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Civic Engagement Awards Praise Service-Learning Efforts

April 26, 2018

The 5th Annual Civic Engagement Award Celebration, held on Friday, April 13, acknowledged and celebrated the contributions of those who participated in civic engagement and service-learning at St. John Fisher College during the past academic year. Awards honored students, faculty, and community partners.

Faculty, staff, students, and community partners were honored during the 2018 Civic Engagement Awards.

Volunteers of America employees Rob Stedman and John Engert, along with Patricia Drake and Kimberly Brumber, were given the Community Partner Civic Engagement Award, recognizing their outstanding leadership and collaboration with service-learning projects. The VOA employees were nominated by Dr. Susan Schultz and Dr. Kristin Love.

“Rob’s passion for the Children’s Center and the service-learning program gets my students immediately engaged,” said Schultz. “He has worked with us to accommodate high numbers of students, and worked just as hard when we had a small enrollment bubble move through the program. He values diversity, treats everyone respectfully, and sets the bar high for my teacher candidates.”

Love described Engert as exceeding all expectations of the partnership in numerous ways.

“John provides training to students on poverty, reasons for homelessness, and ways to communicate meaningfully with families,” she said. “As a result, students are asking tough questions, thinking critically, taking the time to be reflective about the experiences of families in a housing crisis, and making connections on how this experience relates to their work in the classroom.”

Fisher student Ranita Williams ’21 was given the Student Civic Engagement Award for her work with Junior Achievement at Edison Tech in the Rochester City School District through Dr. Kristin Love’s Adolescent Development course.

Junior Achievement is a volunteer-driven national K-12 program that fosters work-readiness, entrepreneurship and financial literacy skills, and uses experiential learning to inspire students to reach their potential.

Though just a freshman, Williams has been teaching the Junior Achievement curriculum independently to meet the needs of her partners at Edison.

“You could not ask for a more committed and exceptional teacher candidate in our program,” Love said. “She is always on time, available, and willing to take the lead. In my course, this was no exception and she stepped up again building connections with the students and making her mark in the school.”

The Community Service Award was given to graduating senior Alexa Zappia for her Rocks of Unity initiative. Zappia created the educational workshops that lead participants through a discussion of their differences and creates the recognition that those differences don’t divide us, but instead unite us. Participants paint a garden rock in a way that represents themselves and then those rocks are made into a garden or display.  An example of a Rocks of Unity display can be found outside Lavery Library on Fisher’s campus.

“I first met Alexa (and her mom) in her hometown of Buffalo where I was recruiting for the College. Alexa was a senior in high school at the time and I remember being immediately impressed with her professionalism and commitment to service,” said nominator Liz Rizzolo. “Flash forward to a little over four years later and I’m just as impressed today with all the wonderful work she has accomplished during her undergraduate career at Fisher.”

The ceremony also recognized students who applied for and won Civic Engagement Grants to help meet the needs of their community partners outside the scope of the service-learning projects. Those students included Ryan Lemmon, Michael DiPietro, Madeleine Honan, Brandi Harmon, Leah Jasek, Evan Gudell, James Cutaia, Nicole Pellman, Dr. Kristen Love’s EDUC 302, Rachel Petrie, and Amanda Szczesniak.

Jackie Coates, who taught a Palliative and End-of-Life Care service-learning course, received the Faculty Award for Civic Engagement, which recognizes faculty who have demonstrated outstanding teaching or collaboration in a service-learning context.

Coates has been teaching the course with a service-learning component since fall 2011. Nominators said her passion for helping student nurses learn to provide compassionate care for patients approaching the end of life inspired her students to successfully advocate for making this course a required component of Fisher’s nursing program.

“Jackie has partnered with nearly a dozen local comfort care homes, including Advent House, Aurora House, Isaiah House, and Webster Comfort Care Home to bring well over 200 students to these sites to provide caregiving support and end of life care research,” said Ginny Maier, who presented Coates with the award. “Jackie’s commitment to teaching and service to others have provided invaluable experience to her students and welcome support to these organizations that support families and patients through challenging times.”

The Civic Engagement Reciprocity Award, given to a service-learning collaboration that garnered an exceptionally high level of benefit to the community partner, Fisher students, and faculty member, was awarded to the team of people involved in Dr. Pat Tweet’s Sociology 221: Helping Professions in Action course.

Tweet and her students formed a partnership with residents of Valley Manor Independent Living (of Episcopal SeniorLife Communities), supported by Gail Reeves, manager of residential services, and long-term volunteer David Harre.

Together, the students and residents worked with fourth grade teachers, Ruth Johnstone and James Lonadier, from Rochester City School District School #20 to bring their classes to campus for a “Day at Fisher.” The event included a presentation about the Higher Education Opportunity Program, tour of campus, visit by the soccer team and Fisher’s mascot, lunch in the dining hall, and play time in the gym. This year, they’ve expanded the program to include a “Career Day at Valley Manor,” engaging residents and bringing the same fourth-graders to visit and learn about careers that connect to the majors they learned about at Fisher.