- HensNest Masks: Protecting Our Community
By Emily Suwala
Class of 2021
Mechanical Engineering major, Mathematics minor
During this crazy time we’ve been experiencing, I’ve become involved in a project with the University of Delaware Mechanical Engineering program to design, manufacture, and distribute HensNest face masks to those who need it most.
These face masks were designed by UD’s Mechanical Engineering department. They are easy to put together and can be 4 to 20 times more effective than a one-use surgical mask or handsewn masks, depending on the material used for the filter. The masks are made of a reusable wire frame, shop towels for the filter, and elastic straps.
My job for this project is the distribution of the masks. I’m in charge of coordinating some volunteers to help assemble the bags that include all the mask parts, and then distributing the masks. We’ve provided many masks to individuals and businesses in the Newark area through our on-campus distribution site at Little Goat Coffee: 16 Haines Street. 10,000 masks have already been distributed to the Newark Police force, grocery store workers, medical workers, and many more medically at-risk individuals. These masks aren’t just in Delaware though! I’ve been packaging them up and mailing them all throughout the United States. People can request 2 masks at a time through our online google form and they will receive their masks in 1-2 weeks from the date they sent in their request. If you would like to request a mask, please follow the link below to a site where you can fill out our google form and I’ll get right on it!
It’s been such a pleasure being able to help my community that’s my home-away-from-home during this pandemic. Stay safe and stay healthy!
- Growing through Lori’s Hands
By Sruthi Peddada
Class of 2021
As the start of my senior year approaches, I have spent a lot of time reflecting on my past three years at the University of Delaware. While many experiences have played a role in shaping who I am today, Lori’s Hands is, without a doubt, one of the most life changing programs I have been involved in. As a neuroscience major on the pre-medical track, I am always eager to get involved in any opportunity that could improve my understanding of the healthcare field. After hearing about Lori’s Hands mission to transform student’s understanding about healthcare, I knew it was the right program for me.
While Lori’s Hands has lived up to its promise, the program has done so much more than just that. Through the program, I was able to build connections with people living with chronic illnesses in the Newark community. What started out as weekly visits with my clients for volunteer hours has blossomed into friendships. In fact, I regularly call and visit my clients in my own time to see how their week is going or to share parts of my life with them.
The Community Engagement Scholars program has motivated me to take my time with Lori’s Hands to the next level. As a part of the Scholars experience, every student is required to complete a course that integrates co-curricular service and academics. I took the course “Chronic Illness in America” (HLTH 320) which integrates service learning through Lori’s Hands. Through the course, I was able to learn about the American healthcare system and gain a better understanding of living life with a chronic illness. I was then given the opportunity to speak to clients about topics I had learned in class that week, and further discuss how various aspects of healthcare impact the client directly.
Lori’s Hands and the Community Engagement Scholars program have played a pivotal role in shaping my college experience. While I was always motivated to pursue service opportunities on my own, the Community Engagement Scholars program pushed me to take my engagement to the next level.
- Hygiene Kits for the Homeless
By, Meghan Nevola
Class of 2021
Elementary Education with a concentration in Special Education; minors in HDFS (Human Development and Family Services), Disabilities Studies, and Applied Music
During this pandemic, I have been doing my best to still be an active member of my community.
My parents are members of an organization called Kiwanis, which is an international service organization. There were a bunch of supplies piled up in my garage from a past service event that they did, so I decided to go through all of the boxes of shampoo, soap, tooth brushes, and more and sort them all out. I then made over 100 individual hygiene kits, all equipped with socks, a wash cloth, a toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, chapstick, shampoo, soap, baby wipes, and more.
All of these materials were donated to Kiwanis so that they could make hygiene kits for the homeless. Especially in a time like this, where not many facilities are open, I think it is important to compile and send out the hygiene kits to those in need so they can do their best to stay healthy, clean, and happy in this time of stress. Not only did I do something good for my community, but I stayed busy and didn’t have to leave my house! I encourage you to find a service project that you can do for your community in the comfort of your own home.
- Disaster Relief in Puerto Rico
By, Ryan Kheshgi
Class of 2021
Ryan Kheshgi is an accounting major and an ambassador for the scholars program. During his winter break, he had the opportunity to travel with the Blue Hen Leadership Program to Luquillo, Puerto Rico to participate in a 10 day service learning experience. His service consisted of working in a team to clear overgrown land, seal a roof, protect endemic plant species, and prepare a new recreational space in the iconic El Yunque national forest. His experience gave him the opportunity to learn more about Puerto Rican culture, brush up on his Spanish, and make direct connections to his thesis which focuses on the effects of income inequality.
The nonprofits Ryan had the privilege to work with were Community Collaborations International, Para la Naturaleza, Endeavors, and the U.S Forest Service.
- My Pre-Semester Service Trip Experience 2019
By, Ryan DeRosa
Class of 2023
Environmental Studies & Public Policy Double Major + Concentration in Planning & Design
My name is Ryan DeRosa and I am a rising second year student at the University of Delaware. This past summer I moved into UD 2 days early in order to participate in the Community Engagement Scholars pre-semester service trip. I was very nervous at first, as my first two days away from home would be spent off campus, building sheds, and working alongside almost 40 other people I did not know. My nerves were settled almost immediately as I realized that the Community Engagement Scholars is filled with caring advisors and fellow students who all applied to this program to make a difference in the community.
On the first day of the trip we were split into two groups, in two different locations. My group was tasked with siding two new sheds for two houses through Habitat for Humanity. I handled a nail gun for the first time, cut siding for the first time, and did it alongside my new community of friends who were just as excited as I was to complete this project. That night we reconvened with the other group, played games, had a bonfire and got to know each other better. The next day we traveled to a community center for senior citizens and took on a number of different tasks including washing windows, cleaning different rooms of the building, weeding the garden and organizing supplies for a school drive.
Upon returning to campus, I felt very grateful to have been able to immerse myself in an experience that I otherwise may not have. This service trip showed me the satisfaction of giving back to communities much different from my own. Habitat for Humanity is an organization that works to clean and build up neighborhoods for low income individuals, giving them nice places to live. It made me feel good to know that the work that we put in would make all the difference to whoever moves into those houses and to the senior citizens who utilize the community center for day to day activities.
Community Engagement Scholars has taught me the value of teamwork, service, and compassion for all people. Traveling to smaller cities in Delaware showed me how different level income communities exist just miles from each other and how it is so important to provide service and care towards those less fortunate. The pre-semester service trip encouraged me to go on other Habitat for Humanity build this past November and I plan on doing many, many more. I hope I can see you all there with me!
- My Most Important Connection on Campus
By Jayne Schiff
Class of 2022, Animal Science (major) and Wildlife Conservation and Ecology (minor)
As I approach the halfway point of my undergraduate education at UD, it feels important to reflect on where I have come from and where I am going. I am certainly no longer the scared freshman who clung to her class schedule and called home crying and wanting to quit more times than she’d like to admit. But the person I will be in the future, while still unknown, is becoming clearer as I move through my education.
I owe that clarity to Sue Serra, my Community Engagement Scholar advisor. Being a student on a large campus can be intimidating and I sometimes find myself overwhelmed with what I’m doing – or more often – what I’m not doing. It has been essential to my success that I have an advisor who knows my name and cares about how I am involved on campus.
When we first met on a pre-semester service trip my freshman year, I never expected that the person quietly sitting with us, allowing students to lead the conversation, would become my most important connection on campus. From encouraging me to lead conversations with prospective students at tables in Trabant, to our own advising appointments in her office, Sue has helped me find my voice and has shaped my future goals to better include Community Engagement. Sue, with some all knowing power, can connect any student with the resources they need to be successful, not only in the Community Engagement Scholars program, but in any major. Who would have thought that I would have found a passion in using my animal science education to help the people in my community? Not me! But apparently Sue did, and she has helped me and students with countless other majors make the necessary connection between ourselves and Community Engagement. Currently, I am a horticulture and natural resources intern for UD Cooperative Extension. I received this career-guiding position through the guidance and support of Sue and for that I am very grateful.
This connection with Sue is not the only one I have made on campus, but it has surely enabled me to do so much more than I ever could have done on my own, and for that I am grateful. Being a part of the Community Engagement Scholars program has afforded me opportunities that I wouldn’t have otherwise had, and having Sue as my advisor has been an integral part of my college experience so far.
For any student considering the Community Engagement Scholars program and unsure about whether or not to join, I strongly suggest becoming a part of this community. Through this program, and the advisors that come with it, I was able to transform from a skeptical and scared student to an active member of campus life. I owe a lot of my success at UD to the Community Engagement Scholars.
- A Season of Firsts
By, Valerie Lane, Assistant Director of Community Programs
Community Engagement Initiative, UD
Spring semester 2020 proved to be a season of firsts for the UD community. It was the first time professors were challenged to move 100% of classes online, the first Spring semester without an in-person graduation, and the first time our community has experienced a health pandemic. Not all firsts have been unexpected, however.
The first two students to graduate from the Community Engagement Scholars course of study completed all program requirements this Spring, a historic moment for the UD Community Engagement Initiative. Approved by the University Faculty Senate in May 2018, the course of study provides students an opportunity to focus their academic area of study on community engagement. Through required coursework, an immersion experience, 160 hours of community service, and an eportfolio, Community Engagement Scholars are driven to not only complete their major and minor, but to do so through a framework that integrates academic and co-curricular experiences.
Madeline Davidson and Caroline May, both students in the College of Agriculture, are the first two graduates of the Community Engagement Scholars course of study. Though the program has only been “official” for two years, students have been working on meeting program requirements since Fall 2017.
“I went into the public policy class my freshman year not knowing what issue I was passionate about,” says Madeline Davidson. She was a pre-veterinary medicine major, with a minor in chemistry. Graduating in just three years, Madeline is the first incoming first-year Community Engagement Scholars to complete the course of study.
“I knew I was interested in animal welfare and rights, but I was also eager to explore other important social issues,” she said. Through the Introduction to Civic Engagement course (SPPA100) and Introduction to Public Policy (UAPP110), Madeline discovered her passion for education policy as well. She continued, “In my first year I wrote a letter to a legislator about education policy in New York state, where I’m from. Then I continued to research and write about that issue in the public policy class.”
In addition to finding her passion for education policy, Madeline participated in an internship through the animal science program and the Delaware Humane Association that allowed her to help with vaccine clinics in Wilmington. Focused on serving low income communities, these clinics were an opportunity for people to get their pets vaccinated at no cost. “It was cool because the medical staff also gave people recommendations for health clinics that served them, the humans, as well. If people couldn’t afford to take their pets to the vet, then they likely needed resources for affordable human health care too,” she said.
Madeline worked these one-day vaccine clinics once a month, assisting the veterinary professionals and learning hands-on what it meant to treat animals. “It helped confirm that vet school was something I wanted to pursue, because I enjoyed working with animals so much,” she said.
One of the unique aspects about the course of study is how interdisciplinary it is. Because the program is open to students in all majors, (currently all seven colleges are represented in the 150+ students active in the program), students have the opportunity to learn from one another in and out of the classroom. Wildlife ecology majors are working with business students, and artists are collaborating with pre-med students. Even though Madeline and Caroline were from the same college, their interest areas were wildly different.
Caroline May majored in agriculture and natural sciences, working with Bright Spot Ventures farm and UD Cooperative extension during her undergraduate career. She entered the Community Engagement Scholars course of study as a sophomore, applying to the program after being admitted to UD.
During her summer immersion experience with Bright Spot Ventures, she was able to work on the urban farm located in Wilmington, as well as harvest and sell produce at community farmers markets in the city.
“It wasn’t just about farming and being sweaty all day. I got to go to the market and interact with the community, explain how to cook the produce, and swap recipe ideas,” she explained. Caroline speaks very fondly of her time with Bright Spot, “Once I realized there was a community aspect to agriculture and that you could connect, in person, with people about farming, I fell in love with it.”
Caroline won’t be going far after her undergraduate career is wrapped up. Upon completion of her final coursework she will be starting a master’s program in Agriculture Economics at UD. “I’ll be working on the community supported agriculture (CSA) farm, which I was able to begin working on during my undergraduate career.”
You can tell that Caroline was born to work in community farming. In her spare time, she reads books on how to start a farm and what farming means to communities. This wasn’t simply a degree for her, this is the beginning of her life’s work.
As for career aspirations, Madeline begins Veterinary School at Long Island University this fall, with aspirations of becoming a practicing vet upon completion of the program. Caroline is excited to continue her work with cooperative experience post-master’s degree, with the eventual goal of opening her own farm on the horizon.
Both young women have set the bar very high for future graduates of the Community Engagement Scholars course of study. Their commitment to community engagement and their willingness to be “the first” has allowed Community Engagement Initiative staff to develop the program way beyond simply “meeting program requirements.” For summer 2020, CEI is planning virtual service experiences students can participate in from home, book groups to keep students engaged and connected, as well as partnerships for student programming in the fall.
It’s clear Caroline and Madeline are no outliers. All Community Engagement Scholars have a deep passion for impact and understanding their role in shaping and contributing to communities. With ambitious education majors, community-focused accounting students, and involved environmental engineering projects, these students are utilizing their time at UD to engage.
If you are interested in applying to the Community Engagement Scholars course of study, please visit: https://www.cei.udel.edu/students/community-engagement-scholars