. The students, who are members of Wesleyan’s QuestBridge/First Class organization, read social justice-themed books to the Green Street students and spoke about being a first-generation college student. QuestBridge/First Class provides support to low-income and/or first-generation students on campus.

The student volunteers included Yuhsuan Liu ’20, Aysha Khan ’19, Jada Jenkins ’20, and Mya Valentin ’19. The literacy program was organized by Belen Rodriguez ’19 and Emma Llano ’19.

“We thought this would be a great way to interact with younger students in Middletown who may also be low-income,” Rodriguez said. “In general, increasing childhood literacy is an important goal to have and we hope to hold more events like this in the future.”

The students read and discussed

New Civic Action Plan Aims to Create a Civically-Engaged Campus Community

Wesleyan students frequently volunteer at the Green Street Teaching and Learning Center.

Wesleyan students frequently volunteer at the Green Street Teaching and Learning Center.

This spring, Wesleyan joined Campus Compact, a coalition of more than 1,000 colleges and universities nationwide, to advance the public purpose of Wesleyan by deepening its ability to improve community life and to educate students for civic and social responsibility.

Ruth Johnson, assistant professor of biology, volunteered to teach a Girls in Science Camp, hosted by Wesleyan's Green Street Teaching and Learning Center. Johnson led the campers on a bug hunt through Wesleyan’s West College Courtyard garden.

Ruth Johnson, assistant professor of biology, volunteered to teach a Girls in Science Camp, hosted by Wesleyan’s Green Street Teaching and Learning Center. Johnson led the campers on a bug hunt through Wesleyan’s West College Courtyard garden.

In March, President Michael Roth signed onto to Campus Compact’s Civic Action Plan. Cathy Lechowicz, director of the Jewett Center for Community Partnerships, and other members of the Civic Action Plan steering committee, are leading conversations on campus and in the community to create an actionable plan to realize Wesleyan’s goals. Lechowicz publishes posts about the process on Wesleyan’s ENGAGE blog.

“We want to hear what it means to be civically engaged,” Lechowicz said. “How do we do it as an institution and how can we better support or encourage students, staff and faculty to contribute to the greater good? What are the barriers and challenges? Through casual conversations, we seek input on better ways to share information about civic engagement, policies or practices that we may adopt to help encourage or acknowledge contributions, and to learn what may already be happening around campus.”

After seeking input, the steering committee will draft a plan this summer, and put plans into action next fall. The committee welcomes the campus community to submit ideas and feedback through this online form.
Anyone seeking volunteer opportunities can contact Wesleyan’s Office for Community Service.

Wesleyan’s Civic Action Pledge reads as follows:

To advance the public purposes of higher education, we affirm the following statements, which characterize our current commitments and name the ideals toward which we will work with renewed dedication, focus, and vigor.

We empower our students, faculty, staff, and community partners to co-create mutually respectful partnerships in pursuit of a just, equitable, and sustainable future for communities beyond the campus—nearby and around the world.

We prepare our students for lives of engaged citizenship, with the motivation and capacity to deliberate, act, and lead in pursuit of the public good.

We embrace our responsibilities as place based institutions, contributing to the health and strength of our communities—economically, socially, environmentally, educationally, and politically.

We harness the capacity of our institutions—through research, teaching, partnerships, and institutional practice—to challenge the prevailing social and economic inequalities that threaten our democratic future.

We foster an environment that consistently affirms the centrality of the public purposes of higher education by setting high expectations for members.

Students Learn about Global Poverty at Hunger Banquet Fundraiser

On April 12, the Hunger and Homelessness student group in the Office of Community Service raised more than $500 at the Wesleyan Hunger Banquet, an interactive simulation of global poverty rates. The funds will be donated to the Amazing Grace Food Pantry in Middletown.

More than 35 Wesleyan students and Class of 2021 admitted students and their parents, visiting for WesFest, attended the event. Participants were placed into an income bracket at random and then provided a seating arrangement and meal indicative of that income level.

Anthony Hatch, assistant professor of science in society, assistant professor of African American studies, assistant professor of sociology, served as master of ceremonies.

“By attending this semester’s hunger banquet, you have deepened your awareness of world hunger and poverty. The test is how you put this knowledge to use,” he said. “Together, we can change the world. Rise up. Join the fight.”

The high-income meal was donated by Haveli Indian Restaurant, while two of the coordinators, Fred Ayres ’17 and Abby Matlack ’20, provided the middle- and low-income meals. Ron Krom of St. Vincent de Paul also spoke at the event.

“The Wesleyan Hunger Banquet is a simulation of the magnitude of global poverty and hunger that allows attendees to visualize and grasp its severity,” said Ayres, who leads the Hunger and Homelessness group. “Through sharing a meal with others, attendees learned about the misperceptions and solutions that surround income inequality.”

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