Tag Archive for community service

Public Safety, Greek Life Stuff a Cruiser to Benefit Local Children in Need

Wesleyan Public Safety Sgt. Kathy Burdick and dispatcher Val Walker collect toy donations from the Wesleyan community during the office’s inaugural Stuff a Cruiser event Dec. 4.

Wesleyan Public Safety and Greek Life hosted a Stuff a Cruiser event Dec. 3–7 at Usdan’s Huss Courtyard and Dec. 8 at Wesleyan RJ Julia Bookstore. The University partnered with the Middletown Fire Department by collecting donations to benefit local children in need during the holidays and throughout the year.

Several members of Psi Upsilon also helped staff the event and Bon Appétit Management Co. provided free coffee vouchers for anyone who made a donation.

“The Wesleyan community has been so generous during our Stuff a Cruiser event,” said Sgt. Kathy Burdick. “We ‘ve collected many toys and cash donations, and we look forward to doing this again next year.”

As a result of the donations, which filled three Public Safety cruisers, Wesleyan will be helping 12 families provide gifts for their children this Christmas.

Public Safety also is collecting donations (including wrapping paper) at the office located at 208 High Street. (Photos by Alexa Jablonski ’22)

Bergstein ’88, Frosh ’68, Lesser ’10, Martin ’99, Rose ’08 Enjoy Election Success

Alumni who have met with success in the midterm elections include:

  • Democrat Alex Bergstein ’88, who won a Connecticut State Senate race;
  • Democrat Brian Frosh ’68, who won re-election as Maryland Attorney general;
  • Democrat Matt Lesser ’10, who prevailed in Connecticut’s State Senate race for the 9th district, which includes Middletown;
  • Democrat Amy Martin ’99 is judge-elect for the Texas District Court 263; and
  • Democrat Max Rose ’08, who won a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives from New York’s 11th Congressional District.

An article in the Greenwich Time quoted Bergstein, post-victory, as saying, “‘I am elated. I am humbled. I am grateful and I am so ready to serve.’ … Calling herself a ‘different kind of Democrat,’ Bergstein said she would work outside of Hartford’s two-party system.”

A News 12 story noted that Bergstein’s win was historic because “A Democrat has not represented Greenwich and New Canaan in the state Senate for 88 years.”

Paik ’16 Wins Goldman Sachs Funds for 3D-Printed Housing Nonprofit

Ellen Paik ’16 (right) speaks to Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein and the Partnership Committee on behalf of New Story, a nonprofit organization that seeks to address global homelessness through the development and application of 3D printing technology.

Ellen Paik ’16, an analyst at Goldman Sachs, teamed up with three colleagues to pitch New Story, an organization working on developing low-cost housing solutions via 3D printing technology, to Goldman Sachs’ CEO and Partnership Committee as part of the Analyst Impact Fund, a global firmwide competition. The prize: a grant to the finalist teams’ selected nonprofits. The event was broadcasted live online on Yahoo Finance (see Paik’s team come in around 38 minutes).

Paik’s group placed second in the global finals and earned New Story $75,000 in support of the organization’s 3D printing initiative. The grant will go towards building the very first complex of 3D printed homes constructed by a nonprofit, in El Salvador by 2019.

“The four of us were attracted to the idea of promoting a scalable technology solution that addresses a global issue,” explains Paik. “We came across New Story, an organization that we really admired because they involve the local community and government in every step of the home-building process—planning, design, and construction—in ways that many existing organizations do not. New Story has helped over a thousand families in Haiti, El Salvador, and Bolivia that used to live in life-threatening conditions and that have been affected by natural disaster. Now, these families are empowered homeowners and able to better secure economic opportunity, safety, access to education, and a sense of community.”

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