CAPES Awards Reflect Service to Community
“One of the most important life lessons a University can impart on its students is one of service. Service to your family, service to others and service to your greater community. There’s no better way to serve than to become more engaged in the communities in which you live and work.” With those words, School of Education Dean Joanna Masingila opened the celebration to honor the recipients of the Chancellor’s Award for Public Engagement and Scholarship on Tuesday in Joyce Hergenhan Auditorium.
Masingila was followed by José Godinez ’16, a student in the Whitman School, College of Arts and Sciences and Maxwell School, who spoke about making his decision to attend Syracuse when he read about a group of business students doing great work in Guatemala, where his family is from.
Kevin Morgan, president and CEO of ProLiteracy Worldwide, accepted the 2016 Award for Community Partnership from Chancellor and President Kent Syverud. ProLiteracy Worldwide is a nonprofit organization based in Syracuse that believes every adult has the ability to fulfill his or her life through literacy. The organization’s work with Syracuse University students dates back to 1958. Since then, an ongoing relationship has resulted in students from all areas of the University being engaged in philanthropy efforts that have generated ideas, solutions and awareness to increase adult literacy rates in the United States and around the world.
The award winners and categories are:
Alexis Peña ’16
As a member of the Martin Luther King Celebration Committee, Peña hosted and developed a Maker Hall adventure called “The Wonders of Oobleck Experiment,” a partnership between the Syracuse City School District, nonprofit Ying TRSEF and Syracuse University. She also led and organized a team of volunteers during the MLK Community Celebration. During her time at Syracuse, Peña has been a leader for summer 4-H entrepreneurship camps, and civically engaged as a volunteer at science museums, zoos, cultural fairs, and tutor and mentor to many. She even found time last semester to be a senior intern for Syracuse University Admissions to interview prospective students and share her Syracuse experience.
This year, an Enactus team has continued to work in the Syracuse City School District, teaching and mentoring elementary-aged children about financial literacy and high school students about college and scholarship applications. Students at H.W. Smith Elementary School, many for whom English is their second language, learn the basics of finance while practicing their English.
Team Guatemala’s work to fund scholarships for impoverished Mayan girls is also ongoing. This year, the team raised its own funds for four students and the faculty advisor to visit Guatemala and work with 10 different weaving groups on new products to develop and sell on the Syracuse campus. To date, more than $200,000 has been sent back to these groups since the project’s inception in 2007, and more than 260 scholarships have been awarded to keep young girls in school.
Innovation in Academic Engagement—Course
ECN: EITC Course
In the spring of 2015, the class learned that many people living in poverty in Onondaga County are not applying for the federal anti-poverty program called the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). After learning this, three students—Maggie Tarasovitch, Nate Birnbaum and Ben Wahl—asked how they could help. They learned they could get tax certified and could volunteer at established Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) sites, where residents who qualify for the EITC could get their taxes done for free.
During the fall of 2015, they all became tax certified through a one-credit course offered by the economics department. By the spring semester there were five student volunteers in addition to Tarasovitch, Birnbaum and Wahl, who were certified to prepare taxes. They began volunteering at the VITA sites, and it soon became evident that there were still a number of people who wanted to get their taxes done through VITA and were getting turned away. To help address this problem, the team set up a one-credit course, PAF110: Practicum in Public Service, under the direction of Professor Bill Coplin, where students could get credit for volunteering as tax preparers at VITA sites. Wahl oversaw the class. Birnbaum worked with CENTRO this semester to set up a time where students could volunteer to hand out flyers at the downtown transportation hub to increase awareness of the EITC and VITA. He also worked closely with a high school class that became tax certified and hopes to file some returns as well.
Tarasovitch, Birnbaum and Wahl implemented a sustainable project with many moving parts. These students were dedicated to do more about poverty in Syracuse than just study and discuss it. They want to put money in the hands of the poor and at the same time bring millions of dollars to the city and county. Professor Coplin anticipates the amount of new money from the EITC program this year will be more than the $4 million it was last year.
Innovation in Academic Engagement—Individual
Daniel Piston ’16
Piston’s contributions to the veteran’s community at Syracuse University and beyond resonate daily. He serves as vice president of the Student Veterans Organization at Syracuse University and as an intern with the Community Engagement Team at the Institute for Veterans and Military Families. Piston served our country in the U.S. Navy, completing three deployments to the Kingdom of Bahrain, and directly participated in the deployment of humanitarian aid to Haiti after the 2010 earthquake. He then chose to bring his talents home to Syracuse, where he is a certified emergency medical technician and coaches CrossFit. He chose to finish his undergraduate degree here at SU, and as a member of the Renée Crown University Honors Program, is turning his academic opportunity into work being undertaken for the greater good.
Innovation in Academic Engagement—Legacy
CMD 352: Design Project Management
The CMD 352 class is run as a working design firm with active teams each focusing on specific design problems. The class brief from the Food Bank of Central New York proposed adding more clarity and creative work to the already existing brand. This was accomplished by designing additional new branding graphics, researching underserved markets (such as younger audiences) and creating targeted advertising. The team also produced promotional videos for soliciting new funding and seeking younger volunteers, and designed new community events to engage younger audiences while instilling extensions of the brand into the culture and communities of Central New York.
José Godinez, Balancing the Books
The Balancing the Books Program—a collaboration between the Mary Ann Shaw Center for Public and Community Service, the Martin J. Whitman School of Management, and the Syracuse City School District—is in its 18th year of consecutive programing. BTB has opened with lessons on not only financial literacy, but also essential life skills.
For the 2015-2016 academic school year, 23 Whitman students participate as tutors for approximately 50 students coming to Fridays’ lessons at both Huntington Middle School and Henninger High school. Tutors range from freshmen to graduate students and have majors across seven Whitman disciplines. Having a diverse group of tutors allows for discussion to be enhanced, which helps the students learn more from each lesson. BTB tutors also work to connect with students on a deeper level, in hopes of helping them become fiscally responsible adults and inspiring them to work toward their goals in the future.
Justin Bachman ’19
Bachman has Tourette syndrome, ADHD and dysgraphia, a fine motor skills disorder resulting in an inability to write legibly. Throughout his life, he has had many struggles and challenges. As he got older, Bachman learned to embrace his differences. He founded Honor Good Deeds as a way to spread his message. He planned and hosted the first Tolerance Fair, in which 48 charitable organizations educated and interacted with 1,000 people. He has planned several Tolerance Fairs since.
Today, Honor Good Deeds has taken on the new name of Different Like You. Different Like You still promotes the same message and mission as Honor Good Deeds, but also encourages people to “live loud” and embrace their own differences as well as other people’s differences. Confidence, self-empowerment and passion are the core values of Different Like You. Bachman hopes to bring Different Like You to the Syracuse University campus in the future.
Bachman is also a member of Orange Seeds, an organization that acquaints first-year students with the campus and challenges new students to become actively involved on campus. This organization focuses on on-campus connections, student volunteering and team building. Members of Orange Seeds also engage with the greater Syracuse area through learning and community service opportunities.
Samantha Skaller ’17
Skaller, a junior in the College of Visual and Performing Arts, is one of only 17 students nationwide to be selected to serve on the national “It’s On Us” Student Advisory Committee, which has been tasked with playing a key role in delivering the “It’s On Us” message to campuses across the country.
Last semester, Skaller worked closely with the Chancellor’s Task Force in planning the national “It’s On Us” week’s events for the Syracuse University campus. This included a screening of “The Hunting Ground,” an acclaimed documentary about sexual assault on campuses, for which Skaller participated in a panel alongside another student, the Title IX Coordinator and former SU football great Don McPherson (who appears in the film). She also facilitated tabling throughout the entire event, distributing information and spreading the message about the “It’s On Us” campaign and the importance of consent. Lastly, at the end of the week’s activities, she had the honor of introducing Vice President Joe Biden before he addressed the Syracuse University community.
Skaller’s public engagement concerning sexual assault has extended far beyond her direct involvement with the “It’s On Us” campaign. She has worked as a peer educator for the Office of Health Promotions, which has given her the opportunity to facilitate a variety of presentations and workshops about domestic and sexual violence. Through this connection she has also served as one of the committee members for the Take Back the Night rally and March Against Sexual and Relationship Violence. She has also addressed these issues in her role as social and promotions chair for her sorority, Sigma Alpha Iota.
Jordan Robinson G’17
Robinson has made it her mission to make a meaningful impact through community service. Since becoming president of the Student Veteran Organization in April of 2015, she has planned and executed monthly philanthropic initiatives to help veterans in the community. For example, through a partnership with the American Legion in Rome, Robinson mobilized a team of student veterans to serve food to over 200 patients who were permanent residents of the VA hospital. This partnership not only resulted in veterans giving back through community service, it also helped those who needed it the most.
Similarly, Robinson organized a food drive with the Le Moyne College SVO as a way to feed hungry and disadvantaged veterans throughout the 2015 holiday season. The food drive raised over 600 pounds of food for the food pantry at Clear Path for Veterans, a nonprofit organization geared toward supporting veterans in the community. By partnering with these various organizations (Le Moyne, ClearPath for Veterans, Hendricks Chapel, People’s Place), Robinson was able to extend the network of veterans in the SVO to include members of the greater community as a whole.
Arguably, her largest contribution is bolstering morale and welfare in the veteran community. Through organizing over 30 events, activities, and awards, Robinson found a way to unite student veterans with other organizations in ways that were both meaningful and creative. The Student Veterans Ball is just one example of this. Robinson’s outstanding organizational skills were imperative for coordination with participants throughout the event: guest speakers, ROTC, honored guests and all others in attendance. Her attention to detail in planning the event, from balancing budgets and selling tickets to arranging services, greatly affected the success of the ceremony and demonstrated her tireless efforts to make the event as grand as possible. She was able to raise over $4,000 from various donors to offset the cost of the event, lowering prices and allowing for more people to attend. Additionally, Robinson single-handedly planned multiple events and outings, including bowling, dinner, wine tastings and holiday parties. Each of these events led to team building, camaraderie and increased SVO membership.