APPLES leaders hone skills through Outward Bound

OB_SG_group 2015By Janell Smith

Every year, the University’s student government brings together leaders from across campus to participate in an abbreviated wilderness experience through the North Carolina Outward Bound School. Supported through the Carolina Center for Public Service, seven UNC students spent four days in the Blue Ridge Mountains this past summer where they had the opportunity to connect with other campus leaders and to grow in their roles as leaders within their organizations.

Daniel Irvin ‘16, APPLES vice president, and Lindsey Holbrook ‘16, APPLES Alternative Spring Break (ASB) co-chair, joined some of the University’s top student leaders for the experience: Houston Summers ‘16, UNC student body president; Vishal Reddy ‘16, Campus Y co-president; Cecilia Polanco ‘16 Student Government Executive Branch senior adviser; Jeremy McKellar ‘16, Black Student Movement president; and Treasure Williams ‘18 of the Carolina Global Initiative.

“It was a chance outside of the typical campus environment to meet other student leaders who are doing different but similar things,” Irvin said.

During the Outward Bound experience, each of these participants endured extreme physical challenges — from scaling a sheer rock face to solo excursions in the wilderness.

OB_SG_Irvin“I really appreciated the (opportunity),” Irvin said, “because I had to push myself to my physical limits to successfully climb the hardest routes.

“I think everyone in our group had similar experiences, whether with the rock climbing or on one of the other days where we participated in other intense physical activities. I think this gave us a new form of self-confidence, as we learned to push beyond our tiredness and accomplish our goals.”

But the Outward Bound experience did something else.

The group worked together during the day to get through physical activities, and at night and other appointed times, they talked about their different organizations and how to be better leaders for the University as a whole. Every night the group of seven had round table discussions and reflections about the day’s activities.

“I cherished the opportunity to get to know students that are involved with — and lead — other organizations. It’s not often that leaders at this University have the chance to do that,” Irvin said.

It was important for APPLES to be at this Outward Bound experience because of the variety of programs it offers and because of its role as a student-led, staff-supported program, Irvin added.
“One cool thing about APPLES is that we are connected to the University’s administration because we work so closely with the Carolina Center for Public Service,” Irvin said. “APPLES has a lot of resources and opportunities for students because we are part of a more formal institution.

Reflecting on his Outward Bound experience, Irvin said, “I hope to use what I learned from (the student leaders) in my work with APPLES this year. This experience was particularly valuable because we now know each oOB_SG_SummersMcKellarIrvinther and are friends with each other. Furthermore, we have the ability to use these connections to collaborate on events, talk to each other about programs and reach more students in new ways throughout the year. Even if we do not plan to hold any events together, the simple fact that we are now connected means that our existing programs and work can be stronger.”

With a new academic year underway, this goal of connecting and working with other leaders has already been accomplished. Irvin needed help from the Campus Y, and McKellarhad several leaders come to BSM’s annual inaugural meeting.

“The fact that we went through such an intense but rewarding week together means that we have a connection now that will bring us together throughout the year,” Irvin said.

The Carolina Center for Public Service also offers 13 scholarships to the North Carolina Outward Bound School 28-day course. Current participants in the Buckley Public Service Scholars program, Carolina Leadership Development or students in the School of Education at UNC-Chapel Hill are eligible for these scholarships.

First-Year students immersed in service through SLI

SLI 2015 CCCGIn the days before classes began in the fall of 2003, 11 UNC first-year students gathered for a day of service work in the Chapel Hill community. Twelve years later, the Service-Learning Initiative (SLI) continues to make an impact on the community.

With the largest SLI to date, 60 first-year and transfer students worked with eight community partners from Aug. 12-14 doing everything from working on the trails at Battle Park to harvesting tomatoes and planting kale at Anathoth Community Garden.

Offered through the APPLES Service-Learning program and part of the Carolina Center for Public Service, SLI is a unique student-led orientation to service-learning that provides incoming first-year and transfer students with an immersive introduction to the array of service opportunities in and around Chapel Hill and Carrboro. Each year, over three days in the week before classes start, participants learn about and work with APPLES community partners, become more aware of local issues, form lasting friendships with other engaged students and are introduced to reflection as a tool for making meaning out of service experiences.

SLI 2015 George (Heavenly Groceries) and Jamie Dorrier“I wanted to participate in [SLI] because it seemed like a great opportunity to connect to the Carolina community before college even started,” said Jamie Dorrier, a first-year student from Raleigh, North Carolina. “I was also excited for the opportunity to meet new people at SLI with whom I shared a common interest of service. I am hoping that the service I participate in, whether through SLI or later in my college career, will help me give back to the Carolina community.”

Mirroring the University’s new theme “Food for All: Local and Global Perspectives,” which focuses on resolving food issues throughout the world and kicks off this month, this year’s SLI will emphasize food security in the local community. SLI co-chair Edward Diaz said, “We will be working with organizations that deal with this issue as well as hosting guest speakers from various organizations that deal with food insecurity in Chapel Hill.”

Edward and Courtney at Battle ParkIn addition to a new theme, SLI co-chair Courtney Bain explained other changes. “This year, the program has grown which allows us to reach out to more incoming students and also include additional sites in the area, further strengthening our partnerships in the community.”

The 60 SLI participants and 18 site leaders worked with Battle Park, Club Nova, ARC of the Triangle, Helping Hand, Carolina Campus Community Garden, TABLE, Anathoth Community Garden and SECU Family House on a variety of service projects.

“We love to have students work with us because it combines the efforts of the university and the community. It gets them outside the university bubble,” said George Barrett, associate director of Organizing and Advocacy at Heavenly Groceries in Chapel Hill. “It’s great to see how students connect with the community. They make some great inter-generational connections and bond to do good work.”

Expressing her passion for service, Bain added, “APPLES has had a tremendous impact on my Carolina life from introducing me to the world of service opportunities in the community to providing me with the chance to hold a leadership position for the program I love the most.”

During SLI, participants are also introduced to other campus and community service organizations and become connected with a network of current students who may help in their transition to Carolina. Many SLI participants become involved with other components of the APPLES Service-Learning program or choose to be involved with planning and leading SLI for future classes of incoming students. Since the program’s inception in 2003, 854 students have participated. All focused on a common goal: immerse themselves in service at Carolina.

“I am involved with SLI and APPLES because I have seen firsthand the difference it has made [with] students in the Carolina community,” Diaz said. “I love seeing how students who have participated in SLI become involved with the organizations we work with.”

APPLES intern lobbies for farmworkers and undocumented students

By Leona Amosah

Jose at the GAFrom the green tobacco fields of North Carolina to the halls of the North Carolina General Assembly, José Cisneros ’17, a history and economics major from Snow Hill, North Carolina, has worked hard to not only understand the plight of rural farm workers but also to diligently advocate on behalf of North Carolina’s undocumented students. This summer, Cisneros worked with Student Action with Farmworkers (SAF) as an APPLES Service-Learning intern through the Carolina Center for Public Service (CCPS).

Cisneros’ interest in SAF grew from a personal connection he had with the organization’s line of work. “My mother grew up on a farm in rural Mexico, where she worked every day the first 16 years of her life. When we moved to the U.S., she continued to do farm work in North Carolina’s tobacco and sweet potato fields for seven years, and I also worked in tobacco during the summer when I was in high school,” said Cisneros. “From the fields, I learned so much about life, family and perseverance. I wanted to get involved in the farmworker movement in order to learn more about social justice and be able to do something positive for the Hispanic community.”

APPLES intern Jose Cisneros Undocugraduation Lobbying DayCisneros was introduced to public service at Carolina through the First-Year Service Corps, also offered through CCPS. As an APPLES intern with SAF, Cisneros coordinated lobbying events and meetings with North Carolina senators and representatives. He also advocated for farmworkers and the Hispanic community in North Carolina and participated in the SAF Into the Fields Theater Group, which performed a play about alcoholism and alternate ways to deal with depression and isolation.

“The best thing about my internship is the growth that I’ve experienced as a leader and advocate,” Cisneros said. ”At first, I was very intimidated and even scared to be in a place with so many powerful and influential men and women. However, I have learned to not be afraid and to have a voice in order to have a bigger impact and advocate more effectively. The lessons I’ve learned and the people I’ve [met] have certainly left a mark on me, and I want to continue to work for a better, more equal society.”

APPLES intern works with community partner to share message and vision

APPLES intern Caroyn Ebeling East Coast Greenway Alliance 1

By Elise Dilday

A narrow pedestrian bridge stretches across Interstate 40, breaking up the monotony of green exit signs and asphalt.

This bridge, part of the American Tobacco Trail that extends throughout the Triangle, is also part of the larger East Coast Greenway, a 2,900-mile greenway system stretching from Maine to Florida. Carolyn Ebeling ‘17 is currently completing an APPLES summer internship with the nonprofit organization that oversees the maintenance of this greenway, the East Coast Greenway Alliance (ECGA).

Ebeling was first introduced to APPLES when she enrolled in a public relations service-learning course. With a background in women’s studies, Ebeling did not go into her summer internship with extensive knowledge of greenways. She had never heard of the ECGA before applying, but once she did, it quickly became her first choice.

“I wanted to know more about their goal and how they planned to achieve it,” Ebeling said.

Ebeling’s work includes managing the Facebook page, Twitter and Instagram accounts for the Alliance, where she posts about ECGA events. This summer the Alliance is partnering with two youth cycling groups – Triangle Bicycle Works and BRAG (Bike Ride Across Georgia) – that are embarking July 11 on a bicycle tour of the Gullah Geechee Historic Corridor that extends along the coast of North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Florida.
“The ride is about 770 miles and will take two weeks, and we are doing a lot of press and preparing for that,” Ebeling said.

APPLES intern Caroyn Ebeling East Coast Greenway Alliance 3She also shared that her prior communications experience helps her in this internship. “I feel that communications is one aspect that really allows people to connect with the trail and understand everything that goes into creating a 2,900 mile off-road trail.

“I feel like I am helping the Alliance get its message and vision out to people who may not know about it otherwise.”

Ebeling is interested in pursuing work in the nonprofit sector after graduation. Although she has been most interested in working with a women’s center or rape crisis center in the future, she is now considering working for an environmental nonprofit after her experience this summer.

“I really like the close-knit environment and passion that everyone has for their work,” she said.

Community partners interested in hosting an intern can apply through the APPLES Service-Learning program. Students can apply for spring and summer internships in the fall semester. To learn more about APPLES internships, visit APPLES online.

Bryan Social Innovation Fellow continues to create community

By Carly Swain

Reena-Gupta-spotlightReena Gupta, who will graduate Sunday with a degree in Public Policy from the College of Arts and Sciences, not only immersed herself in the Carolina community over the past four years, she helped create one — through Healthy Girls Save the World.

During her freshman year, Gupta joined the non-profit when it was in its infant stage. After the first few meetings, she jumped in to help create what is now a thriving organization by using three pillars: healthy bodies, healthy minds and healthy relationships.

She served on the board of directors and as campus chapter president of the organization, and has attained the goal she set for herself four years ago: to inspire women.

“I’ve always been really big on women’s empowerment, women’s issues, and really advocating social justice issues surrounding women’s rights,” she said. “As a woman of color, it’s something that I’ve always been passionate about. I have seen a few of the struggles, as I’m sure every woman has, and I wanted to learn more about it.”

When she first arrived at Carolina, Gupta considered studying political science and economics. But the daughter of two teachers from Belmont, North Carolina, had a passion for education. And after a little more exploring, she got a taste of public policy.

“For me personally, that public policy major at UNC was the perfect collaboration of political science and economics,” she said.

During her time at Carolina, Gupta earned a Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship, the Bryan Social Innovation Fellowship and she was a Resolution Project Fellow – all while also joining a few dance troupes on campus.

But one of her main focuses was Healthy Girls Save The World.

“It actually took me a while to understand my place and how I could help,” she said of her beginnings with the non-profit. “I remember the first time it clicked for me: we went to a business competition in Atlanta and we had to present. Once I presented, made the pitch and received the feedback, the wheels just started turning for me.”

With a pool of local sixth- to ninth-grade applicants from schools near UNC-Chapel Hill to choose from, Healthy Girls Save The World leaders select 40 to mentor through the academic year.

“We bring these girls on campus, introduce them to female role models, rely on School of Public Health to bring in subject matter experts and do all sorts of fun things with them,” Gupta said. “Our last event was focused on healthy relationships- team building- and after lunch we did healthy relationships with themselves.”

Once her tassel is turned Sunday, Gupta will head to San Francisco where she will complete the New Sector Alliance Residency in Social Enterprise (RISE) Fellowship. There, Gupta will be placed in a non-profit to work one-on-one with a mentor learning project management, finance and communication skills.

Part of the commitment means 1,700 hours of service with AmeriCorps. But Gupta will still serve on the board of advisors for Healthy Girls Save The World.

In that role, she hopes to continue to contribute to different communities.

“There are so many aspects of Carolina, so many communities and personalities and diverse communities,” she said. “So, somewhere there is something for you.”

By Carly Swain, Office of Communications and Public Affairs

Published May 7, 2015

APPLES alum turned passion into career

From unc.edu
gist_shelley_287x207
When Shelley Gist was assigned as a sophomore to intern at the Carolina Women’s Center, she never knew how much the center and its mission to build gender equity would inspire her career.

What began as a college internship of creating innovative programs to educate the community has turned into a career for Gist as she took over as the center’s program coordinator.

“I fell in love with the center, the people here and the work they were doing on campus,” said Gist, who graduated in 2014. “It’s just been a great place to be. I spent that [first] semester planning programing and ended up never leaving. I loved it so much I just couldn’t leave.”

A Raleigh native, Gist attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to earn a psychology degree with a minor in creative writing. But through an APPLES Service-Learning course with the Carolina Center for Public Service and as a resident assistant, Gist fostered a passion to help others.

The Women’s Center, which focuses on violence prevention, family advocacy, closing gender gaps and gender, difference and diversity, became Gist’s platform to provide a service for the community. She now helps students build their own programs and platforms — like she did as an undergraduate.

“There was no job that was too big or too small for Shelley. She’s got a lot of initiative, but comes at it through the spirit of service,” said Christi Hurt, director of the Women’s Center. “She wants to figure out how to be helpful. She’s not looking for a notch in her belt or something to put on her resume. She’s doing it as a way to benefit the whole Carolina community.”

During the APPLES course, Gist was assigned to the Women’s Center where she helped organize the University’s Sexual Assault Awareness Month. From there, she was given the freedom to build her own programs, including the now-popular Alternative Break Experience.

“It wasn’t just that I showed up and they told me what to do,” Gist said. “The staff here was good about letting the students develop their own ideas and then helping give us the resources to implement those.”

Her Alternative Break program “combines what students may be learning in the classroom and having discussions about, and seeing what it looks like in the real world,” Gist said.

In October, a group of eight to 10 students spend fall break in Asheville working with a rape crisis center conducting outreach that helps to train bar staff to recognize drug and alcohol facilitated sexual assault. During spring break, a group travels to New Bern and Wilmington, to learn from rape crisis centers and child-serving organizations.

Gist’s creativity and ability to launch new programs earned her respect within the organization, which only had two full-time employees at the time.

“It’s really important to have a person who can think outside the box,” Hurt said. “What the Women’s Center is really trying to do is be an incubator for people who come and identify issues that they want to address and figure out solutions.”

“As a student coming in with ideas and with the creativity to help identify community need and address it – that’s exactly the kind of initiative the Women’s Center really focuses on and supports.”

As a senior — not thinking joining the Women Center’s staff was a possibility — Gist applied for jobs outside the University, but when a position was created during her final semester she jumped at it.

“This was an opportunity to combine my work as an RA and my work that I had done at the Women’s Center and focus that programming through a gender equity lens,” Gist said. “It felt like the perfect combination of those two things that I was passionate about.”

Gist is now tasked with giving Carolina students the tools they need to develop new programs of their own. As program coordinator, Gist is trying to help ensure that the Center isn’t an unknown for Carolina students like it once was for her.

By partnering with other campus organizations to building connections, the Center aims to grow its programing and continue to educate the community.

“What we’re trying to do is make sure that gender is not a barrier to anybody’s success at UNC,” she said.

For more information on UNC-Chapel Hill’s Sexual Awareness Month programs, click here.

By Brandon Bieltz, Office of Communications and Public Affairs

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


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.

APPLES 25th Anniversary Program

APPLES 25th Anniversary Program


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.