On May 18, the first class of Civic Scholars will graduate from Drew. These pioneering undergraduates started the academic year following the fall 2008 launch of Drew’s Center for Civic Engagement.
Along the way they have held internships at nonprofits and government agencies, each contributed 100 hours of community service per semester, participated in leadership development programs and taken community-based learning classes that connect civic engagement with their academic majors.
“Civic Scholars log an unbelievable number of collective hours of service, from Morristown to Newark and beyond,” says Jonathan Levin, dean of the College of Liberal Arts. “Their work connects Drew to a wide range of community partners and, most importantly, makes a difference in people’s lives every day,” he says.
These highly motivated students received support from the Patrick J. Grant Investors Bank Civic Leadership Scholarship. According to Rodger Herrigel, executive director of the Investors Bank Foundation, the scholarship reflects the values of the bank. “The gift was made in memory of the bank’s former president and chairman of the board, who was dedicated to community service,” explains Herrigel. “What is more, the scholarship is helping students from the community whose work then directly benefits the community. We were thrilled to help start this new venture,” he says.
Nicole Kuruszko ’13 is one recipient of the scholarship. The political science and German double-major has been busy these last four years: intern at the United Methodist Office for the United Nations, participant in the Semester on the United Nations, scholarship recipient for study in Germany and assistant to Professor Patrick McGuinn for his “Public Policy and Administration” community-based learning course, to name just some of her accomplishments.
Last fall Kuruszko completed her senior project, another requirement for Civic Scholars, which culminated in a performance of Life in a Jar at Drew. This award-winning play, written by Kansas high school students, tells the previously unknown story of Irena Sendler, who rescued thousands of Jewish children in Poland during World War II. It took Kuruszko three years to plan and organize the production, from booking the stage to raising funds in order to bring the play’s authors to campus.
Kuruszko pursued this project because, for her, the play sums up what the Civic Scholars program is all about. “Humanity is continually confronted with moral dilemmas. We can choose to ignore them or to take action. To me, this play attests to the ability of even one person to make a difference in the world,” she explained. —Barbara Perkins P’09