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Planting ferns near the Ehinger Center

A week of cleaning up, planting and celebrating civic action.

April 2017 – In the week culminating with Earth Day, Drew University students are giving back.

Some are cleaning up outside, others are turning over gardens and planting ferns. Still others are showcasing projects that help women, immigrants, ecology and peers in crisis. In addition, Drew’s Center for Civic Engagement celebrated “action for the common good” by bestowing awards to exceptional students, professors and staffers. Such is Community Action Week in The Forest.

The awards ceremony featured Xiomara Guevara C’98, who reflected on a career of helping those in need. Guevara, executive director of the Morris County Organization for Hispanic Affairs, has worked at several nonprofits, including the UnitedWay and La Casa de Don Pedro.

Xiomara Guevera C'98 explains that working at nonprofits is more than just a job.
Xiomara Guevera C’98 says working at nonprofits is more than just a job.

At times, the work is frustrating, given limited resources and a growing demand for services. To Guevara, though, it’s more than just a job. “It definitely has to be personal to you. It has to be something that you care about,” explained Guevara, who as an undergraduate majored in political science and Spanish and was a founding member of the Drew Honduras Project.

After speaking, Guevara handed out an award to a professor—one of nine honorees at the event, which included table displays of dozens of student civic projects, including a science fair for middle school students and a theater workshop for disadvantaged youth. Here’s the full list of awardees:

Faculty Leadership Award – Drew Theological School Assistant Professor Elias Ortega-Aponte

Staff Leadership Award – Twannah Ellington, assistant director of educational opportunity scholars

Creative Community Award – Drew Dance Program, led by Assistant Professor Kimani Fowlin

Graduate Student Community Action Award – Saffet Catovic of the Theological School

Ben Salmon Service Recognition Award – Hannah Kohn C’17

Thomas D. Sayles Jr. Student Award for Outstanding Service to the Community – Kendra Polk C’18, Leah Nadel C’18

Collaborative Action Award – Emily Baldi of Jersey Battered Women’s Service

Special Recognition for Social Justice Action Benefiting Drew – Kuumba, the Pan-African student group

About 120 attended the ceremony, which was hosted by Amy Koritz, director of the Center for Civic Engagement. Here’s a closer look at the event and other activities during Community Action Week: