UMass Amherst Service-Learning Students Honored For Civic Engagement and Community Transformation

AMHERST, Mass. – The Civic Engagement and Service-Learning (CESL) program at the University of Massachusetts Amherst has honored 14 students with the Academic Engagement for Community Transformation Award for “outstanding leadership, academic excellence, and contributions to a campus/community partnership.”

The honorees have all made a significant contribution to the lives of people in a community associated with the university, according to John Reiff, director of CESL. They include both graduate students and undergraduates who have worked with initiatives from the urban environments of Holyoke and Springfield to the hill towns of Franklin County.

“In most cases, they have also been multiplying their effect, by supporting the work of other UMass students in that community setting,” said Reiff.

Reiff continued: “The commitment of students like these, along with the more than 3,500 other students involved last year in service through courses they took, plus even more involved in co-curricular service, is one way that UMass Amherst fulfills its mission to engage in programs of public service that improve the lives of people in the Commonwealth, the nation and the world.”

The awardees are:

Courtney Stacey, a “Citizen Scholar” with CESL and volunteer tutor with UMass Amherst’s Labor Management Workplace Education Program, began a pilot project of tutoring non-native-speaking night shift workers one-on-one in English at their worksites.

Justine Kane and Julie Jyringi served in the leadership of Amherst’s Boltwood Project for three years, and as co-coordinators for Leadership in Service-Learning and Advanced Service-Learning courses.

Katie Elliot interned at the Massachusetts Fair Housing Center in Holyoke and organized urban policy students in developing a new student group, Students for Fair Housing.

Karin Jong-Mee Garber, who is completing a doctoral degree in psychology, has worked with the Adoption Mentoring Partnership, which pairs UMass college students who themselves were adopted with adopted children in the Amherst community.

Kelly Peneston has worked with schools in Amherst and in the Mohawk Trail school system to help improve school climate. She has conducted observations of non-classroom areas as well as classroom settings, helping to develop and implement intervention plans that school administrators and staff are using.

Kyle Little co-created innovative curriculum and support for UMass Amherst’s community journalism program at Springfield’s High School of Commerce. Winner of the Cole Scholarship for research, he led fundraising and documented the experience of undergraduates and high school students involved in this community partnership.

Lauren Morton served local schools as a literacy tutor and student leader with the TEAMS Tutoring Project and for the UMass Amherst course, “Tutoring in Schools.” As a project assistant with the College of Education’s “resourcesforhistoryteachers” wiki, she added history and multicultural materials to the site and helped teachers and students in local schools launch new curriculum projects using digital resources. 

Lilly Israel has worked with the UMass Student Farming Enterprise and is a member of the UMass Chicken Group, vice president of the UMass Pride Alliance, student coordinator of Campus Gardens for the UMass Permaculture Initiative. She designs annual permaculture garden crop plans, and manages UMass Permaculture’s organizing role in the on-campus Student Farmers Market.

Mary Bell started and has sustained a Green Office program in the College of Natural Sciences and is advising student groups on developing initiatives focused on the environment and sustainability. She has connected various food justice organizations in Franklin County to establish a network for gleaning unused food and is developing resources to mobilize non-profits and food businesses to redistribute edible items for consumption.

Moijue Kaikaih participated in the Global Renewable Energy Education Network in Costa Rica as part of his studies in 2012. As his capstone project, he put together a proposal for a World Energy Project in Cape Verde, installing renewable energy in a school there. In the summer of 2013 he developed a curriculum on renewable energy, trained Upward Bound teachers on it, and helped them teach it to urban high school students.

Nicholas P. Otis helped students from areas such as kinesiology, nutrition and the Commonwealth Honors College, as well as campus athletes, understand the importance of service. Otis led a team in assessing community needs for the Holyoke Food and Fitness Council. For two summers, he has worked with the Stepping Stone Academy for hard-to-reach children from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Vishal Shettyl became involved with several community groups in Springfield during his sophomore year, organizing outdoor health meals, coordinating discussions about food and health, and leading fellow students in this academic-community partnership. This initiative came under the departments of food science and nutrition. His senior honors thesis formed a new academic/community partnership between UMass Amherst and the state Department of Public Health.

Reginald Kwok has served as a campus/community liaison for the course in multicultural education, and the Holyoke Boys & Girls Club. He has designed tools to facilitate the smooth orientation of students to their service site, and recruited and mentored a student to serve as a liaison with him at the club.