By Janell Smith
Each year, APPLES presents the APPLES Service-Learning Awards is to celebrate those who sustain service-learning at UNC.
Four individuals, Luis Acosta, Sarah Dempsey, Alexandra Zagbayou and Mae B. McLendon, and one community partner, and Farmer Foodshare, were recognized at the annual APPLES Service-Learning Award Brunch for their on-going efforts to connect academic and service-based pursuits through their involvement with APPLES.
Leslie Parkins, senior program officer at the Carolina Center for Public Service, said the five APPLES Award recipients have made significant contributions to service-learning and support to APPLES.
“I think it is very important to recognize these individuals, how they’re shaping the community and building strong organizations and being the change we want to see in the world,” Parkins said.
“They continue to build a strong foundation for service-learning at Carolina that challenges all to do better every year. Their involvement, along with the University’s commitment, will ensure that APPLES continues to connect with communities for years to come.”
Luis Acosta – Undergraduate Excellence Award
Luis Acosta, a junior Chemistry and Global Studies major, received the Undergraduate Excellence Award for his involvement in the S.O.A.R. program at McDougle Middle School. For three years, Acosta has brought science-based opportunities to Latino students through his work with S.O.A.R.
When accepting his award, Acosta emphasized the importance of giving back to the community, especially to younger children. “I am really involved in the Boys and Girls Club back home,” he said. “The impact that we, as older people, have on kids is tremendous.”
Sarah Dempsey – Teaching Excellence Award
Dr. Sarah Dempsey, associate professor in the Department of Communication, was honored for her excellence in teaching service-learning courses. Since 2011, Dempsey’s service-learning courses Communication and Nonprofits and Globalizing Organizations have been offered six times and have partnered with the Carolina Campus Community Garden (CCCG).
Dempsey said receiving the Teaching Excellence Award was a huge honor. “Doing engaged scholarship with my students is one of the most rewarding things that I do.”
Mae B. McLendon – Service-Learning Award in honor of Ned Brooks
Mae B. McLendon was awarded for her career of public service in both government and community-based organizations. McLendon serves as the volunteer services coordinator at Durham County Cooperative Extension, and has worked with the North Carolina Department of Correction, the Inter-Faith Council for Social Service (IFC), Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools and Habitat for Humanity of Orange County.
McLendon received a bachelor’s degree in sociology from UNC in 1973 and a master’s degree in social work in 1977. During the course of her career, she has worked with APPLES service-learning students and interns in nearly each position she held.
Lynn Blanchard, director of the Carolina Center for Public Service, presented McLendon the award on the behalf of Ned Brooks.
“Aristotle says, ‘We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit.’ For Mae McLendon, she has made more than just a habit of public service, but a lifelong career of excellence in bettering the community,” Blanchard said about McLendon.
Alexandra Zagbayou – Outstanding Alumni Award
Alexandra Zagbayou graduated from UNC in 2009 with a degree in International Studies and minor in Social and Economic Justice. Since graduation, she has worked with Student U, a college access and success program in Durham. She is the founding director of the high School program and currently serves as the chief program officer.
Zagbayou was recognized for her efforts surrounding sustainable partnerships, student leadership and equity and access in education. She has stayed connected to APPLES through service on the advisory board, as an alumni speaker and supporter of this work.
At the awards brunch, Zagbayou shared what APPLES taught her over the years: how to work with the community, the power of voice and agency and the importance of investment in people.
“One of the reasons I really love APPLES is the amount of care that is poured into the lives of its students, which then overflows into the community that they care about,” Zagbayou said.
Robyn Fehrman presented the Outstanding Alumni Award to Zagbayou. “Her contributions to her community will continue and they certainly started as an APPLES organizer.”
Farmer Foodshare – Community Partner Excellence Award
Farmer Foodshare creates paths to food independence for food insecure and malnourished North Carolinians. The organization provides fresh, local food to food insecure community members while building healthy community food systems and enhancing community economic development through job creation in food enterprises.
Farmer Foodshare was honored because of its long-standing partnership with APPLES, hosting interns and volunteers from service-learning courses since 2012. This sustained partnership has provided students with meaningful learning opportunities that impact the community through food systems.
Maggie West, program coordinator at Community Empowerment Fund and the recipient of the 2015 APPLES’ Community Partner Excellence Award, presented the award to Farmer Foodshare.
She said the ripples of the service-learning go beyond Carolina and impact every part of people’s lives. “The ripples of this work never cease.”