APPLES alumnus makes service a career

By Janell Smith

SLI 2015 George (Heavenly Groceries) and Jamie DorrierMost students at Carolina graduate with some type of public service having been part of their undergraduate experiences and nearly half of UNC-CH’s seniors (47 percent) reported participation in service-learning. Sometimes that service is not only an act but a way of life. For George Barrett ’14, an APPLES Service-Learning alumnus and current associate director of Organizing and Advocacy at the Jackson Center for Saving and Making History, service to others is a trait that runs blood deep.

“Serving is an action that has been instilled in me from birth,” Barrett said. “My mother is the epitome of an individual with a servant’s heart.

“My passion comes from steadfast inspiration and guidance from watching her live her life.”

Barrett admires his mother for her service-oriented life and seems to have inherited that same altruistic spirit. Since graduating from UNC-CH with a degree in anthropology, Barrett has dedicated his career to meaningful service and engagement with communities in North Carolina through working with the Jackson Center, a public history and community development center located in the Northside neighborhood in Chapel Hill. The Jackson Center honors, renews and rebuilds communities in the historic Northside and Pine Knolls neighborhoods. It was through an APPLES service-learning course that Barrett’s desire to work full-time with the Jackson Center was born.

“I was connected to the Carolina Center for Public Service through an APPLES service-learning course [I took during] my senior year,” he said. “UNITAS was a year-long course that provided a social justice education with an ethnographic, participatory learning base.

“During the second semester, students were required to do a service-learning project at a community organization. This pipeline is how I came to the Jackson Center and eventually to the Northside family.”

Barrett’s work with the Jackson Center fosters engagement across local communities, including the place where his involvement started: the APPLES Service-Learning program.

In August, Barrett hosted at the Jackson Center a group of first-year students participating in APPLES Service-Learning Initiative (SLI). SLI participants and site leaders engage in a wide range of service activities: working to address food scarcity at Heavenly Groceries, supporting the Jackson Center Oral History Trust, writing and distributing the Northside News to more than 800 households in Northside and Pine Knolls, and aiding the neighborhood housing retention efforts through Home Repair projects such as A Brush With Kindness through Habitat for Humanity.

Barrett said these type of cross-cultural, inter-generational service opportunities promote good work and a better sense of community.

“Students at UNC are extraordinary,” he said. “I consistently tell my friends from my home town of Charlotte that UNC is this weird place were the extraordinary is the ordinary.”

Barret is part of a long history where the University and community come together in a tradition of service. By participating in Carolina Center for Public Service programs, he hopes students gain a perspective outside of themselves.

“I hope they gain history,” he said. “I hope they gain the tools to look outside of themselves in order to see the world around them. I hope they gain love from the community. I hope they gain wisdom from the community. I hope they gain a community.

“My mom has always told me God puts people on this earth for a reason. I feel like my reason and role is to help other people.”

APPLES/BPSS alumna finds herself in service

By Janell Smith

“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”

This famous quote from Mahatma Ghandi is one that the APPLES Service-Learning program cherishes. It’s quoted often, it’s read aloud during moments of reflection, and it’s even been printed on APPLES T-shirts.

For some students, like UNC alumna Corinne Goudreault ’15, it has become a quote to live by.

Goudreault Corinne 3Goudreault, who was involved in a number of organizations including Relay For Life, Impact NC, the Community Empowerment Fund, Phi Beta Kappa, the Campus Y and HOPE, said that her commitment to public service during her time at UNC made a huge difference in her college experience.

“During my four years at Carolina, I was involved in the APPLES Service-Learning and Buckley Public Service Scholars (BPSS) programs through the Carolina Center for Public Service (CCPS),” she said.

“In fact, as a first-year student, I participated in the APPLES Service-Learning Initiative (SLI) before classes even started.”

Participating in SLI before the start of her first-year not only exposed Goudreault to APPLES, BPSS and CCPS, but it completely transformed her Carolina experience.

“Through these programs I was able to track the service I did, interact with other students who were passionate about service, and learn traditional classroom material in experiential and service-oriented ways.”

Goudreault took the Center’s philanthropy course, received a paid APPLES service-learning internship with Farmer Foodshare, co-chaired the Campus Y’s Homeless Outreach Poverty Eradication (HOPE) committee and volunteered with the Community Empowerment Fund.

Goudreault said that it was this exposure to public service and engagement that led her to pursue a career in philanthropy which ultimately led her to her first job with the Weissberg Foundation, a philanthropic, family foundation in Washington, D.C.

“I believe the concrete and hands-on knowledge I gained from a philanthropic service-learning course I took through the BPSS program landed me this position. I never really understood that I could actually work in philanthropy before I took the course, but the Center continually made unimaginable opportunities a reality for me.”

During her time at UNC, Goudreault immersed herself in the University’s spirit of public service and allowed that spirit of service to help determine her future after Carolina.

But it did more than that. It also instilled in Goudreault the desire to ensure that future Tar Heels who are passionate about service have the same opportunities to participate in unique, real-life experiences in public service through courses, fellowships, internships and so much more.

“I symbolically invested $20.15 to the Center and plan to continue to invest in its programs,” she said.

“The opportunities I gained from the Carolina Center for Public Service have made me a socially-engaged citizen which will define me for the rest of my life. It’s what made my decision to donate such an easy one, and why I hope others will help to sustain these incredible programs for many years to come.

“Connecting academic learning and public service enhances the educational experience, helping students to positively impact the community. I will be forever grateful to the Center for connecting me and my community, and of course, for helping me get an awesome job!”

APPLES students serve communities during fall break

By Janell Smith

There’s a saying that goes, “If you want to make a difference, be different.”

SLI AFB 2015 clothes racksWhile most students went home, cheered on the Tar Heels at Kenan Memorial Stadium or enjoyed an assortment of fried foods at the North Carolina State Fair, a select group of students spent their fall break differently than their peers. Seventy students spent their fall breaks serving communities across North Carolina and the Mid-Atlantic.

Each fall, the APPLES Service-Learning program offers student-led Alternative Fall Break (AFB) experiences. Fifty-eight students and 12 student leaders dedicated their breaks to doing service in six focus areas: Urban Communities, Latino Communities, Rural Communities, Environmental Issues, Arts in Public Service and Service-Learning Initiative.

“Most students use their fall break to catch up on sleep,” said Jill Levinson, a sophomore participant on the Latino Communities AFB. “I did not get to do that, but my tiredness is different now. With APPLES Alternative Fall Break I learned about all the issues facing Latino communities, what’s being done about them and how I can get involved.”

“Hand me a coffee, because I may never catch up on my sleep.”

AFB 2015 latino issuesThe 12 students on the Latino Communities experience had the opportunity to learn and serve communities through El Pueblo, Inc., a nonprofit dedicated to strengthening the Latino community and promoting cross-cultural understanding, and Student Action with Farmworkers during their experience in Newton Grove, North Carolina.

The Rural Community break went to Pembroke, North Carolina and visited with the Hawkeye Indian Cultural Center and served in a variety of educational and health settings. Both the Arts in Public Service and Service-Learning experiences went to Asheville, North Carolina. Through the Arts in Public Service experience, participants served with Asheville BookWorks, Our VOICE, Montford Park Players and The Mandorla. Students on the Environmental Issues break experience went to the Outer Banks where they cleaned the beach shoreline and visited the North Carolina Aquarium on Roanoke Island.

The Urban Community experience was the only experience where students traveled outside of the state. The group of 12 went to Washington, D.C. While at the nation’s capital, they served at local elementary and high schools and community centers like the Perry School Community Service Center.

Environmental issues 2015 AFBParticipants returned from their alternative break experiences with a renewed understanding of service and community engagement.

“My Alternative Fall Break trip with APPLES was unforgettable and a rewarding experience,” said Ashley Jiron, a junior who participated in the Latino Communities AFB. “If I could replay this past weekend, I would because it was so impactful.”

Student 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 and offered through the Buckley Public Service Scholars program, 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.

Buckley Public Service Scholar participants 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 nonprofit 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

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.”