2015 APPLES Service-Learning Awards

By Janell Smith

The APPLES Service-Learning program honored deserving UNC students, alumni, faculty and local community partners for their demonstrated desire to serve the public and make a difference throughout North Carolina communities and beyond. In addition to meeting the needs of local, national and even global communities, recognized honorees have made exceptional efforts to support and contribute to APPLES and service-learning at Carolina.

The 2015 APPLES Awards Recipients, from left to right: Maggie West-Vaughn (receiving the award on the behalf of Community Engagement Fund), Reena Gupta, Cindy Cheatham Pietkiewicz and Rachel Willis.

The 2015 APPLES awards recipients, from left to right: Maggie West-Vaughn (receiving the award on the behalf of Community Engagement Fund), Reena Gupta, Cindy Cheatham Pietkiewicz and Rachel Willis.

This year, Reena Gupta ’16, Rachel Willis, Donna LeFebvre, Cindy Cheatham Pietkiewicz ’91 and the Community Empowerment Fund were recognized for their outstanding contributions to service-learning. They received awards during a banquet held on Friday, Feb. 28 as part of the 25th APPLES anniversary celebration.

The banquet began with a moment of gratitude from senior and APPLES reflections co-chair Priya Sreenivasan, who shared a quote from Edgar Friedenberg:

“What we must decide is perhaps how we are valuable, rather than how valuable we are.”

Sreenivasan said that students, alumni and professionals tend to quantify their worth in numbers, but a life rooted in service does the opposite.

“The relationships we form, the knowledge we gain, and the humility we feel as we interact with our communities ‒ these are valuable things we derive from our service, things we cannot precisely measure,” said Sreenivasan. “Everyone here today has found a way to utilize their unique qualities to serve communities.”

APPLES alternative break leader Fanny Laufters, middle, congratulates Reena Gupta, left, for receiving the APPLES Undergraduate Excellence Award.

APPLES alternative break leader Fanny Laufters, middle, congratulates Reena Gupta, left, for receiving the APPLES Undergraduate Excellence Award.

Reena Gupta, a senior public policy and women’s studies double major and a Spanish for the Professions minor, was honored for her leadership efforts, commitment to service and meaningful contributions. As the recipient of the APPLES Undergraduate Service-Learning Excellence Award, Gupta was recognized for her service to many communities: some as far away as Uruguay; others, such as Hendersonville, N.C., were closer to home; and many were right here in Chapel Hill. Her biggest contribution to service-learning, Healthy Girls Save the World, is a nonprofit organization that Gupta helped to found. It improves the health of young girls across the state through experiential education.

The Teaching Excellence Award honored Rachel Willis, associate professor of American studies, who throughout her tenure, has taught countless service-learning courses and has been a tireless advocate for APPLES. Over the span of 20 years, Willis’ courses have contributed to her own research on textile manufacturing, statewide policy for childcare and increasing accessibility of UNC system campuses to people with disabilities. Willis has received awards ranging from the William C. Friday Class of 1986 Award for Excellence in Teaching to the UNC Board of Governors Excellence in Teaching Award. APPLES honored Willis for her pedagogical approach that integrated academic coursework with community service for undergraduates.

Donna LeFebvre, a recently retired lecturer in the Department of Political Science, received the Service-Learning Award in honor of Ned Brooks. In her time as a lecturer, LeFebvre used service-learning in classes on law, morality and ethics to engage, inspire and challenge students. She also served as the director of the Political Science Internship program, which encouraged students to actively engage in service-learning through internship experience. LeFebvre’s commitment to APPLES from the program’s earliest days has contributed to the success and growth of APPLES. Her work with service-learning courses inspired other faculty members to engage in this type of teaching to enhance education at Carolina.

Cindy Cheatham Pietkiewicz, '91 alumna and APPLES co-founder, delivers a speech after receiving the APPLES Outstanding Alumni Award.

Cindy Cheatham Pietkiewicz ’91, APPLES co-founder, delivers a speech after receiving the APPLES Outstanding Alumni Award.

The Community Empowerment Fund (CEF) received the Community Partner Excellence Award. As a student-run nonprofit organization dedicated to providing savings opportunities, financial education and assertive support to unemployed and underemployed individuals in Orange and Durham counties, CEF was honored for the important work they do with the local community. CEF was celebrated because of its impact on service-learning opportunities at UNC. CEF has provided volunteer and internship opportunities for UNC students since 2012.

The Outstanding Alumni Award honored Cindy Cheatham Pietkiewicz, a UNC graduate from the class of 1991 and an APPLES founder. She currently serves as the president of Good Advisors LLC and the vice president of consulting for the Georgia Center for Nonprofits. She is also the CEO of Startup Chicks, an organization that provides support for women entrepreneurs and serves as an adjunct professor at Oglethorpe University. Pietkiewicz was recognized as APPLES outstanding alumni because service-learning transcended her collegiate experience and permeated her work in both the public and private sectors.

Pietkiewicz said her involvement with APPLES instilled in her a lifelong dedication to service and experiential learning.

“At times, my career seems to have been a bit varied,” she said. “But in fact it is threaded together by my consistent participation in service, both volunteer and career service in various nonprofit and government capacities.

“My life mission has become to help people and organizations achieve their full and purposeful intention. I have found my purpose in service.”

Reflecting on the awards ceremony and the 25-year legacy of APPLES Service-Learning, former associate provost Ned Brooks said, “I love APPLES because it’s the essence of what makes the university great.”

APPLES Service-Learning turns 25

By BY Sofia Edelman, The Daily Tar Heel

Coming from humble beginnings, APPLES has served the University and its community for the past quarter century.

The service-learning organization, which celebrated its 25th anniversary this weekend, offers specialized courses and training to provide experienced and sensitive volunteers to local organizations.

Since 2009, the organization has been a part of the Center for Public Service, which was on the chopping block during the Board of Governors’ review of university centers and institutes.

“The Center writ large has really benefited from more intensive student involvement, and I think APPLES has benefited from the Center’s broader involvement in campus,” said Lynn Blanchard, the director of the center, which was eventually not cut by the board.

Senior and current APPLES president Cayce Dorrier agreed with Blanchard.

“It’s great to have the Carolina Center for Public Service there to be a resource for us when we’re trying to implement some of our new ideas because they have a lot of connections throughout the University,” she said.

Remembering when the fledgling organization still had to ask for office supplies, Michael Ulku-Steiner, who helped create APPLES, said he is immensely proud of how the organization has grown.

“We could not have imagined how it would be so permanent, so varied, so integral,” Ulku-Steiner said. “I work at a school in Durham and (APPLES alumni) come back, and they talk about the APPLES classes they’re taking, and it’s hugely gratifying that it’s a part of the fabric of the University now.”

Ulku-Steiner said APPLES started with the Campus Y but separated to incorporate the program into the classroom.

“APPLES comes from the same traditions as the Campus Y — it grows out of the same roots,” he said. “It’s definitely where I learned and got my start in social justice issues and leadership training.”

Ulku-Steiner, Tony Deifell and Cindy Cheatham, among other supporters, created APPLES to prepare students to help with local agencies, Ulku-Steiner said.

“They’re just better volunteers; they’re more educated; they get the background and the context,” he said. “They’re more sensitive, more skilled. I had been connecting student volunteers to agencies; that’s how I got involved at the Student Y. It was really about taking the dots and trying to connect them.”

Cheatham credits APPLES for teaching her to find meaning in what she learns.

“The most important thing I learned was the appreciation of not just book learning but (that) practical experience and reflection can help you go deeper,” Cheatham said.

In the beginning, APPLES found support from professors, including the late Doris Betts and Sonja Stone as well as professors Joy Kasson, Peter Filene and Rachel Willis.

Willis, a faculty member in the Department of American Studies, spoke highly of her experience with APPLES student leaders.

“A couple of students came knocking on my door and asked, ‘We heard you’re a weird professor,’ — that was their opening line — and I said, ‘Yeah,’ and they said, ‘We have a weird idea, would you try it?’” Willis said. “And they described what service learning was, and I said, ‘Bring me something to read.’”

APPLES became a real entity on campus when students passed a referendum to increase student fees by 90 cents to fund APPLES indefinitely, Deifell said.

“I knew as soon as the elections were over that this thing was going to last. It was going to accumulate community partnerships. It was going to accumulate faculty allies. It was going to accumulate student leaders,” Deifell said.

“Because I was a student leader, I wanted to set it up in a way that was going to prioritize and lift up, protect the student leaderships.”

Leslie Parkins, who started working for APPLES in 2003, has been exposed to community service since a young age and to service learning since she worked at Miami University in Ohio.

Throughout the years, the programs APPLES offers have grown tremendously thanks to private gifts and the office of the provost, said Parkins.

Parkins said APPLES needs to expand opportunities to include more students.

“With alternative breaks and internships, more than twice the number of people apply that can be accepted,” she said. “We aim to find innovative ways to offer more experiences for those students.”

Dorrier has made changes in the organization this year while keeping her eyes toward the future.

“I have shifted the focus this year to sustainable growth. Each committee created a five-year plan brainstorming how to grow APPLES programs in both depth and numbers. I also have started to look into fundraising as a source to fund this growth,” Dorrier said in an email.

“Additionally, I foresee APPLES having stronger connections with other organizations on campus. We have already started offering collaborative alternative breaks with other UNC organizations, and we partnered with the Campus Y this spring to put on two workshops.”

Jesse White, an APPLES alumnus, said working with the organization is a unique experience that keeps students coming back to volunteer.

“It brings real-world problems and situations into their learning environment. It teaches them in a way that really can’t be taught just from a lecture or from someone telling you the information,” White said.

Hannah Coletti, another APPLES alumna, said experiential learning is the reason why APPLES has had such success.

“I think it comes down to the fact that every experience that our students have with APPLES is so deep and meaningful, that it stays with them in a way that they don’t get in just a lecture or even a service experience that’s not connected with reflecting on how it affected their daily life back in their university community,” Colletti said.

Parkins said that APPLES seeks to reach out to more departments within the University and find new ways of funding the organization.

“There is always something growing with APPLES. I imagine we will have a lot to celebrate in another 25 years.”

Senior Writer Jane Wester contributed reporting

APPLES celebrates 25 years at UNC

By Janell Smith

APPLES 25th Anniversary Program

APPLES 25th Anniversary Program

Twenty-six years ago, Tony Deifell and four other Carolina students (Mike Ulku-Steiner, Serena Wille, Kas Decarvahlo and Emily Lawson), saw the need for service experiences to be incorporated into their academic lives. As members of the Campus Y, they were frustrated by the University’s absence of a program that recognized the learning experiences they had outside of the classroom in service activities.

In 1989, they put forth a plan to create a student organization that would provide students with experiences in service-learning.

“I was all fired up about trying to design a program that would be much more academic-based than student activities-based,” Deifell said.

When the University declined to fund the program, they lobbied students directly, encouraging them to pass a referendum to tax themselves to pay for APPLES. Students approved the referendum and student fee. One year later, in 1990, the APPLES Service-Learning program was fully functioning.

In the 25 years following its inception, APPLES remains one of the only student-led programs at Carolina that transforms educational experiences by connecting academic learning and public service. What began in 1990 as six service-learning courses has grown to be a program that strengthens civic engagement through the collaboration of students, faculty and communities in a variety of programs, including alternative breaks, the service-learning initiative, internships, courses and fellowships.

The 25th anniversary celebration, Feb. 27 and 28, brought together current students, alumni, APPLES founders, professors and community partners for a weekend of meaningful reflection, service and planning.

Emily Lawson - DC Prep - Action Shot - Courtesy of Jeffrey MacMillan PhotographyEmily Lawson, an APPLES co-founder and CEO and founder of DC Prep, said that she signed up for the event because of the program’s momentum, longevity and sustained importance in her life.

“Co-founding APPLES was a passion of mine as an undergrad at UNC,” Lawson said. “A lot of the principles that were important to my fellow co-founders – public service, activism, community engagement, equality – remain important to me in my day to day life.

“It’s encouraging and deeply gratifying to see new generations of UNC students’ involvement in the organization,” said Lawson.

At the core of APPLES’ longevity is its ability to transform itself and to meet the needs of the students and communities it serves. In doing so, the anniversary theme highlights the sustainable growth of the organization.

APPLES programs are constantly evolving not only to promote sustainability, but to meet the expressed needs of students and community partners.

For example, Bryan Social Innovation Fellowships now include two grant funding opportunities and a service-learning course designed to help fellows develop long-lasting, service-based initiatives. Likewise, spring and summer internships provide a stipend and academic credit for student interns. Additionally, a reflections committee was created to foster meaningful reflection about service-learning experiences.

In 2009, APPLES underwent another change: The service-learning organization joined the Carolina Center for Public Service, bringing together two organizations with rich histories rooted in service-learning, community engagement and scholarship to become more integrated in addressing Carolina’s mission of public service.

Continuing to evolve, in this academic year alone, APPLES experienced two successful program developments.

ASB 2014 disaster reliefAPPLES Alternative Breaks have implemented three new program elements this year: SEED orientations, a new collaborative break and a carbon-neutral initiative.

These developments stress the importance of reflection, community partnerships and sustainability of a different kind ‒ environmental responsibility.

Christina Galardi, graduate assistant for alternative breaks, said these new components strengthen the connection between community engagement and the classroom in a new, but necessary way.

“We don’t want [the break] to feel like an isolated experience,” Galardi said.

The 2014-2015 academic year continued a year of anniversaries: in May 2014, the Buckley Public Service Scholars program, also a part of the Center, graduated its 10th class. In November 2014 the Center celebrated its 15th anniversary. In celebration of these anniversaries, including APPLES 25th, the Center launched the I Serve campaign to provide Carolina students, staff, faculty, alumni and community partners with a visible way to explain why they serve and to inspire others to serve.

The campaign includes photos from Chancellor Carol Folt, Coach Roy Williams and Coach Sylvia Hatchell, among others.

Janell_Smith_wk8_340x363“The idea really took hold with the center staff,” said Cayce Dorrier, APPLES president and an anniversary committee member who helped implement the I Serve campaign. “It has grown beyond just celebrating the anniversaries of APPLES and CCPS.”

The success of the campaign is a reflection of APPLES’s influence on the university and its unwavering commitment to service, Dorrier added.

APPLES students, staff, community partners and alumni gathered to celebrate APPLES 25th anniversary with a full complement of activities Friday, Feb. 27 and Saturday, Feb. 28. Its annual APPLES awards dinner Friday, Feb. 27 honored five individuals and an organization that have provided significant contributions to service-learning and support to APPLES. Recognized were:

  • Reena Gupta ’15 – APPLES Undergraduate Excellence Award
  • Community Empowerment Fund – APPLES Community Partner Excellence Award
  • Rachel Willis – APPLES Teaching Excellence Award
  • Donna LeFebvre – Service-Learning Award in honor of Ned Brooks
  • Cindy Cheatham – Outstanding Alumni Award

On Saturday, Feb. 28, participants discussed ways to build on APPLES successes through meaningful reflection, active engagement, networking and discussions about APPLES longevity and opportunities.

APPLES has made a lasting impact on Carolina and other communities, nationally and globally.

Since 2000, 1,651 students participated on alternative break experiences; 22,675 students enrolled in more than 1,000 APPLES service-learning courses; 722 first-year students were introduced to service at UNC through the Service-Learning Initiative; 131 fellows created service-based organizations; and 493 interns had professional work experiences. Through this involvement, APPLES participants’ commitment to public service has produced more than 1 million hours of service.

Furthermore, APPLES alumni ‒ who include founders of charter schools and other educators, nonprofit consultants, entrepreneurs, doctors, even a professional actor ‒ continually relate their current success to their involvement in APPLES.

APPLES alumnus Will Thomason ’10 said APPLES provided him with the foundation to commit himself to public service for the rest of his life.

“Through guided discussion, academic and ethnographic research and public engagement, I was able to grow as a servant, as a leader and as an individual, both within the APPLES program and beyond,” Thomason said.

In the past 25 years, APPLES and its participants have left lasting “heelprints” on the campus community and beyond. They are imprinted locally, nationally, globally and individually, and are perhaps the most telling sign of the organization’s impact.

2014 Alternative Fall Breaks bring new elements

By Janell Smith

bowl_painting_afb2014Since the 1990s, alternative breaks have been a defining experience of the APPLES Service-Learning program. On Oct. 15, APPLES continued with its traditional alternative break structure and sent 70 students to communities across the state and mid-Atlantic region.
Though the basic framework of the breaks remains, much has changed since the first alternative break and the program continues to evolve. This year’s Alternative Fall Break (AFB) program introduced three new components: Service, Engagement, Enrichment and Development (SEED) orientations, the Arts in Public Service break experience and a carbon-free initiative.

SEED Orientations
On Saturday, Oct. 4, approximately 70 select students gathered for a pre-orientation in the Student Union to prepare for the various APPLES AFB experiences on which they would embark.
“Students were very receptive to the pre-orientation, which was complemented by a re-orientation on Oct. 26 after the students’ return,” said senior program officer of APPLES Service-Learning Leslie Parkins.

Pre-orientations are meant to familiarize break participants with the APPLES approach to community engagement and the importance of reflection before the break. Sa’a Mohammed, a junior psychology major and participant on the Urban Communities alternative break, attended the pre-orientation.

group_afb2014“My group was really diverse and each individual brought something different and really valuable to this experience,” Mohammed said. “It was great to meet the group before leaving for the actual trip and to truly learn about service-learning as well.”

Similar to the pre-orientation, the re-orientation provided break participants with the opportunity continue the service-center spirit they cultivated during the break. Christina Galardi, graduate assistant for Alternative Breaks, said this inaugural reorientation was a powerful experience, as it was the first conversation of its kind where students reflected and brainstormed ideas to further the service they began in their break experience in other communities.
“We don’t want [the break] to feel like an isolated experience,” Galardi said. “[Students] come back from the experience very energized and we wanted to give them a forum to channel that energy and focus it on how they could actually use it to feed back into their studies and feed back into their impact on campus.”

2014 AFB APS SelfieArts in Public Service

APPLES launched a new break experience this fall as well. Participants on the Arts in Public Service break harnessed their creativity by incorporating it into service. The break was created through a collaborative grant between APPLES and Carolina Performing Arts and aims to use art as a form of service and community building.
Break leaders Aditi Borde and Kelly Pope, students who are both involved in arts ranging from musical theater to belly dancing, were excited to help students draw new connections between arts and public service through their AFB experience.

“I see the arts as a universal way to communicate,” Pope said. “My hope is that [participants] expand their knowledge on what the ‘arts’.

“I want them to take their new understanding of this art — and all the different art mediums — and use it to communicate, to relate to other people and to provide service ultimately. It can be done, and it is being done.”

Borde, Pope and 10 other UNC students traveled to Asheville, North Carolina during the break, where they discovered how both art and service has become integral to the Asheville community.
The group explored a variety of museums in the Asheville area, including the Center for Craft, Creativity and Design, Black Mountain College Museum, the Folk Art Center, the Asheville Pinball Museum, the Asheville Area Arts Council and a book press. They completed services projects with the Asheville Community Theater, creating bowls that were then donated to a local homeless shelter.2014 AFB APS Learning

The pair is hopeful that this groundbreaking experience has forged sustainable relationships with the community, which will help the alternative break endure for years to come.

Carbon-Neutral Initiative

Daniel Irvin, a junior and AFB co-chair, hopes to incorporate sustainability into APPLES alternative breaks in a different way.

Inspired by a 2011 change at Appalachian State University, where the university’s Alternative Service Experience programs practice carbon neutrality and simple living, Irvin piloted a similar environmentally sustainable initiative with APPLES AFB Environmental Issues.

“I wanted to bring it to APPLES for two reasons,” Irvin said. “I thought it lined up perfectly with our ideals of critically thinking about service, and figuring out how to make our service better. Making a commitment to make all our breaks carbon-neutral shows that we are thinking about how our lives affect the rest of the world, both on break trips and off them.”

Creek_afb2014During the fall break, APPLES participants tracked their carbon emissions, calculating just how much carbon they emitted. These calculations will help the students determine how many trees need to be planted to counterbalance their emissions. To promote carbon neutrality, Irvin plans to partner with UNC groundskeeper for a tree-planting day.

“My second reason [for focusing on this carbon-neutral initiative] was that I thought a big tree-planting day would be a fun way to bring all the breaks together after our trips were over, similar to the big service days we always try to do.

“Usually when APPLES refers to sustainability, it is in the context of sustainable community partnerships and the like. However, I think environmental sustainability can still play a part in APPLES’s sustainability because it shows our commitment to a sustainable world.”

With SEED orientations, the Arts in Public Service break experience and the carbon neutral initiative, a spirit of renewal and excitement has been planted in APPLES AFB.

APPLES Day 2014

By Janell Smith

9-24-2014 APPLES Day cakeAPPLES Service-Learning celebrated APPLES Day Sept. 24 by partnering with Hunger Lunch in the Student Union. APPLES served more than one hundred students cake and inviting them to learn more about APPLES programs.

“APPLES Day is a day dedicated to celebrating the students, the service and everything we do as an organization in a way that the entire campus can be involved in and take notice,” said Amanda Gaffey, APPLES vice president.

The day is meant to honor APPLES’ history and promote all of APPLES’ program opportunities to UNC students who may be interested in APPLES or those who are otherwise uninformed about the organization and service-learning.

Gaffey added that APPLES Day does more than raise awareness or spark interest in the organization, the day honors the organization’s commitment to community engagement, academics and service. “We want the whole campus to know about the important work that APPLES does,” Gaffey said.

APPLES Day 2014The celebration also is a prelude to APPLES 25th anniversary, which will be commemorated during the upcoming 2015 spring semester.

Since 1990, APPLES has provided unique opportunities for students, faculty and communities to engage in sustained and mutually beneficial relationships through service. During the last 25 years these opportunities have grown to include alternative breaks, the Service-Learning Initiative, internships, courses and social innovation fellowships.

APPLES will celebrate these milestones Feb. 27 and 28 with a weekend of activities for students, staff and alumni.

APPLES summer intern works to give back to the community

2014 APPLES summer intern MarrowFor many students, internships are all about gaining valuable experience. But for Raisa Marrow, ’15, an APPLES Service-Learning summer intern at Kidzu Museum in Chapel Hill, that experience also comes with an added benefit of impacting the community.

“I was attracted to the APPLES internship program because I knew it would provide me with an opportunity to do work in which I felt I was giving back to the community,” Marrow said. “I have received so much help throughout my career at Carolina and it has really made such a difference. I wanted to be able to do the same for others.”

APPLES internships are unique, intense experiences in service during either the spring semester or summer. Students intern at a variety of nonprofit and governmental agencies, receive funding ($1,200 for spring and $2,500 for summer) and participate in a service-learning course.

Marrow, an elementary education major from Jackson, North Carolina said, “The idea of service-learning interests me because it is easy to sit in the classroom and brainstorm ideas about how to tackle social issues and help communities, but going out into the field, interacting with people and having your own firsthand experiences provides insight into the issues and helps cultivate new ideas in a more authentic manner. That is why service-learning is so important.”

Because the achievement gap is an issue close to her heart, Marrow chose to intern at Kidzu to gain varied experience working with children in the community in which she lives and where she will also be student teaching in the fall. “So many children do not receive an adequate education because of race, socio-economic status and other factors. In my opinion, every chance I get to work with children is a chance for me to help close [this gap].”

As a Kidzu intern, Marrow has done worked on many tasks including creating lesson plans for field trips, working in The Makery (arts and crafts center) and attending outreach events.

“I feel I have made an impact by bringing the knowledge and perspectives of a future educator,” Marrow said. “I was able to align my lesson plans with NC Common Core standards, so students are able to learn through play at the museum in a way that connects to what they are being taught at school.”

Marrow’s work in the community is not the only impact made. She adds that her experience at Kidzu has influenced her as well by increasing her creativity and ability to quickly create and adapt ideas.

“Before my internship I would not have considered myself an artist, but working in The Makery and being in charge of creating crafts for our new themes has really pushed my creativity,” Marrow said. “I am also sometimes asked to do educational demos with the children which pushes me to think quickly. I know these skills will be useful in my future classroom. I could not think of a better way to spend my summer than working with amazing children and helping them learn and have fun even when school is not in session.”

Former APPLES organizer shares life story and passion for service

By Meghan Modafferi and Frank Stasio

Listen to Alexandra’s interview on The State Of Things

APPLES 20th  Zagbayou

For the first time, I recognized that some of my life experiences mirrored the lives of my students. Alexandra Zagbayou

Alexandra Zagbayou was born in Montreal but returned to her father’s homeland of Ivory Coast when she was 4 years old. Six years later, her family fled because they feared political persecution in the tense years before the country’s civil war.

“We thought we would be in the U.S. for a summer. The summer turned into 15 years,” she said.

The family moved to Raleigh, North Carolina, where Zagbayou learned English by reverse engineering her school’s French classes.

Later, her parents returned to Africa while she and her sister stayed in Raleigh with their aunt and uncle. A few years after that, their uncle was killed.

Zagbayou’s older sister became her primary guardian while she worked hard to finish high school and secure funding for college.

One summer, Zagbayou taught dance classes to homeless and displaced youth. This was when she first began to process her own challenging life experiences. She realized not only that she related to her students, but that she had come out the other side.

Today she helps run the Durham-based college-access organization, Student U. The program empowers students to pursue their own educational journeys despite diverse challenges.

Host Frank Stasio talks with Zagbayou, High School Program Director for Student U.

Cover photo courtesy of Student U.

Bryan Social Innovation Fellows impact Nigeria’s youth

Destiny brings triplets to Carolina

unc.edu

After sisters Risi and Sheri Ademola graduate from UNC-Chapel Hill this weekend, they will head in different directions. Risi is moving to San Francisco or New York for work, while Sheri will start graduate school in Illinois. Their other sister, Rucca, graduated a semester ahead of them in December and is heading to Los Angeles for more school.

Despite the distance that will be between them, the triplets from Raleigh will maintain a common and active bond to Carolina. The trio is developing a project called iLead Nigeria, a campaign and curriculum designed to help elementary school-aged students develop skills to one day become leaders in their country.

The mission is personal for the Ademola triplets. Their parents immigrated to the United States from Nigeria before the triplets were born. The sisters have visited their family there regularly since 2002.

“It won’t be right for us not to go back and help our country,” says Risi.

A moral responsibility

Risi came up with the idea for iLead as a senior at Southeast Raleigh Magnet High School. Her graduation project looked at educational methods to help Nigeria youth. As part of the project, she donated school supplies and developed a leadership curriculum.

At UNC, Risi received a Bryan Social Innovation Fellowship through the Carolina Center for Public Service to expand on the idea. The fellowship is designed for students who want to make a significant change in a community through an entrepreneurial project. Fellowship team members enroll in a public policy course and receive up to $1,500 to help launch their ideas, support from staff and other students and leadership training and personal development.

All three of the Ademola sisters are working on the leadership curriculum, along with another UNC senior, Toyosi Oyelowo. They have adopted an elementary school to work with and they keep in touch with the principal there once a month. Risi will return to Nigeria this summer to further work on the program.

The iLead Nigeria curriculum includes public speaking and career development lessons, but also seeks to help the young students further develop traits such as courageousness, persistence, patience and hard work. The women hope the Nigerian students will use what they learn through the curriculum to become community leaders or leaders in their careers who will speak out about injustices.

The women hope to develop iLead Nigeria into a campus organization in which two or three Carolina students work on the program in Nigeria each summer. They would also like to expand the program to other schools in Nigeria and recruit Nigerian university students to work on the program as well.

“I feel like it is kind of like a moral responsibility for us. We’ve been blessed here,” says Rucca.

Destiny to come to Carolina together

The triplets say it was destiny that brought all three of them to Carolina. They each served in student government in high school, with Risi as president, Sheri as vice president and Rucca as secretary. By their senior year, they started to develop separate interests from each other.

While they came to Carolina together and lived together for two years, they found different ways to occupy their time. Sheri majored in psychology and by her sophomore year had started conducting neurobehavioral research in the Bowles Center for Alcohol Studies in the UNC School of Medicine. Risi, a journalism major, joined a sorority and loved to dance. Rucca, who majored in women and gender studies and African, African-American, and Diaspora Studies, started practicing yoga and meditation and spent a lot of time journaling.

Risi and Sheri also spent a semester abroad in the fall, while Rucca finished her coursework at UNC early and graduated a semester ahead of her sisters. Still, the triplets came together to work on iLead Nigeria because they want children in their parents’ home country to have the opportunities they have had in the United States.

“This word ‘destiny’ really captures our moments here at Carolina,” Sheri said. “We have been so involved in different activities for four years now and toward the latter part of our college experience, we have come together for this one project. I think it is kind of interesting. I think it is a little bit striking.”

By Natalie Vizuete, University Relations.

APPLES and BPSS student participants receive Chancellor’s Awards

Congratulations to these students involved in the APPLES Service-Learning and Buckley Public Service Scholars programs. Each received Chancellor’s Awards recognizing their academic or service leadership.

  • Amanda Baldiga ’14, a Buckley Public Service Scholar participant received the Howard W. Odum Undergraduate Sociology Award, given to the senior judged by the department faculty as the most outstanding in academic performance.
  • Sarah Barger ’14, a Buckley Public Service Scholar participant received the Peter C. Baxter Memorial Prize in American Studies, given to the undergraduate in that discipline who best exemplifies Baxter’s intellectual excellence, personal warmth and creativity.
  • Aidan Berry ’14, a Buckley Public Service Scholar participant received the Edward McGowan Hedgpeth Award, given to the two undergraduates in Alpha Epsilon Delta voted most outstanding in service.
  • Rachel Brown ’14, a Buckley Public Service Scholar participant received the he Panhellenic Council Woman of the Year Award, given to the undergraduate who has made the most significant contributions in leadership, scholarship and service to her chapter and the Greek and University communities.
  • Kevin Claybren ’14, a Buckley Public Service Scholar participant received the Frank Porter Graham Award, given to the senior who has made the most outstanding contribution to realization of the human ideals of equality, dignity and community.
  • Christopher Cunningham ’14, a Buckley Public Service Scholar participant received the Robert White Linker Award, given to the most outstanding undergraduate residence hall officer.
  • Zachary Ferguson ’07 , a Buckley Public Service Scholar received the Albert and Gladys Hall Coates Award, given to the member of the Student Congress whose service through the Student Congress is judged most outstanding on criteria of statesmanship, commitment and constructive involvement in issues affecting the quality of the University community.
  • Joel Hage ’14, a Buckley Public Service Scholar participant received the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award, given to one man and one woman in the graduating class who have best demonstrated unselfish interest in human welfare.
  • Brooke Hill ’15, a Buckley Public Service Scholar participant received the Jane Craige Gray Memorial Award, given to the junior woman judged most outstanding in character, scholarship and leadership.
  • Joshua King ’14, a Buckley Public Service Scholar participant received the Walter S. Spearman Award, given to the senior man judged most outstanding in academic achievement, extracurricular activities, leadership qualities and strength of character.
  • Nicole Lawing ’14,a Buckley Public Service Scholar participant received the Edward McGowan Hedgpeth Award, given to the two undergraduates in Alpha Epsilon Delta voted most outstanding in service to campus and community through the society.
  • Lisa Owusu-Antwiwaah ’14, a Buckley Public Service Scholar participant received the National Pan-Hellenic Council Award, given to the undergraduate who has made the most significant contributions in leadership, scholarship and service to his or her individual chapter and the Greek and university communities.
  • Sharessa Royster ’15, a Buckley Public Service Scholar participant received the George Moses Horton Award for Multicultural Leadership, given to a senior who has demonstrated outstanding leadership, initiative and creativity in multicultural education programs.
  • Courtney Sanford ’13, a Buckley Public Service Scholar and APPLES Service-Learning organizer received the the Irene F. Lee Award, given to the senior woman judged most outstanding in leadership, character and scholarship.
  • Katie Savage ’14, a Buckley Public Service Scholar participant received the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award, to one man and one woman in the graduating class who have best demonstrated unselfish interest in human welfare.
  • Anna Sturkey ’14, a Buckley Public Service Scholar participant received the L. Richardson Preyer Award for Excellence in Political Science, given to a senior judged by a faculty committee to have established the most distinguished record of scholarship in political science and community service. She also received the Ferebee Taylor Award, given to the member of the graduating class who has made the greatest contribution to the continued vitality and strength of the Honor Code in the community.
  • Jasmine Sun ’16, a Buckley Public Service Scholar participant received the Keith Shawn Smith Award for Community Development and Mentorship, given to the resident adviser or resident adviser mentor who has created a strong community, meaningful mentoring relationships and campus connections.
  • Nathan Tilley ’14, a Buckley Public Service Scholar participant received the Bernard Boyd Memorial Prize, given to the senior majoring in religious studies who has been selected by a faculty committee as most outstanding in academic achievement.
  • Julia Whitley ’15, a Buckley Public Service Scholar participant received the I.R. Hagadorn Award, given to the outstanding rising senior biology major with the highest GPA in biology courses and who has demonstrated excellence and dedication in undergraduate research.
  • Chenxi Yu ’14, a Buckley Public Service Scholar participant received the Undergraduate Prize in Economics, given to the economics major judged most outstanding, based on performance in major and related courses.

For a complete list of Chancellor’s Award recipients, see UNC News.

APPLES recognizes 2014 service-learning award recipients

2014 APPLESAwardsGroupExtending learning beyond the boarders of the classroom is the essence of service-learning. Every day, UNC students, faculty, staff, alumni and local community partners put this concept into practice making a difference in the lives of individuals and the communities they serve. To honor their work, each year the APPLES Service-Learning program recognizes those individuals and organizations who have exhibited a sustained and deep involvement in service-learning at Carolina. This year, Hannah Smith, One Act, Hannah Gill, Robyn Fehrman and Clair Lorch received awards for their outstanding contributions to service-learning at the annual APPLES award brunch held Friday, April 11.

Hannah Smith – Undergraduate Excellence Award

Hannah Smith, a graduating senior majoring in Health Policy and Management, is honored for her involvement with the Samaritan Health Center over the years. Her work reflects a sustained and ongoing commitment to the community, while demonstrating genuine and valuable contributions to the organization. Her work has extended to her honors thesis project where she is researching patient satisfaction and health care access.

One Act – Community Partner Excellence Award

One Act is honored for its sustained and ongoing commitment to interpersonal violence prevention and the development of unique and valuable trainings to build awareness among students. The unique work of One Act integrates education, service, reflection and social action which provides students with particularly meaningful and transformative learning experiences. Through One Act’s partnership with service-learning, students have been included in significant work on campus, and in the community.

Hannah Gill – Teaching Excellence Award

Hannah Gill is selected based on her work with the Latino Migration Project and the APPLES Guanajuato course, where she has continued to deepen students’ understanding of local migrant perspectives over the years. Her teaching has strengthened the quality of learning in these courses through local and global community-based experiences combined with challenging critical reflection.

Robyn Fehrman – Outstanding Alumni Award

Robyn Fehrman is a 2000 and 2004 graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a former APPLES organizer. She is honored for her efforts and contributions toward social change in the roles she has served in for various nonprofit organizations, including Planned Parenthood, Triangle Community Foundation and Teach For America of Eastern North Carolina. Robyn’s work reflects a passion for working with individuals and communities with the goal of increasing capacity building and social change

Claire Lorch – Service-Learning Award in honor of Ned Brooks

Claire Lorch is celebrated for her deep commitment to building community through service and ensuring food access to University employees. Through Claire’s determination, the Carolina Campus Community Garden (CCCG) has become a thriving part of our campus. She has sustained long-term partnerships with various APPLES courses, enriching the education and experience of Carolina students, while making a substantial impact impact on the lives of University employees and their families. Before her work with CCCG, Claire’s career at Carolina in various roles has reflected a genuine and meaningful connection with individuals and communities.

“Service is at the heart of APPLES and the same can be said of the Community Garden,” Claire Lorch said. “This garden is so much more than vegetables; it’s being involved in something bigger than all of us. It brings the campus and community together for a common goal…. APPLES allows students to take a deep dive into the workings and needs of the garden. There is only so much I as the garden manager can do. We are able to do so much more because of the students’ and their professors’ commitment to this work. It is our hope that the garden is a meaningful experience for them and one they will continue to benefit from in years to come.”