Imagining America Completes First Round in New Activists Web Series

The latest in the series “The New Activists: Students in the Community” features Afua Boahene, a doctoral student in the School of Education, and her work with the Image Initiative, Inc., a nonprofit organization dedicated to empowering young women of color in the City of Syracuse to surmount obstacles impeding their academic success. Overcoming such issues as relationship violence, teen pregnancy and conflict resolution while learning about community activism, each young woman gains the necessary tools and resources to excel and to empower other young women of color locally, nationally and globally.

“There's a perception when you talk about young women in the city that they don't have a passion for education or they don't have a drive—and that's completely not true,” notes Boahene in the video. “If your parents have not gone to school, you don't know what you need to do, right? So finding the people that fill in those gaps, and say, that's OK, maybe your parents don't know but we know, and we'll take the responsibility. That's what a lot of the women in the organization do.”

“The New Activists: Students in the Community” is Imagining America: Artists and Scholars in Public Life’s web series featuring students bringing their knowledge to collaborations with community members to address important community-identified problems and opportunities. Produced by IA Communications Manager Jamie Haft with SU’s Orange Television Network (OTN), the stories explore the impact of publicly engaged scholarship.


The first video in the series tells the story of Danielle Preiss, a dual master's student at the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry and in the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, who collaborates with Bhutanese-Nepali refugees on a vibrant community garden.

The video shows how the project enables the older refugee gardeners to pass on their agrarian knowledge to their children and grandchildren and their new U.S. neighbors, while helping to revitalize a city struggling with the loss of industry.

In the series’ second video, Cornell University undergraduate student-athlete Kaitlin Hardy tells how her personal experience with epilepsy motivates her to start a nonprofit organization, FACES: Facts, Advocacy, and Control of Epileptic Seizures. She is also inspired to found Cornell’s first student-run research lab in which she and fellow students search for remedies to the severe side effects of epilepsy medication.

These student leaders were identified in a story contest about scholarship in service to community problem-solving. The idea for the contest was sparked by two federal initiatives about higher education’s civic mission, the American Commonwealth Partnership and the White House Young America Series. The selected stories were then produced by Haft, OTN’s General Manager Andy Robinson and videographer/editor Holly Zahn, with the support of project adviser Kevin Morrow. The video production was made possible by OTN.

Since the first video was posted last fall, the stories have been gaining popularity—for example, the community gardening video has already been viewed on YouTube more than 3,800 times and was featured in The Huffington Post. Last month Haft presented the videos in Denver at the national American Democracy Project/The Democracy Commitment conference.

Imagining America is planning another round of story-gathering and video production to feature a diversity of students from colleges across the country and internationally. To get involved, contact Haft at and 315-345-3931.

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