APPLES Internships Offer New Summer Experiences

Eve Elliott, APPLES Summer Fellow

As every Carolina student knows, summertime brings many familiar things: sunshine, hometowns and hopefully a few months of fresh watermelon and ice cream. But for 40 Tar Heels, this season will be the start of something else. During the first weeks of summer, these students began service-learning internships with nonprofits and other organizations in the Triangle area and across the state.

These internships are part of the APPLES Service-Learning program through the Carolina Center for Public Service. Through this program, students engage in an immersive professional experience with local nonprofits, government agencies and other service organizations while receiving a stipend and course credit. The internships present students with the opportunity to explore a variety of fields including public policy, education, environmental sustainability and the arts. Funding for the internship program is provided by student fees, community partner funds and support from private donors and campus partnerships.

Interns also enroll in an online course relating to their service through the William and Ida Friday Center for Continuing Education and in partnership with the School of Social Work.

Eleanor Murray, a sophomore from Chapel Hill, North Carolina, just began her internship with the Campus Y at UNC-Chapel Hill. She will work closely with the CUBE, the Campus Y’s social venture incubator, to create tools, modules, and programs for student social entrepreneurship programming.

“My favorite part of my internship so far has been meeting and collaborating with the many amazing people who focus on social entrepreneurship for their careers,” Murray said.  “They have most definitely inspired me to question how I can make my own mark on campus.”

This year, APPLES also worked with UNC-Chapel Hill’s Institute of Politics (IOP) to help facilitate public service internships with political organizations and elected officials.

Caroline Carpenter, a junior from Elon, North Carolina and IOP internship coordinator, is excited about combining the goals and opportunities of these programs.

Carpenter said, “Both programs focus on creating public service opportunities and experiences beyond what you can obtain in a classroom setting, so it made sense to combine the two programs. We can offer students options in a wide array of areas that they might not be aware of if they just applied to one program. For example, those interested in environmental studies could apply to both the North Carolina Botanical Gardens and the City of Raleigh Sustainability Office.”

Sara Lafontaine, a junior from Cary, North Carolina, is one of the interns who found an opportunity with the IOP and APPLES. Hoping to learn more about environmental health policy, Lafontaine just started her internship with the City of Raleigh’s Office of Sustainability. Specifically, Lafontaine will be focusing on advocacy and policy service as she works to support the Community-wide Climate Action Plan (CCAP).

“I will be providing research to analyze the CCAP and determine if there are any alternative policies that could improve the plan,” said Lafontaine. “Furthermore, I will create an inventory of dates of meetings within every department, such as Waste, Energy and Carbon, to increase the efficiency within the Office of Sustainability.”

Lafontaine sees the internship as an opportunity to provide context to her environmental health policy studies at Carolina.

“I can apply service-learning ideas to my internship to understand from a people perspective the effects that the CCAP will have on those living in Raleigh and surrounding areas. I am interested in environmental health policy, and seeing the change that will happen this summer with the CCAP will be instrumental in helping me understand how policies are enacted in cities.”

Interns like Lafontaine will complete more than 300 hours of service and share their experiences with poster presentations at the end of the summer. Follow @unc_apples on Instagram for internship updates and spotlights.


Getting Ready for Alternative Spring Break

By Justin Williford

For many University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill students, spring break 2019 was a time to engage with the state and region that they call home. With APPLES Service-Learning, a program of the Carolina Center for Public Service, over 50 students participated in the Alternative Spring Break trip. The student-led, staff-supported program combines academic learning in the classroom with an immersive eight-day service experience during spring break.

Robert Pleasants, Adjunct Assistant Professor in the Gillings School of Global Public Health and instructor for the Alternative Spring Break course, says that the course is designed for students to reflect on their own definitions of service and what makes service effective. In the course, participants read literature and have critical discussions related to better practices in engaged service. Students approach their Alternative Spring Break experience through a lens of asset-based sustainable social change, with an emphasis on listening to the community-identified needs.

“[The course] allows you to think about what service means to you and find ways to lead a life of integrity where you put that into practice,” said Pleasants. Through an emphasis on group collaboration and hearing the perspectives of others, students take what they gain from their in-class dialogues, and apply them to their own philosophies of service.

Giving Back to North Carolina

student rebuilding house affected by hurricaneService-learning students spent their spring breaks providing community service throughout the state and the region.

Story by Emilie Poplett, University Communications
Video by Rob Holliday, University Communications

While many Carolina students spent spring break traveling to tropical destinations for a week of well-deserved leisure, others used the time off to serve the state and region they call home.

Through the APPLES Service-Learning program’s Alternative Spring Break course, five groups of students traveled across North Carolina and Alabama to help address social issues impacting communities firsthand.

Their projects ranged from assisting with hurricane relief in Belhaven to serving at a food pantry in Lumberton, but Robert Pleasants said all students should take away an understanding of how to help their communities effectively.

“The Alternative Spring Break course is designed so that students can really have a chance to reflect on what service means to them, and also to help them think about what effective service is, what good service is,” said Pleasants, who teaches the course at the Carolina Center for Public Service.

Throughout the semester, Pleasants guides students on how to build meaningful relationships with the communities they serve.

Jeremy Baslious, a junior business administration major who is co-leading a trip to Robeson County, North Carolina, said the Alternative Spring Break class has given him insight into the mutually beneficial nature of service.

“I’ve come to realize that genuine community service often serves those who do the service more than the people being served,” Baslious said. “It’s so interesting being able to look locally and say, ‘Wow, I’m an hour away from here by car, and there’s this entire world that I haven’t been exposed to and could really benefit from learning a lot about.’”

group of students waving to camera from work siteDuring the trip to Robeson County, Baslious’s group met with members of the Lumbee Native American tribe to learn about challenges they face as a community, including environmental degradation in the area and misrepresentations of their culture in the news media.

Another group visited Belhaven, North Carolina, to help homeowners who were affected by hurricane Florence. The team worked to stabilize homes’ foundations to prevent future damage.

“We hope that if future flooding comes, [the homeowners] are not going to have to go through this process again,” said Carol-Ann Smith, a junior economics major and co-leader of the trip.

While Baslious’s and Smith’s groups became acquainted with rural parts of the state, another group visited Charlotte — the most populous city in North Carolina and one of the fastest growing cities in America.

Erin Ansbro, a senior biology and environmental studies major and co-leader of the Charlotte trip, said the trip focused on some of the socioeconomic challenges Charlotte faces and allowed students to learn from the nonprofits that have risen to combat those challenges.

Ansbro said she hopes her classmates will learn how to build on a community’s strengths to help address widespread issues like poverty and domestic violence.

“I think the most successful nonprofits are the ones that are based in the community and created by local community members,” she said. “Those are the organizations that are most sustainable. You can feel the difference — you can tell they care. They see people suffering in their community, and they want to make a change.”

She also hopes the trip showed students another side of the state they love, giving them the opportunity to experience and learn from communities different from their own.

Pleasants believes the class will inspire students to continue participating in community service in some way throughout their lives.

“[The class] really helps them think about what service means to them and find ways to then live a life of integrity where they can put that into practice,” he said.

Helping our Neighbors after Hurricane Florence

More than a dozen Carolina students spent their fall break helping in the recovery efforts in some North Carolina communities that were among the hardest hit by Hurricane Florence.

By Aaron Moger, University Communications

The students assisted in food and water distribution centers and helped clean flooded homes.

“The Carolina community has proven time and again that they are willing and ready to assist our neighbors who are going through this recovery process,” said Becca Bender, student programs officer at the Carolina Center for Public Service. “I think the fact that Carolina students and staff are willing to give time over the break to travel to other communities and help, shows that Tar Heels understand the impacts of these disasters and that it is a responsibility to our state to assist in the recovery.”

Bender spent fall break leading a group of students to Pollocksville, North Carolina, where they worked at a water and meal distribution center. In the days following Hurricane Florence, four feet of water covered the town’s streets.

“Pollocksville is a tiny town in eastern North Carolina that was severely affected by Hurricane Florence and does not have much infrastructure to bounce back quickly,” Bender said. “I think it is important for UNC volunteers to see a small community’s relief efforts.”

More than two hours west of Pollocksville, another group of Carolina students were helping a community in any way it could.

As part of the Carolina Center for Public Service’s APPLES Service-Learning program, a group of Tar Heels spent three days in Robeson County volunteering in relief centers and assisting in repairing houses damaged by flooding.

“We originally came to Lumberton because it’s a place where APPLES has continuously gone for each break,” said group co-leader Amy Cockerham, a junior. “This year we’re doing disaster relief because that’s what’s relevant.”

Initially, the service trip to Robeson County was scheduled to work with members of the Lumbee Tribe to learn about issues facing the area, but the storm quickly changed the students’ plans to help community members in need.

“The hurricane came out of nowhere and there’s a lot of disaster relief projects to be done. We shifted half of our trip to do so,” said Michelle He, a co-leader of the APPLES group. “There’s so much disaster, and there’s so much help that is needed. It’s worth giving up my fall break to help everyone.”

Eighty students reach more than 500 service hours through SLI

SLI fall 2018 studentsService is interwoven into the Carolina experience. So much so that over three days before classes even start, 80 students – 62 first-year students and 18 student leaders – have already given more than 500 hours of service working with 13 organizations in the Chapel Hill – Carrboro community.

Through APPLES Service-Learning Initiative (SLI), a unique student-led introduction to service-learning and the local Chapel Hill-Carrboro community, incoming first-year and transfer students learn about and work with APPLES community partners, become more aware of local social justice issues, form lasting friendships with other engaged students and are introduced to reflection as a tool for making meaning out of service experiences.

“SLI isn’t just learning about public service at Carolina. It’s a deep dive into what service-learning means and the start of a community that stays with you throughout your time at UNC,” said Andrew McKinnon ’20, a computer science major from Greenville, North Carolina. “This year, 62 incoming first-years served with 13 local community organizations, many of which were sustainable APPLES community partnerships.”

SLI participants worked on service projects related to organization, beautification and local advocacy topics. Students also spent time preparing for and facilitating summer camp activities at Kidzu Children’s Museum, delivered meals with TABLE and Meals on Wheels, completed landscaping projects with Wildwoods Farm and assisted teachers with setting up classrooms at McDougle Middle and Elementary Schools. Through their work, participants and their fellow student leaders fostered a lasting impact with community partners in the Chapel Hill- Carrboro area.


APPLES intern strikes the right chord with Carolina Meadows

summer intern 2018Carolina’s Turner Medlicott is enjoying the opportunity to share his love of music with the residents of Carolina Meadows through an internship with the Music & Memory program

By Johnny Andrews, University Communications

This summer, a member of the Marching Tar Heels is bringing his love for music to residents of the Carolina Meadows retirement community in Chapel Hill, one playlist at a time.

As an intern with Carolina Meadow’s Music & Memory program, UNC-Chapel Hill junior Turner Medlicott is helping patients with dementia reconnect with the world around them through music.

“Studies have found that people with different forms of dementia are really helped by music to either just calm them or to bring them more into the present or connect with their emotions,” said Medlicott, a psychology major.

Medlicott’s internship is 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.

Medlicott’s primary role is to create personalized playlists that are tailored specifically to a resident’s memories or interests.

“That requires me going in and talking to them and talking to their families about what music they enjoyed dancing to, what they enjoyed singing along to, maybe what they played at the wedding — songs that might have meant a lot to them,” he said.

The time and care he takes to create those playlists has made Medlicott an invaluable member of the Music & Memory team, said Carolina Meadows Volunteer Coordinator Kris O’Keefe.

“We really would not be able to keep it going if it weren’t for the interns from UNC-Chapel Hill,” she said.

Click here to watch Turner talk about his summer internship with Carolina Meadows.

Hiwot Ekuban: reflections on how service at Carolina led to a career helping others

By Hiwot A. Ekuban

Hiwot Ekuban in South AfricaBefore Carolina, my experiences with service were largely short-term endeavors, which I did in order to fulfill some sort of high school club requirement. However, as a soon-to-be Carolina alum, I can say with confidence that my philosophy of service has since expanded.

Not only should we serve, we must use our talents to fight systemic inequities, locally and globally. Service work should not be limited to well-intended “volunteerism” or mere conscientiousness. We all have a responsibility to eliminate structural inequality by targeting its root causes, not just treating the symptoms.

APPLES Service-Learning was key to transforming my perspective on effective community service.

APPLES is a student-led, staff supported organization that offers multiple programs to connect students to academic-enriched service experiences. Ultimately, APPLES championed my ideals of social justice while introducing me to new concepts regarding public service, such as the importance of community asset mapping, the role of policy in embedding social inequities, and the value of forming cooperative partnerships between multiple stakeholders.

I got involved with APPLES in my first year through the Alternative Break program. As a former APPLES Alternative Spring Break: Latinx Communities participant and break leader, I explored health disparities within the Latinx community that are inflated by a lack of immigration reform, ineffective labor laws, limited language access, racial discrimination and other forms of institutionalized bias.

Hiwot Ekuban on an APPLES alternative spring breakThe highlight of my experience was learning about the unique challenges that target migrant farmworkers’ access to health from Student Action with Farmworkers, a nonprofit organization in Durham, North Carolina. Despite contributing to a multimillion-dollar food industry, migrant farmworkers cannot afford the produce they harvest, much less health coverage. Their constant exposure to toxic pesticides puts them at risk for many chronic illnesses. Ineffective labor regulations, language barriers, lack of transportation and fear of deportation further marginalizes migrant farmworkers as a community and limits their access to health care.

By the end of the alternative spring break experience, I realized that the social determinants of health must be remedied in order to eliminate health inequities among marginalized communities. I decided to pursue a field that allows me to confront unethical public policy and empower vulnerable populations to sustain preventative health initiatives.

I was pleased to find the BSPH Health Policy and Management (HPM) program offered at the Gillings School of Global Public Health. The HPM program allowed me to study ways that policy enables health disparities and further stratifies the health of society by race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, documentation status, socioeconomic status, geographic location, religious affiliation and ability level.

Over time my approach to service has evolved to a systems-focused approach to eliminate social inequity, specifically health inequity. Once I graduate, I will return to my hometown of Concord, North Carolina to continue service at Cabarrus-Rowan Community Health Center, a clinic that offers sliding-fee payments to folks who cannot afford health services. One day, I envision incorporating my background in public health in my future career as a primary care physician.

Words cannot express my gratitude to APPLES for illuminating my true passions, and for the countless mentors, friends, community partners and educators for supporting me on this journey.

Doing more: Zaynab Nasif’s journey through service-learning

By Catie Armstrong

Zaynab Nasif, a senior global studies major from Raleigh, was already service-minded before she attended her first APPLES Service-Learning Alternative Spring Break trip in 2016. In high school, she was involved in service organizations that connected her to the community, but the experience left her yearning to do more when she came to Carolina.

2018 Alternative Spring Break participants at Foodbarn“Service, as I had known it before, was merely direct; I tutored elementary school students, which was one of my favorite experiences, but it didn’t go further than that,” she said. “With APPLES, I was able to discuss my service experiences more in-depth and critically think about why I was doing service and how it can expand toward advocacy and greater institutional change.”

APPLES offers alternative spring break experiences, providing students with opportunities to perform service activities across North Carolina, the Southeast and the mid-Atlantic during fall, winter and spring breaks. The student-led groups work collaboratively to engage in focus areas and learn more about their destination community before the trip occurs. Once at the destination, students explore a new culture and carry out meaningful community service.

During her sophomore year, Nasif’s first ASB was to Atlanta to learn about poverty and homelessness in a larger urban area. She was thrown out of her comfort zone; an experience she said allowed her to grow and inspired her to become more involved in service. Two years later, Nasif has expanded her engagement with ASB to co-lead the urban alternative spring trip to Atlanta.

“When I went on my ASB trip in 2016, there were times I was uncomfortable and out of my element,” Nasif said. “That’s what I wanted my participants this year to feel, because I think that’s when the most growth happens.”

Alongside co-leader Cameron Cooper, Nasif wanted to provide their participants with a well-rounded and meaningful break, similar to her first experience.

“As leaders, it was a totally different experience throughout because we realized we had to step back at times and let the participants feel that discomfort for themselves,” she said.

At times, this meant exposing the nine participants to situations that may be uncomfortable but would result in incredible learning experiences.

“We knew that the work the community partners were doing was difficult and often emotionally taxing, but also had a positive impact on the community,” Nasif said. “So we wanted our participants to see what it takes to be a community asset.”

One of the community service partners the urban communities ASB served this year was Re:Loom, a subset of the Initiative on Affordable Housing in Atlanta, which aids the community by employing individuals to turn recycled materials into clothing and accessories.

“From this year’s trip, I loved going to Re:Loom,” Nasif said. “The whole group ended up cutting up this giant festival poster to into small pieces to turn into bags, and we all bonded as we were helping out.”

2018 ASB participants in AtlantaShifting roles from serving as a participant to co-leader meant Nasif was able to take the elements she loved from her first ASB experience and supplement them by personalizing this year’s trip. Nasif designed the ASB experience to encompass everyone’s unique service interests, a quality she adopted from her former break leaders.

She highlighted the connection she felt when her team visited DeKalb International Student Center, a transition school for refugees. “I never saw a school operate the way it does,” she said. “Learning about the circumstances that many of the students were living in was also hard to dissect. It was the community partner that had the biggest impact on me personally, and I wanted others to feel that sense of connection and passion for a cause or organization.”

Nasif has always been interested in working in nonprofit settings and serving communities in need. Leading this alternative spring break reinforced her passion and opened her eyes to the reality of her future field.

“As a senior graduating in less than two weeks, I remember thinking ASB would be a one week experience, but I left feeling motivated to do more,” Nasif said.

She also emphasized the importance of the sustainable relationships APPLES breaks program has built with its community partners, particularly in Atlanta. Many of the community partners ASB serves have been partners for years, meaning participants have been able to see their impact grow.

“We know that a week of service will not alleviate all the problems that some of the communities are facing, but I think it is important to be exposed to what the partner is doing, how they are doing it, and what service-oriented leaders can do to help either in the moment or in the future.”


Tiffany Turner’s journey from needing food to a life passion for alleviating food insecurity

By Charlotte McArthur

Tiffany Turner works to alleviate food insecurityMost Mondays for the past four years, Tiffany Turner could be found sorting cans and packing food boxes at TABLE. She did this because alleviating food insecurity is a passion born from personal experience. Now a senior majoring in public policy and minoring in social and economic justice, and marine science, Turner exemplifies the essence of Carolina community involvement through her passions for service, teaching others the value of healthy eating, and providing scholarships and opportunities to undocumented students.

Turner, a 2018 graduate from Greensboro, North Carolina, spent her time at Carolina serving the community as a Bonner Leader and Buckley Public Service Scholar participant and was awarded an inaugural Scott D. MacDonald Community Service Fellowship. Since July of 2017, she has served as the executive director for the nonprofit Pupusas for Education. Pupusas for Education is the sister venture to So Good Pupusas, a food truck and catering company started by a UNC alumna that uses its profits to provide scholarships to undocumented students.

“Nonprofits touch every person’s life in some way, shape or form, and for me, they had a particularly strong impact,” Turner said. “When I was younger, I had a big sister from the Big Brothers Big Sisters of America program and received weekly food bags from food pantries. As soon as my family was in a more financially stable situation, I began to do my part to pay it forward and help organizations think through how we could take their impact to the next level.”

Turner said that while she is grateful for the role nonprofits played in her life, she often felt frustrated about the lack of representation in their staff and the way in which nonprofits approached their work.

“Many of the food pantries that served weekly meals were not thinking much about culturally relevant and appropriate foods, and I wanted to change that thinking,” Turner said. “Once I started this work, I knew it was the work that I wanted to do for the rest of my life.”

Tiffany Turner volunteers at TABLEIn addition to participating in the Buckley Public Service Scholars program, Turner served in the Campus Y’s Bonner Leaders program where she worked with community partner TABLE to alleviate food insecurity in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro community. In the summers after her sophomore and junior years, Turner was a fellow in the Jamie Kirk Hahn Foundation Fellowship and later served as the food systems team senior fellow. In class, Turner connected the dots between her community work and academics through two APPLES Service-Learning courses, Nonprofit Consulting and Public Policy Clinic, and Philanthropy as a Tool for Social Change.

“If it were not for the Buckley Public Service Scholars program and the Bonner Leaders program, I may not have settled on a major course of study that aligned with my values and passions — public policy,” Turner said. “I can attribute much of my success in college to these two programs and the people behind the scenes who believed in me and encouraged me.”

Turner added that she is happy to have helped change the dominant narrative in the spaces that she has been in and has worked to ensure that the voices that needed to be at the table were heard. The community was always at the forefront of her work.

“Overall, I think I have grown so much from these experiences,” Turner said. “In teaching others about healthy eating, I also learned about it myself. In working to fight for equity in education for undocumented students, I’ve grown closer to the students we’ve worked with and learned much about mentorship. In all of these things, I have become more vocal and less afraid to speak up for what I believe in.”

After graduation, Turner plans to stay with Pupusas for Education for the summer to pilot a Summit and Fellowship program for undocumented students. In August, she will move to New York City to conduct a yearlong fellowship at FoodCorps, a nonprofit on a mission to work with communities to connect kids to healthy food in school, through the Newman’s Own Foundation Fellowship program. Turner plans to return to North Carolina after her fellowship year with hopes of continuing her work with Pupusas for Education, taking part in another nonprofit program or attending graduate school.


Serving Latinx communities

Students from the Carolina Center for Public Service’s APPLES Service-Learning program spent their spring break in various communities around the country to see firsthand the range of issues impacting citizens.

By Gladys Sanchez

2017 APPLES alternative spring breakAs a Latina, leading the APPLES Service-Learning Alternative Spring Break: Latinx Communities was very important to me. I wanted the trip to encompass many Latinx communities, including those in urban areas, not just the usual presentation of Latinx communities as farmworkers.

For this trip, I traveled with my co-leader and 10 other participants to the North Carolina cities of Durham, Charlotte, Burgaw, Rocky Point, Atkinson, Wilmington, Raleigh and Dunn.

We learned about Latinx people who work in many sectors, such as business, construction, restaurants and contract work. We also learned about nonprofit organizations available in the area to help them.

While many Latinx communities face certain similar issues, there are many issues that arise depending on what kind of environment they are living in.

Organizations such as El Pueblo in Raleigh, Latin American Coalition in Charlotte and Amigos International in Wilmington are nonprofit organizations that offer immigration services, English classes, job-employment, Know Your Rights workshops, cultural festivals and so much more. Other organizations include Pender County Farmworker Health Program in Atkinson, Pender Christian Services in Burgaw, Episcopal Farmworkers Ministry in Dunn, which help the Latinx communities in rural North Carolina by providing immigration services and access to food and health services.

Working with these nonprofits, the Latinx trip gave hundreds of service hours to cities across North Carolina.

APPLES 2017 Latinx alternative spring break Our group created brochures for farmworkers and painted new workspaces for the Pender County Farmworker Health Program; organized the El Camino Community Center’s food pantry; cleaned and organized the entire facility of Pender Christian Services; created intake folders for immigration legal clinics at the Latin American Coalition; discussed the benefits of college with Latinx high school students in Pender County; and organized classrooms and workspaces for St. Martin’s Migrant Head Start.

We learned about day laborers, rights of farmworkers, the different types of farmworkers, legal cases involving the agribusiness and farmworkers, the state of DACA, Latinxs in business, Latinxs in the New South, the Latinx youth and their education, and the unification of all Latinos through cultural festivals.

All APPLES alternative spring break experiences have a class component that guides participants in understanding the work they will do in the communities — how every member of a community can be seen as an asset in their own way. We were able to see that in these communities, from the nonprofit organizations we visited to area businesses to the schools we visited.

Not only was I able to show other Carolina students the reality of the lives of Latinx communities as I led this alternative spring break, but the trip itself was also a re-affirmation for me.

I know I want to make a career out of aiding the Latinx community as much as possible. To be able to show the Latinx population in the New South was a life-changing experience because I was able to apply what I have learned in the classroom about Latinx communities to actual places and people for one week. I am very proud to have led this alternative break trip.