2020 Civic Engagement Award Winners.
Civic Engagement Awards recognize and honor Drew’s contributions to our communities beyond the university. Although we are unable to hold our Awards Ceremony this year due to the ongoing COVID-19 health crisis, the Center for Civic Engagement is celebrating and recognizing our winners virtually this year. Please read more below and follow us on Instagram as we recognize these inspiring individuals and groups who work to make the world a better place.
The Faculty Leadership Award is awarded to a full-time faculty member in any school of Drew University who has demonstrated commitment to civic engagement through advocacy, teaching, or project development.
Award Recipient: Dr. Kristen Turner, Professor and Director, Teacher Education, Caspersen School of Graduate Studies
In the short time Dr. Turner has been at Drew, she has developed education programs to benefit our surrounding communities. She established a STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Math) enrichment program for at risk youth in partnership with schools in Newark and Morristown. She has organized the collection of coats, hats, mittens, diapers, and other essentials for children and families at Camden Street School in Newark; and spearheaded the donation of over 150 pounds of books each year to the Interfaith Food Pantry. Dr. Turner has worked tirelessly to ensure that Drew’s MAT (Master of Arts in Teaching) program works with diverse school districts so that her students have the skills and experience to meet the needs of all the communities they will serve as educators.
In Her Own Words:
The Staff Leadership Award is awarded to a full-time staff member who has developed or supported opportunities for the Drew community to participate in activities that benefit others.
Award Recipient: Rachel Sawyer, Coordinator of Residential Engagement, Diversity Programming, Drew 110 Instructor
As the Coordinator of Residential Engagement for the Tolley/Brown Complex and the advisor for both the Black Student Union and ARIEL(the Latinx Organization), Rachel is a strong voice and support for Students of Color. She always takes into account the different experiences of people of color and the LGBTQ+ community when planning events and building community. She has been involved in multiple community service projects as well as programs and events that highlight the experiences of people of color and provide resources for them. Particularly noteworthy are her development of diversity and inclusion programs such as Queering the Forest, Black and Brown at Drew, Decolonizing Your Bookshelf, and Black History Month.
In Her Own Words:
“As a Queer Black woman, I find it essential to equitably support, advocate, and educate others around me especially here at Drew through every aspect of the work I do from Residence Life, advising cultural clubs on campus, diversity programming, being a Drew 110 Instructor, and also being a Capture Success Scholars Advisor for the EOS department. My passion has always been about helping and advocating for marginalized students, particularly students of Color because I know what it is like to feel isolated, or seen as less than, and sometimes that can be a painful feeling because of our identities we may hold. I made a promise to myself to dedicate my life to educate others on matters of diversity, equity, and inclusion because I truly believe that if I can help mentor and change even just one student for the better and make them feel a part of a community here at Drew, I did my job. It is really meaningful to see students feel a sense of community and have a space created for them where they don’t have to find a “seat at the table” because they have created their own table through learning how to advocate for themselves and continue to educate others. This being my first year here at Drew, I’ve seen so many emotions from students, particularly marginalized students such as joy and pain, highs and lows, and that is what drives me to continue to be a better professional each day to make sure to continue to fight for these students through radical liberation and love within the work I do for others.”
The Collaborative Action Award is awarded annually to a student organization or community partner that leads an effective collaboration with the university to accomplish a community service project outside the university.
Award Recipient: Neighbors In Need
Neighbors in Need is a collaboration bringing together housing organizations–including Family Promise, Mental Health Association of Essex and Morris Counties, and Monarch Housing–with community-based organizations, housing voucher recipients, and landlords. Initiated by Sociology Professors Kesha Moore and Susan Rosenbloom, with funding from the Corporation for National and Community Service, the project works to house vulnerable populations in Morris County. Community researchers Alicia Alvarez and Crystal Rodriguez and Drew students Aleko Pieratos (Graham) and Sophia George have played key roles in the collaboration. Under the current leadership of Professor Art Pressley (Theological School) and Judy Pryor Ramirez, Neighbors in Need develops research-based solutions to identify barriers and propose solutions to address the crisis of homelessness in Morris County.
In Their Own Words:
Sophia George: “I have been working with neighbors in need for 2 years since the beginning of my freshman year. Neighbors in need does CBPAR research which is community based participatory action research. Our goal is to house the most vulnerable population-the chronically displaced. This type of research includes community organizations such as small businesses, health, educational, and faith based organizations. This work is meaningful because it helps the chronically displaced become housed and aids those facing homelessness by presenting opportunities for more secure housing, transportation, and change the stigma surrounding what it means to be homeless. This work is also meaningful because it shows how individuals and organizations support the development of their community. Many organizations are devoting their time to show that we can make a change and I’m very thankful to be part of Neighbors in Need.”
Judy Pryor-Ramirez, Neighbors-in-Need Community Liaison: “The Neighbors-in-Need is meaningful to me because it combines many elements I’m passionate about. First and for most, there were times in my own life that others gave a place for my mother, my sisters and I, a place to stay when we were in between housing. I know firsthand the importance of housing stability support. We were fortunate to have a community of family and friends who stepped in but when that safety net is not there community-based solutions are critical. Secondly as a sociologist and independent researcher, I’m committed to community-based participatory action research. I was excited to join this robust, diverse, and community group founded by Drew sociology professor, Kesha Moore. Neighbors-in-Need is poised to make an impact in Morris County and I’m delighted to be a part of this important project.”
The Graduate Student Community Action Award is given to a student enrolled in the Theological School or the Caspersen School of Graduate studies who has benefited a community outside of Drew by integrating an academic or creative endeavor with community engagement
Award Recipient: Stephanie Tobia, Doctoral Candidate in Medical Humanities
Stephanie completed the Rx Poetica track in the MFA Program, designed to bring the citizen artist out into the community and create real-world change. Through this program, Stephanie has worked in classroom environments at the Neighborhood House after school program, a national prison literacy program, at on-campus events with Newark High school students, as well as creating poetry interventions at Atrium, a post-acute rehabilitation facility in New Jersey. At Atrium, Stephanie engages residents in poetry readings as a way to express feelings and ideas, to invite them to think critically, brainstorm, socialize, and share their experiences in a group setting. She effortlessly moves past the walls of the university to create truly meaningful and impactful socially embedded programs as a citizen scholar.
In Her Own Words:
“March 2018 presented an opportunity to volunteer at a post acute rehabilitation center for senior citizens. My love for poetry fuels my desire to share prose with the frail and elderly, so I founded a monthly poetry healing group. We read poetry out loud, discuss elements of craft, prompts and themes; an extension of what I learned from my mentors in the MFA in Poetry program right here at Drew University. Our time together is Holistic and mutually nourishing; we share personal stories, all while relating back to poems. These mentally stimulating sessions offer reflection, recall, and empathy through narrative medicine. My participants are extraordinary people that have led extraordinary lives and their stories need to be shared. Offering residents a safe that promotes self-expression creates heightened levels of intimacy in a short amount of time. Years later, I continue to witness our group flourish as a community of emotional depth.”
The Ben Salmon Service Recognition Award was created by the Volunteers Without Borders (formerly the Volunteer Resource Center) to honor students who enhance the campus through volunteerism, extra-curricular involvement and off-campus service. The award’s standards were set to reflect those of the VRC’s student founder, Ben Salmon (CLA ’03).
Award Recipient: Maimouna Kante, C’20
Maimouna Kante is an exceptional student leader at Drew University. Her passions for social justice and service appear through her work with Volunteers Without Borders (VWB) and the Feminist Intersection. Through the VWB, Maimouna has served as one of the key leaders for several years working to provide immersive and meaningful moments for our students while ensuring honest and supportive partnerships are created with other communities. Furthermore, Maimouna’s activism to empower and raise the student voice at Drew University showcase her passion for equity.
In Her Own Words:
“One of my favorite childhood memories was a moment when my cousins and I would buy food from a vendor on the street. We rushed back home to find more kids in my grandmother’s compound. My grandmother told us that if we have no interest in sharing our food with everyone, she has no interest in seeing it in the open. That was the first lesson I learned about sharing. I carry it with me everywhere. The work I’ve accomplished at Drew would not have been possible without sharing. Serving my community was a space where my peers and myself would share skills, thoughts, and support. The VWB Team was a great example of that where we curated experiences where students can serve, travel, and learn together.”
The Thomas D. Sayles Jr. Student Award for Outstanding Service to the Community is awarded annually to up to two junior undergraduate students, who, like the award’s namesake, have demonstrated an exceptional commitment and unselfish dedication to Drew and to the larger community through exemplary service.
Award Recipients: Victoria Adams, C’21, and Diana Karamourtopoulos, C’21
Victoria is a committed intern/volunteer for Dress for Success (DFS) and the NJ Coalition Against Human Trafficking (NJCAHT). Achieving stellar success leading the intern program at NJCAHT, Victoria is now in charge of Alumni Relations for the program. In addition, Victoria served as the Service VP of Alpha Phi Omega, and the Finance Director of the Feminist Intersection, helping collect menstrual products for the Community Foodbank of NJ and local public schools for MLK Day. While in London, Victoria worked with Stonewall, the most highly respected LGBTQ rights group in the UK. This summer she’ll be working for the NJ Attorney General’s Task Force to help end human trafficking in our state. Victoria is the embodiment of outstanding service to the community.
In Her Own Words:
“Since I was young, it has always been ingrained in me to give back to the communities I am part of and to leave the world in a better place than when I found it. I am lucky and proud to say that I am accomplishing this goal while at Drew University. During my time at Drew, I have completed 2 internships with nonprofits and 3 with government organizations. Notably, my time with Dress for Success and the New Jersey Coalition Against Human Trafficking has given me the opportunity to help people both on and off of Drew University’s campus, but also gives me a chance to meet amazing people and visually see my work paying off. Knowing that the work I do through these channels is helping others is meaningful in itself, and I am endlessly grateful to know that I have the privilege of helping others whilst bettering myself!”
Diana is one of the founders and driving forces behind the Drew Student Voter Project (DSVP). Starting with her first-year civic project–a packed nonpartisan event in Madison bringing together political activists, elected officials, and Drew students and faculty–Diana has gone on to help Drew win the New Jersey Ballot Bowl. This competition, sponsored by the New Jersey Secretary of State, seeks to increase voter registration among college students.The DSVP is one of the most successful student initiatives at Drew. In addition, she has served in Student Government as a senator and Attorney General, as well as heading the Leadership Institute. Diana has embodied a commitment to community service and to treating all people with kindness since she first arrived at Drew.
In Her Own Words:
“Giving back to the Drew community means a lot to me because I have gained so much through studying here. Working with the Drew Student Voter Project has been meaningful for me because it allows me to ensure that my peers are making their impact on the political system. Throughout my time at Drew, I have learned so much from my peers sharing their passions, or advocating on different issues. It’s wonderful to know that the DSVP is able to help teach our classmates how the political system works and help them make their voices heard in our government.”
The Class of 1985 Senior Gift Award Prize is awarded to a college student with financial need whose academic promise and vision for a more just community are strong.
Award Recipient: Kayla Ogden, C’20
As one of her many nominators commented, “Kayla is one of the most honest and passionate people I know.” She has connected her passion for fencing to her commitment to helping domestic violence survivors. Kayla also served with Drew Honduras Project, as a Board member of the Sociology Club, and as a counselor at Camp Hope. She has also assisted Professor Susan Rosenbloom in addressing homelessness in Morris County. At Camp Hope, a program of Jersey Battered Women Services (JBWS), Kayla worked with women and children who experienced trauma and domestic abuse/assault. Using research that indicates sports therapy can help alleviate symptoms resulting from domestic abuse, she teaches children about sports therapy through fencing, sharing her love for fencing to help them recover.
In Her Own Words:
“I have been working with JBWS, formerly known as Jersey Battered Women’s Services, since last June 2019. Through the Center for Civic Engagement, I discovered and applied for a volunteer opportunity that would change my life and realign my future aspirations. Last June I volunteered as a Camp HOPE counselor. Camp HOPE is a national nonprofit that partners locally to run a week long overnight camp for children affected by domestic abuse and other childhood traumas. The purpose is to create a positive and supportive community that fosters hope, resilience and healthy self esteem for this vulnerable population of children.
My week spent as a Camp HOPE counselor was the most uplifting and inspiring of my life. I have continued to work with JBWS and am currently interning for the Children’s Recreation Coordinator. My responsibilities predominantly center around developing Pathways events. Pathways is a program through Camp HOPE that seeks to maintain the community created at camp throughout the whole year. I have had the opportunity to work closely with the wonderful social workers at JBWS and to continue to research and develop trauma-informed activities that are fun and focalize the curriculum of hope taught at camp!
This work is meaningful to me because it grants me the unique and tremendously impactful opportunity to connect with bright, creative, brave and exceptionally resilient youth. Childhood trauma is unfortunately not uncommon, and its effects can last a lifetime. My work with Camp HOPE allows me to be a source of intervention and mentorship. This work is important because these kids need to understand they are capable and worthy of reaching their goals and living happy, hopeful lives. My work with JBWS and Camp HOPE has inspired me to pursue a career helping youth affected by trauma, either through social work or law!”
The Changebuilder’s Scholarship Award is awarded to a student involved with the Changebuilders Program at Drew, who has demonstrated commitment to the highest values of ethical and impactful engagement with community partners. Changebuilders is a statewide program of New Jersey Campus Compact that cultivates graduates who possess 21st century career skills and are committed to the prosperity of local communities through civic engagement. This year, we celebrate two winners of the award.
New Jersey Campus Compact Executive Director Presents Changebuilder Award to Drew Students:
Award Recipients: Gabrielle Rooks, C’22, and Ama Asante, C’21
As a Civic Scholar, a Changebuilder, and now as a coordinator of Volunteer Without Borders (VWB), Bri has shown leadership and commitment to community service from the moment she arrived at Drew. As a coordinator for VWB, Bri is responsible for planning multiple service projects (domestically and abroad), managing a budget, and leading nightly reflections with her peers on each service trip. In fulfilling these roles, Bri has shown herself to be self-motivated and responsible. Beyond her leadership role in Volunteers Without Borders, Bri volunteers with K2K, a program that mentors kids with special needs, where she began a successful dance program. She has an unwavering passion for service and plans a career in nonprofits.
In Her Own Words:
“My name is Gabrielle (Bri) Rooks and I am from Vernon, Vermont and am currently attending Drew University as a Sophomore this year. My love for service started from a young age through church projects and elementary school. When I began attending Stoneleigh Burnham School I was asked to hold a diaper drive to help the local chapter of the United Way. The following year I found myself serving as the Co-president of a Community Service Club, in my Junior year I was the President and my Senior year I was the head of community service and sustainability for my school. This meant that I was in charge of creating service days and organizing service events for my peers. I knew after high school that I wanted to pursue a career in the nonprofit sector. Drew University allows me to incorporate service into my education through the Civic Scholars program, which requires me to complete at least 100 hours of service a year. I am also a member of the Change Builders program. I have had the opportunity to work with many organizations as well as start my own program in a non-profit where I teach kids with special needs how to dance. In my short time at Drew I have gone on two service trips and led two more. I serve on the board for Volunteer Without Borders, a Drew club that plans 3 service trips a year, as well as leading habitat builds. Just speaking with people who come from different places and interests has taught me some of the most important things. People come from all over, bringing something very valuable that we can learn from if we are willing to take the time to listen. There is power in your presence. I want to help us step away from the negative posts, the negative comments, and the negative actions that take place in our world to try to show the growth that can take place with positive actions.”
Ama joined Changebuilders when she signed up for a VWB alternative break trip to San Antonio, TX. In San Antonio, she volunteered with local food banks, while demonstrating extraordinary empathy and teamwork skills. As Ama commented, “ Working at the food bank and seeing how a few hours of my day can help other people is very humbling and encouraging.” Her positive attitude helped her Drew peers as well. Even after a long and tiring day, she would smile and encourage them to keep going. Within her local community, Ama volunteers at K2K, where she mentors kids with special needs. Ama is committed to volunteering with this population as she hopes to work as an elementary school teacher post-college.
In Her Own Words:
“This spring I was offered one of twelve spots, out of 50 applicants, to go on a five day Alternative Spring Break service trip to San Antonio, Texas. The first two days were spent working at one of the largest food banks in Texas. We spent the first day sorting through food and checking to make sure all of the food that was distributed to the families was still healthy and safe. In addition to sorting food, another volunteer and I were given the job to weigh the completed boxes. At the end of the day, the food bank worker who was directing us and working alongside us totaled the weight of all the food we packaged. Not only did we achieve our daily goal, but we also reached the food bank’s monthly goal. One of the food bank’s coordinators explained to us how the food we packed can make more than 26 thousand meals for food insecure families around their community. Hearing those numbers was chilling. Every day, my family and I eat three wholesome and nutritious meals without thinking twice. Hearing the stories of these families makes me realize how privileged I am to have something to eat each night, and makes me think of those who are not lucky enough to live in an area with a food bank. Working at the food bank and seeing how a few hours of my day can help other people is very humbling and encouraging. Prior to Drew becoming virtual due to the Covid-19 pandemic, I was putting together a presentation to show my coach and co-captain why we should also volunteer at our local food bank.
I am currently working towards completing my BA in Psychology with both Women’s and Gender Studies and Art minors, during my time as an undergraduate I also will be working towards my Masters in Education at Drew. I would like to be an elementary school teacher, fostering new ideas in children and making learning fun.”