“The importance that the Colleges place on giving back to something greater than ourselves in order to live ‘lives of consequence’ has been one of the driving forces in leading me to where I am today,” says William Degen ’17, who is spending the summer working for AmeriCorps with the Great Basin Institute, a non-profit focused on conservation work in the Western United States.
Degen is one of two rising seniors and six recent HWS grads to work for AmeriCorps this year and one of the more than 140 who have served since 2004. The media and society major with minors in philosophy and environmental studies is working in Reno, Nevada at the Galena Creek Recreation Area in the Humboldt-Toyaibe National Forest. “My HWS education has enabled me to make tangible contributions to a meaningful cause,” says Degen.
Currently, HWS is one of more than 100 colleges that match AmeriCorps awards for enrolled students, which “allows students to maximize summer internship opportunities and to choose meaningful and impactful experiences,” says HWS Director of the Center for Community Engagement and Service Learning Katie Flowers.
Hoping to attend law school next year, John Kuebler ’16 is excited to work as an AmeriCorps legal assistant in Geneva, N.Y. Kuebler, who completed an Honors project in philosophy on the morality of capitalism, believes he is well equipped. “I consider myself incredibly fortunate to have been offered this opportunity, and doubly privileged to have been prepared by the HWS community for engaging in an AmeriCorps program and making a positive change in the world,” Kuebler says.
Juliet Holme ’16, a psychology and women’s studies major with a minor in health professions, accepted a position in the New York Campus Compact’s AmeriCorps VISTA program at Columbia University. Holme will design, implement, and monitor a health education program at a high-need school in Harlem. “I think that my experience as a senior civic leader at the CCESL has prepared me well for this position,” says Holme.
John Newton ’16 agrees. “Working with CCESL allowed my undergraduate experience to feel whole, and has given me the tools to feel comfortable working with students who have backgrounds unlike my own.” Newton will work for an early childhood literacy program that pairs AmeriCorps volunteers with low-income students in Austin, Texas.
“Being involved with CCESL was a huge part of what caused me to become interested in issues of education equality,” Madeline Balman ’16 says. “I’ve always been interested in working with kids but it was through America Reads, America Counts, and Alternative Spring Break in North Carolina that I learned how much poverty can impact children in the U.S., especially with respect to education.” Balman will work for AmeriCorps in Rochester. “I’m excited to be helping more kids achieve their dreams, whatever they may be.”
Alexandra Mack ’16 will spend the 2016-2017 school year working for City Year in Boston. “As a public policy major, I learned the history of education policy and the challenges our education system faces today,” says Mack, who while at HWS worked with Project Promise, an organization that helps young mothers and their children in furthering their education. “The opportunity to combine my studies with service in Geneva led me to apply and commit to a year of service,” she reflects.
Working on a team of about 10 people, Katerina Barry ’16 – a movement, health and wellness studies major and psychology minor – will spend her gap year with AmeriCorps NCCC (National Civilian Community Corps) in the Southeastern United States. “My job will consist of projects relating to environmental stewardship and conservation, natural disaster relief, urban and rural development, infrastructure improvement, and energy conservation,” explains Barry, who will work alongside recent graduates of Job Corps, a national program which prepares young adults from low-income households to earn their GEDs or find a career. At HWS, Barry was involved with Day of Service, the Rotaract Club, RENEW, and William Smith Congress.
Rising senior Alexandra LaMonte ’17, a public policy major with minors in political science and sociology, is working as an AmeriCorps VISTA summer associate at Capital Roots in Troy, N.Y. Through Siena College’s Summer Service Scholars program, LaMonte is working full-time while taking the course “Internship in Urban Community Development,” which examines the root causes of poverty and best practices in community development. “At HWS, I learned to look at underserved communities not just as people I can serve, but as people who have assets and voices that can be used to enrich their communities,” says LaMonte. “I hope to bring back to campus new ideas for addressing food insecurity in Geneva and beyond.”
Four other recent HWS grads also began their service for AmeriCorps or AmeriCorps network partners in a variety of different positions: Christopher Melendez ’16 will begin his service as part of Teach for America in New York City, Kaila Fearey ’16 has joined City Year Boston, and both Morgan Lucas ’16 and Brian Franz ’15 have joined AmeriCorps working with Legal Assistance of Western NY (NYLaw). Lucas will start a placement in Geneva and Franz begins his assignment with LawNY’s education law project.
Collectively, HWS students contribute more than 80,000 hours of service and engagement annually to local, national, and international communities, generating approximately $110,000 in fundraising efforts for non-profit organizations.