APPLES alternative breaks launches new break experience

By Becca Kronebusch

A record number 82 UNC students participated in APPLES Service-Learning Alternative Fall Break, providing direct and indirect service to communities across North Carolina and the southeast. The seven break trips focused on each community’s needs, including Latinx, urban, rural, and refugee communities; environmental issues; hunger and homelessness; and Arts in Public Service.

APPLES alternative fall break participants with refugee communitiesThe refugee community break to Greensboro, North Carolina is the newest addition to the APPLES alternative break program. Since October 2016, North Carolina resettled 1,812 refugees, the ninth most in the U.S. Victor Arahirwa, a junior chemistry major from Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, served as a refugee community break leader because he has family and close friends who have been refugees or asylum-seekers. He wanted to learn more about the resources available for refugees to integrate into the society they find themselves in.

“Refugees have been the victims of negative, dehumanizing portrayals in the media,” Arahirwa said. “This trip served to re-humanize refugees and show that if given the chance, they can make positive contributions to society, rather than being a burden. In the light of political measures to tighten border control in the U.S. and other countries, having a trip that raises awareness of the realities of being a refugee could not have come at a better time.”

The refugee alternative break experience included volunteer efforts at a community garden with World Relief High Point, educational programs around refugee resettlement, financial security, employment and health care with various partners.

Simran Khadka, a senior environmental health sciences major from Nepal and alternative fall break co-chair, helped establish the refugee trip to help Greensboro’s 11 refugee communities. She said that her mother’s volunteer work inspired her to create the trip.

“My mom used to volunteer with AmeriCorps’ ACCESS project in Greensboro, which helped refugees and immigrants gain access to many services, English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) classes and life skills,” Khadka said. “I was definitely inspired by her even though she was ESOL individual herself. Even though her service was in 2010-2011, I was curious to know how the refugee demographics have changed over time.”

Khadka researched Greensboro community partners connected to refugee rehabilitation and created a mock trip report which turned into the plan for the new alternative fall break experience in Greensboro.

Students directly addressed the refugee community’s needs by installing water pipes in a community garden that grows local produce and providing after-school tutoring in math and English to refugee children.

Participants also gained a deeper understanding of resources and organizations available to immigrants. They attended a session at the North Carolina African Services Coalition, which assists refugees in finding employment, housing and language support, with the goal of helping them become self-sufficient within 90 days of arrival. In addition, students also talked with Dr. Jeff Walden of the Cone Health Family Medicine Center, who opened a clinic in 2014 to treat refugee patients, and they toured the FaithAction International House, which creates an environment of mutual understanding between immigrants, community members and law enforcement.

APPLES offers alternative breaks during fall, winter and spring breaks. To learn more, visit APPLES Alternative Breaks.

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APPLES gives fall break a purpose for UNC students

Marco Quiroz-Gutierrez The Daily Tar Heel

While most students are relaxing during their time off this fall break, the students participating in the APPLES alternative fall break will be helping communities in need all over North Carolina.

Since it was founded by undergraduates in 1990, the APPLES Service-Learning program has allowed students to learn through various types of civic engagement outside the classroom.

Becca Bender, a program officer for student programs at APPLES, said there are seven different focuses for the alternative fall break programs which are each led entirely by two student leaders.

“The fact that it’s all student-run, plus the service experience, is what makes alternative fall break really special,” Bender said.

Sophomore Alexandra Smith, a co-leader for a group, is headed to Asheville to work with Our VOICE, an organization that serves victims of sexual violence. She said that the groups were kept intentionally small.

“There’s only eight of us total, because we wanted to keep it small so that everybody could get to know each other better and so that way we could form more of a bond and be able to understand this more,” she said.

Smith said the work her group is doing is especially important to her.

“Every single woman and honestly every sort of minority has experienced some sort of case of unwanted sexual conduct in some way, shape or form, and I feel like it’s something that really isn’t talked about and isn’t taken seriously by groups that need to be targeted,” she said.

Bender said every program has a unique theme, and helps a different type of community. This includes a program aiming to help rural North Carolina communities and a new program aiming to assist refugees in Greensboro.

Alternative fall break co-chair, senior Simran Khadka, said they started the new refugee program to help students better relate to this diverse community.

“The best part of learning about these communities is working with community partners and learning about the community members themselves,” she said.

Bender said the programs cover a variety of themes, but all except for one of the seven groups will stay in North Carolina. Keeping it regional provides accessibility for participants.

“We like to keep the programs within North Carolina to create sustainable partnerships so that we can continue working in those locations, and also to make the trips affordable and accessible for students,” she said.

Khadka said every student at UNC should participate in one of the alternative break programs. She thinks the community involvement can enrich the college experience.

“It made me rethink a lot of my college involvement and what I wanted to do for the rest of my life, because you get to work with community partners who dedicate their lives working on a certain issue,” she said.

Khadka said learning during an alternative break trip is a way to expand your horizons.

“It’s really easy to learn about the importance of something in a classroom, but it’s eye-opening seeing that happen in the real world.”

APPLES service-learning course is CURE-ious Chemistry

By Alyssa LaFaro, 

APPLES research service-learning course Carolina Campus Community GardenMadeline Cooke squats in the dirt and leans over the stacked, wooden two-by-fours supporting a raised garden. Scissors at the ready, she trims away weeds and checks the health of rows of red-stemmed succulents. Although many might consider this jade-like plant — called purslane — a weed, it’s actually edible, often found in Asian soups, salads, and stews. And it’s packed with antioxidants.

Cooke, a UNC senior majoring in chemistry, spent six months last year helping organic chemistry professor Nita Eskew tend to these weedy plants so she could use them in her “Chemistry of Purslane” class. A Course-Based Undergraduate Research Experience(CURE), the class provides many students with their first active research experience.

APPLES research service-learning courser CURE“Some students don’t have the opportunity to do undergraduate research while they’re here, so this gives them the experience while also getting course credit,” Eskew explains. “I also wanted to get some type of chemistry research going in an undergrad lab course so students would have some purpose in their experiment other than making crystals and throwing them in the waste jar and walking out.”

Organic chemistry can be a little obscure, admits Eskew, so a course that highlights real-world applications draws more student attention. “It’s helpful to have something more concrete you can put your hands on,” says Eskew, adding that the class had so many applicants she couldn’t accept them all.

Purslane’s antioxidant content suggests it has medicinal properties — but it’s largely understudied in the United States. Eskew hopes that she and her students can answer some basic questions about it. What are the main differences between the gold and red varieties? Does one have a higher antioxidant concentration than the other? Does the growing environment impact their chemical composition?

Encouraging curiosity

Throughout the class, which first began in spring 2017, Eskew teaches standard chemistry techniques like extraction and ultraviolet-visible spectroscopy for identifying antioxidants in plants. Although every student learns how to perform these procedures, Eskew encourages each individual group to cultivate their own sets of questions and experiments.

“It’s about not having a recipe,” Eskew points out. “It’s about developing questions and going through the process of testing and modifying. And it’s also about iteration.”

In a traditional chemistry lab, students will complete one experiment and then move onto a different one in the following lab. But in this class, they’ll continue to run the same experiments three times or more, tweaking them each week. “In research, you don’t just do an experiment one time — you do it multiple times to try to improve it and see if you can reproduce results.”

To test the purslane for antioxidants, students perform a procedure involving a color shift that indicates when antioxidants are present. “Students can actually visualize what’s happening when the electrons are moving because they see a physical change in color,” Eskew says. “It makes the chemistry of it all more real.”

“The first time my team completed the test we were really excited — because the procedure worked,” Cooke explains. “It felt very gratifying and ebullient, and I think a lot of my group members shared that energy.”

Growing together

Before she developed the class, Eskew had never heard of purslane — until Claire Lorch pointed it out on a tour of the Carolina Campus Community Garden (CCCG), a program of the North Carolina Botanical Garden located on Wilson Street that donates all its produce to university housekeepers. Lorch, the CCCG program manager, solicits volunteers from across campus and the greater community to work in the garden year-round.

“I learned of purslane when my dear friend Vimala (of Vimala’s Curry Blossom Cafe) pointed out the plant and its nutritional value,” Lorch explains. “From then on we stopped weeding it and started planting it. Forty percent of the housekeepers are refugees from Burma and appreciate that we have purslane in the garden.”

APPLES research service-learning courseEskew’s partnership with the CCCG for the class means that it’s also one of the Carolina Center for Public Service’s APPLES courses, which connect academic learning with community service. Students enrolled in the course, held once a week, must spend a minimum of 30 hours volunteering in the garden — some of which is used for lab time.

Since completing the class last spring, Cooke, now Eskew’s teaching assistant, continues to dedicate her time to the garden each Sunday. “It’s a unique experience in that it’s inter-generational,” she says. “On campus, I don’t get the opportunity to interact with people who are in different stages of their life, but community members and grad students come to the garden. Gardening is a lot of work with your hands so there’s plenty of time to chat.”

Inspiring others

During her own undergraduate career at Carolina, Eskew — a first-generation college student — never knew about research opportunities until her adviser suggested she pursue it one summer. She didn’t have any family or friends who were chemists, nor did she understand what chemists did outside the academic environment. This meant graduate school wasn’t originally in the cards for her either, Eskew admits, but that same adviser encouraged her to apply.

“By the end of that summer doing research, I was hooked with discovery and learning something new — and realizing that other people had never made the compounds I did or seen their reactions,” she says. “That’s why I think this class is a great opportunity to give students a small introduction into what research is, especially for those who are first-generation or have never been exposed to research.”

“Dr. Eskew is a really special person here at Carolina,” Cooke adds. “It’s admirable that she put so much time into creating this class, and how dedicated she is to her students. I think getting research experience is one of the most important things during your undergraduate career. It’s changed the way I think. To be put in a setting where no one in the room really knows the answer — and it’s okay to not know the answer — that’s great.”

Nita Eskew is the director of undergraduate laboratories in the Department of Chemistry at UNC-Chapel Hill and a Service-Learning Course Development Grant recipient through the Carolina Center for Public Service. She is also an alumnus, having received both her bachelor’s and PhD degrees in chemistry at Carolina.

Madeline Cooke is a senior majoring in chemistry within the UNC College of Arts and Sciences. She is also the teaching assistant for Eskew’s “Chemistry of Purslane” class.

Claire Lorch manages the Carolina Campus Community Garden, a program of the North Carolina Botanical Garden. To partner with Lorch or learn more about the garden, email her at clorch@email.unc.edu.

The Carolina Campus Community Garden makes use of volunteer support to provide UNC housekeepers with fresh, local, sustainably-grown produce for free. The garden strives to connect students, community members, UNC employees, and gardeners.

First-year students launch into community service

By Becca Kronebusch

SLI Launch 2017 at Heavenly GrocriesAs the heat of summer is in full swing and UNC students begin to fill the quad, many ambitious first-years stepped into the local community for three days of service through the APPLES Service-Learning Initiative: Launch, or SLI. For these students, service was the most meaningful way to get to know and give back to their neighbors in the Chapel Hill community.

SLI is a student-led program that introduces incoming first-year and transfer students to service in the local Chapel Hill-Carrboro community. This year, 64 SLI participants focused on sustainability and gave more than 576 service hours to eight community partners. Each student was assigned to three different sites over the course of three days.

Will Melfi, a first-year student at UNC, was one of many SLI participants who promoted sustainability by cleaning up Carrboro High School’s garden.

“I joined SLI because during high school I never found enough time to give back to the community,” Melfi said. “It’s really been a great experience and opportunity to get a jumpstart into giving back to this community that I’m invested in.”

At East Chapel Hill High School, students set up and decorated teachers’ classrooms to make the school year transition seamless. Teachers shared that they felt a weight lifted off of their shoulders with every desk, chair and poster in place. For participants, SLI is not a one-time event; they plan to continue serving the community through more organizations on campus.

“I’ve had such a great time, and I love this program and can’t wait to be more involved,” Melfi said.

SLI Launch 2017 school groupIn addition to giving back to the community, SLI help participants develop leadership skills. The program is entirely student-led to help empower and inspire students to become better, forward-thinking leaders. Abby Gostling, a junior global studies and economics double major from Raleigh, began as a participant in SLI and worked her way up to become one of this year’s co-chairs.

“I have really been able to gain a comprehensive view of what it takes to make a three-day service program like this happen,” Gostling said. “I have grown immensely in my ability to think through all of the details of a situation to make sure everything is addressed and to be a better problem solver on the spot.”

Gostling added that she is thankful that SLI gave her the opportunity and passion to become a leader in the Carolina community. She added that she is confident that this year’s SLI participants will go on to become resilient future leaders.

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Impact through Upward Bound

Griffin Smith is a rising senior majoring in mathematics and history and is considering a career in education.

This summer, he has spent a lot of time teaching and mentoring with the Upward Bound Program at Central Carolina Community College. Upward Bound prepares recent graduates for college.

“The kids I work with are first-generation college students, so any way that I can give back and shrink the income gap is something that I think is important,” Smith said. “It’s really been amazing to see what a little bit of effort and my time can do in terms of impacting kids’ lives.”

The internship was part of the APPLES Service-Learning program based out of the Carolina Center for Public Service. The student-led program pairs Carolina students with community or governmental organizations for a variety of internships in either the spring semester or during the summer.

To learn about becoming or hosting an intern, visit APPLES Service-Learning.

Service through technology

Zareen Farooqui is a junior studying business administration and computer science at UNC-Chapel Hill. This summer, she’s using the knowledge she gained in her classes to revamp United Way of the Greater Triangle’s Teaming for Technology Program. That program refurbishes used computer equipment and makes it available to North Carolina schools, students and nonprofit organizations at greatly reduced prices.

“We work to provide refurbished computers to underserved communities,” said Farooqui. “In school, I’m doing a lot of coding but I’m not getting my hands dirty in the actual hardware which I was able to do here.”

Farooqui’s internship was part of the APPLES Service-Learning program based out of the Carolina Center for Public Service. The student-led program pairs Carolina students with community or governmental organizations for a variety of internships in either the spring semester or during the summer.

Learn more about the APPLES Service-Learning program by visiting APPLES online.

This week, we’ll profile three Carolina students participating in the program. Watch a video about Carolina student and APPLES Service-learning intern Jennifer Barber.

By Brandon Bieltz, University Communications
Published August 2, 2017, UNC.edu

Learning through summer service

Tar Heels do not stop learning when the academic year breaks for the summer.

For nearly 30 years, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill students have found a way to continue learning throughout the summer with APPLES Service-Learning based out of the Carolina Center for Public Service. The student-led program pairs Carolina students with community or governmental organizations for internships in either the spring semester or during the summer.

Through this program, rising senior Jennifer Barber of Waxhaw, North Carolina, a public relations major, spent her summer as a paid intern at the North Carolina Therapeutic Riding Center, working with children of all abilities during summer camp sessions.

“People usually say, ‘What does therapeutic horse summer camp have to do with a major in public relations?’ But I really get to use those skills here,” explained Barber. “I am working with campers of all abilities, but I’m also writing press releases, sending those out and doing professional communications. I can take these examples, a portfolio, to an employer.”

This week, we’ll profile three Carolina students participating in the program.

Learn more about the APPLES Service-Learning program by visiting the APPLES online.

By Carly Swain, University Communications
Published Aug. 1, 2017, UNC.edu

Ami Patel goes outward bound to build leadership skills

WAmi Patel Outward Bound 2017hen Ami Patel ’18, APPLES Service-Learning president, agreed to spend four days in the North Carolina wilderness with fellow Tar Heels during a North Carolina Outward Bound experience, she didn’t realize how much the outdoors would challenge her. After four days of dehydrated meals and no bath, three nights sleeping on the ground in a sleeping bag (one night sleeping in a cave) and 89 mosquito bites later, she says she would do it all again.

“When my friends and family asked me what I would be doing during this four-day Outward Bound program, I consistently ended with a shrug of the shoulders saying it won’t be that bad,” Patel said. “While I was not wrong, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I could not have imagined the challenges I would face within those few days; physical challenges, mental challenges and emotional challenges.”

Each year, the Carolina Center for Public Service sends UNC student leaders to the North Carolina Outward Bound School in the Blue Ridge Mountains where they work together on wilderness survival and grow as leaders. The 10 participants experienced backpacking, caving, mountaineering, rock climbing, rappelling and a ropes course.

Patel joined Stephen Buys, Student Government deputy chief of staff; Hope Gehle, SMART Mentoring co-chair; Laura Gerlach, Newman Center president; Simran Khadka, APPLES alternative fall break co-chair; Taylor Newsome, APPLES 2017 Outward Bound UNC student leadersexecutive committee member; Anna Silver, APPLES alternative fall break co-chair; Leah Simon, a Buckley Public Service Scholar and First-Year Service Corps participant; Courtney Staton, Campus Y co-president; and Zachary Walker, APO secretary and pledge master.

During the Outward Bound experience, these students were immersed in a wilderness environment while they learned more about their leadership roles on campus and about themselves. Outward Bound’s four pillars of physical fitness, self-reliance, craftsmanship and compassion were stressed through the different activities and tasks the students tackled each day.

“As I was struggling to complete the four-mile run on the last day of this experience, I recall a conversation with fellow participant Taylor Newsome during the last mile,” Patel explained. “In an effort to motivate her, as well as myself, I cheered that we could get through this last mile. Her response was simply, ‘well, we have to.’ This conversation summed up one of my takeaways from this experience: it is surprising what you can do when you don’t have a choice but to do it. The only way to join the rest of the group was to finish the run.”

During the course, Patel said one of the Outward Bound instructors suggested that four days doesn’t seem like enough time to make a change or allow students to feel different than the first day. At the end of the course, the instructor followed up on the comment saying she admired the students for proving her wrong. Patel agrees.

“I didn’t know many of my fellow participants before we travelled to the Pisgah National Forest together,” Patel said. “But it is clear that in just four days, this experience changed our outlook on life and service.”

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APPLES launches SLI: Engage

APPLES hosted its first Service-Learning Initiative (SLI): Engage event March 31-April 2. This is a unique student-lead introduction to service-learning and allowed APPLES SLI Engageparticipants to learn more about APPLES opportunities and local organizations in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro community. Traditionally, SLI takes place in the fall over three days before classes begin and allows incoming students to get to know each other and serve local community partners. This was the first offering of a spring SLI which was open to any UNC student and included local service as well as reflections on sustaining community engagement beyond college. Twenty-five students participated, including student leaders who previously served with SLI.

SLI: Engage participants served at local community partners including IFC Community House, Triangle Land Conservancy, North Carolina Botanical Garden, Wildwood Farms, the Caring and Sharing Center and Battle Park. Activities and reflections followed the program’s sustainability theme, including ethical food and environmental practices, as well as sustainable partnerships and maintaining strong community relationships, a primary value of the APPLES Service-Learning program. Students also heard from a panel of UNC young alumni who have pursued service careers. Panelists included:

  • George Barrett ’13, associate director of the Marian Cheek Jackson Center
  • Sarah Cohn ‘13 , advocate program coordinator for the Community Empowerment Fund
  • Sarah Smith ’10, global civic engagement coordinator at the Campus Y
  • Alexandra Zagbayou ’09, executive director at Student U

Taylor and Abby SLI Engage“We were excited that the program went so well for its first year and are looking forward to SLI: Launch in the fall and continuing to grow SLI: Engage in the future,” said student co-chair, Taylor Newsome, a junior biology and global studies major from Davidson, North Carolina.

Co-chair Abby Gostling, a sophomore economics and global studies major from Raleigh, North Carolina, said, “The participants were very engaged and we hope that they continue to serve the local community during the rest of their UNC careers.”

2017 APPLES Award recipients recognized

By Veronica Ortega

The APPLES Service-Learning program recently honored five individuals and organizations for providing significant contributions to service-learning to the UNC campus and in support to APPLES.

2017 APPLES award recipientsFour individuals, Finn Loendorf, Sonda Oppewal, Patricia Parker, Michael Ulku-Steiner and one community partner, Robeson County Church and Community Center, were recognized at the annual APPLES Service-Learning Award Brunch for sustained service as an integral part of the academic experience through their involvement with APPLES.

Lindsey Hollbrook, APPLES president, said, “These individuals continue to build the strong foundation for service-learning at Carolina and challenge us to do better every year. Their involvement, along with the University’s commitment, will ensure that APPLES continues for years to come.”
Finn Loendorf, a sophomore physics major, received the 2017 Undergraduate Excellence Award for their leadership and substantial contributions to the campus and community through organizations such as Carolina Advocating Gender Equity at the Campus Y and Boomerang, a youth empowerment program in Chapel Hill. Loendorf is also a former participant and student leader in the First-Year Service Corps and APPLES Service-Learning Alternative Break programs. Loendorf is from Stanley, North Carolina.

Luis Acosta, the 2016 award recipient, presented the Undergraduate Excellence Award to Loendorf and said, “More than many students in just their second-year at Carolina, Finn embodies the APPLES values of integrating all of the various threads of a students’ life.”
Sonda Oppewal received the 2017 Teaching Excellence Award for developing and teaching, since 2010, the course Health Care in Global Context. As part of the course, Oppewal leads an interdisciplinary group of students to spend a week in Tyrell County, North Carolina examining a wide range of factors contributing to residents’ health. Students gain perspective and concrete skills while contributing to the work of their partners through screening older adults for risk of falls, taking blood pressure, conducting home visits, and discussing long-term healthcare and medications.

Abbey Kinnaman presented the award and said, “Professor Oppewal’s willingness and commitment to contribute so much of her time, enthusiasm and ideas toward the service-learning experience and partnership in her course has exceeded our greatest expectations.”
Robeson County Church and Community Center received the 2017 Community Partner Excellence Award. Since 1969, the Robeson County Church and Community Center has involved people across cultural, racial and denominational barriers in partnership with each other to address a wide range of social needs in the community. The organization has a sustained partnership with APPLES Service-Learning Alternative Break programs, providing students with substantive opportunities to participate in its work while learning more about social change and the history of Robeson County.

Darlene Jacobs accepted the award on behalf of the organization. Kevin Giff and Austin Gragson presented the award. Giff said, “This organization has partnered consistently with the APPLES Service-Learning Alternative Break programs, providing students with substantive opportunities to participate in its work while learning more about social change and the history of Robeson County.”

Michael Ulku-Steiner ’92, received the 2017 Outstanding Alumni Award. A member of APPLES’ founding team, Ulku-Steiner has remained dedicated to service through his accomplished career in education. He currently serves as Durham Academy’s head of school, where he also has worked as a teacher, coach and advisor. Ulku-Steiner continues his connected to APPLES and recently came back as part of the alumni speaker series to talk with current organizers about the early days of service-learning at Carolina and his career in education.

Alexandra Zagbayou, the 2016 award recipient, presented the award to Ulku-Steiner. Zagbayou said, “Michael has remained dedicated to service through his accomplished career in education. His work is an inspiration to us and we are grateful to honor his contributions to APPLES.”

Patricia Parker, department chair and associate professor of Organizational Communication, received the 2017 Service-Learning Award in honor of Ned Brooks for a career of engaged teaching and research in social justice leadership. Her experience includes founding The Ella Baker Women’s Center for Leadership and Community Activism, developing a diversity liaison program for the College of Arts and Sciences, and decolonizing organizational communication processes within her research. Parker has taught several popular APPLES courses, including Collective Leadership Models for Social Change.

Mike Caragher presented Parker the award on behalf of Ned Brooks. Caragher said, “We are grateful for all of Patricia’s service to this state, university and communities. Her efforts have brought people together, to work together and to support one another in numerous ways.”

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