APPLES awards individuals and organizations for excellence in service-learning

By Charlotte MacArthur

Dedication to service-learning and a commitment to community – that’s what this year’s APPLES Award recipients have in common. From offering financial education to individuals in the community experiencing homelessness to supporting students’ efforts for sustainable gardening to promoting social change through interactive theatre, this year’s recipients have impacted the community in meaningful ways.

2018 APPLES award receipientsThe APPLES Service-Learning program recently honored three individuals and two community partners for providing significant contributions to service-learning at Carolina and support to APPLES.

Joyce Yao ‘20, a public policy major from Chapel Hill, received the 2018 Undergraduate Excellence Award for her leadership and substantial contributions to the campus and community through organizations such as the Community Empowerment Fund (CEF), a local organization offering financial support and education to individuals experiencing homelessness to help them secure their goals of affordable housing, financial independence and health insurance. Yao also works with The Marian Cheek Jackson Center to help honor and build community relations in Chapel Hill’s Northside neighborhood.

This past year, Yao became trained as a Certified Application Counselor. After this training, she was able to support CEF members as they navigated the health insurance marketplace and obtained health insurance during the open enrollment period.

Volunteers for Youth (VFY) received the 2018 Community Partner Excellence Award. Founded in 1981, Volunteers for Youth offers mentoring programs, community service and teenage outreach. VFY started the Juvenile Community Service and Restitution Program where youth who have broken a law are assigned community service hours. VFY is a long-time partner with the Buckley Public Service Scholars and APPLES Service-Learning programs, and provides Carolina students mentoring opportunities through SMART Mentoring.

“Volunteers for Youth is honored to receive this year’s Community Partner Excellence Award from APPLES and is inspired by the UNC students whose dedication and passion for community service make our work possible,” said Susan Worley, VFY executive director.

Amy Cooke received the 2018 Teaching Excellence Award for her dedication to Edible Campus UNC, which works to create working landscapes across the UNC campus and facilitate student engagement in sustainability. As the director of undergraduate studies in the Department of Environment and Ecology, Cooke developed and teaches an APPLES Service-Learning course that works to sustain the community gardens.

In addition to Edible Campus UNC, Cooke also supports other food initiatives, such as the Real Food Calculator, by providing interns and guidance.

George Barrett 2018 APPLES AwardsGeorge Barrett ‘13 received the 2018 Outstanding Alumni Award. During his senior year at Carolina, Barrett served as an APPLES Service-Learning volunteer at The Marian Cheek Jackson Center.

“Always volunteer,” Barrett said at the event. “You never know where it will lead you.” Barrett is now the Jackson Center’s associate director and continues his relationship with APPLES by connecting almost 500 students and nine APPLES courses with the Jackson Center.

“My mom taught me that the purpose in life is to help others,” Barrett said. “Everything I learned about service I learned from my mother.”

Theater Delta received the 2018 Service-Learning Award in Honor of Ned Brooks in memory of its founder, Ben Saypol. Saypol founded Theater Delta and promoted social progress with interactive theater that challenges others to look inward to change their perspectives. Theater Delta is lauded across the country for its scripted and improvisational audience participatory theater to foster dialogue and implement solutions that result in change in communities around the globe. Theater Delta operates on a pedagogy that recognizes when participants engage characters and conflict and take part in dialogue to process the issues, they are more likely to change personal attitudes and behaviors. Many UNC students have seen Saypol’s legacy; while working for Interactive Theater Carolina, Saypol developed the interactive play that is still used at each Carolina new student orientation. Saypol later founded Theater Delta to extend and continue this work beyond Carolina’s campus.

Lyn Dickinson, the current executive director of Theater Delta and Saypol’s widow, accepted the award on his behalf. She spoke to the audience about how her late-husband was a passionate teacher at heart. She said he was inspired to take the experience of interactive theater to the community, and Theater Delta continues to push his work and mission forward.


Leaving your Heel print: How one senior leaves his mark through service

By Becca Kronebusch

For John Paul (JP) Zalaquett, a senior music major from Matthews, North Carolina, service to others began long before he came to UNC. From working with Habitat for Humanity ReStore to serving at an orphanage in Mexico, service is second nature to Zalaquett. It is no surprise that at UNC, he jumped into service through the APPLES Service-Learning and Buckley Public Service Scholars programs.

“I am passionate about public service because many needs exist in our communities, and whether we realize it or not, we are all affected when some of those needs are not met,” Zalaquett said. “By stewarding our resources well, we can often address those needs within our own community.”

JP Zalaquett and other APPLES SLI site leaders

Before even stepping into a UNC classroom, Zalaquett participated in APPLES Service-Learning Initiative (SLI). Over three days in the week before classes started, Zalaquett learned about and worked with community partners in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro area. He served at the State Employees Credit Union Family House, Club NOVA and Wildwoods Farm. Since SLI, he has participated in several other service experiences impacting North Carolina and beyond.

But in October 2017, service beyond the local community took on a new meaning for Zalaquett because his aunts and uncles were some of the many people living in Puerto Rico whose lives were distressed by Hurricane Maria. Maria knocked out cell phone service across the island, and Zalaquett was left anxious and worried about his family’s safety for weeks until he was finally able to contact them.

“When we did hear from them, they told us about a lot of flooding and no drinking water, so they had to rely on water bottles,” he said. “Their diet consisted of soup, oatmeal, cornmeal, rice, beans and canned meat in the weeks after Maria hit.”

Zalaquett knew he had to do something. That something was assembling disaster relief cleaning supply buckets for the Carolina Bucket Brigade. It was an act of love to help his family in Puerto Rico recover from Hurricane Maria’s destruction.

JP Zalaquett at Carolina Bucket BrigadeParticipating in the Carolina Bucket Brigade, sponsored by the Carolina Center for Public Service and Carolina Athletics, was a tangible way for Zalaquett to help his family and others affected by disasters that hit Texas, Puerto Rico, Florida and Mexico.

“I am passionate about disaster relief efforts because natural disasters are largely unpredictable and unpreventable and can affect anyone, both directly and indirectly,” he said. “Last year, I was indirectly yet very personally affected by a natural disaster, so disaster relief is particularly meaningful to me.”

In addition to disaster relief, Zalaquett credits APPLES Service-Learning and SMART Mentoring for giving him other opportunities to serve, think critically about the effectiveness and sustainability of service, and build meaningful relationships in the community.

Zalaquett is also a participant in the Buckley Public Service Scholars program (BPSS). BPSS helps students expand their understanding of service, connect academic and community-based experiences and build their capacity to help effect change. Through BPSS, Zalaquett serves as a SMART Mentor.

“SMART Mentoring allowed me to form a one-on-one social mentoring relationship with a local middle school student,” Zalaquett said. “I have gained much insight into the community outside of the campus bubble. This has been the most interpersonal service experience I’ve had through the Buckley Public Service Scholars program so far. My upbringing was different than that of my mentee, so I learn a lot from him seeing his unique life experiences first-hand.”

At Carolina, Zalaquett has held leadership roles in several APPLES programs. In addition to SLI, he participated in Alternative Fall Break, served as site leader for SLI experiences and became a co-leader for alternative breaks. Zalaquett worked as an APPLES summer fellow and is now working as the CCPS Union office manager.

Coming to Carolina with service already in his blood, Zalaquett said that he will leave UNC with the spirit of service running more deeply in his veins.

To learn more about these service experiences and opportunities, visit CCPS Disaster Relief, APPLES Service-Learning and SMART Mentoring.

– Carolina –

Service experiences lead to dream career for senior Analisa Sorrells

For Analisa Sorrells, a December 2017 graduate from Windermere, Florida, time in service at UNC led her to her dream career path – one of giving back and helping others.

Analisa Sorrells volunteering at TABLE“When I arrived at Carolina, I immediately got involved with Tar Heel TABLE and the Buckley Public Service Scholars (BPSS) program,” Sorrells said. “I was set on studying nutrition. I was fascinated by food and how it impacted our health and our livelihoods. I took an entire first year of prerequisites – anatomy and organic chemistry in all – before a few experiences that completely changed my academic and career course.”

Those experiences were in service.

The summer after her freshman year, Sorrells interned with Feeding Children Everywhere, an Orlando nonprofit that provides healthy meals to those in need. “I learned more about the startling reality of childhood hunger – both domestically and internationally – and about the various nonprofits and organizations working to end it,” Sorrells said.

“When I returned to UNC for my sophomore year, I took on a larger role in Tar Heel TABLE, learning more about hunger that existed right outside my dorm window in Chapel Hill.”

At the same time, Sorrells also enrolled in her first public policy class. “I took the class on a whim and fell in love with the material. For the first time, I learned about more than just the social problems facing our world – but about the possibility we each have to make a positive impact on them through our careers and through service. I changed my major to public policy and never looked back. After taking the APPLES service-learning course on nonprofit consulting and serving as a board member for TABLE, my interest in the nonprofit sector was solidified.”

During her sophomore year, Sorrells also participated in an APPLES Service-Learning alternative winter break where she was introduced to the concept of learning outside of the classroom. She engaged in hands-on service in the Asheville community, meeting with community leaders, local government agencies and nonprofits connected to hunger and homelessness.

“I was able to grasp the issues at hand more deeply than ever before,” Sorrells said. “This experience encouraged me to enroll in APPLES service-learning courses and continue pursuing skills trainings through BPSS, as they completed my undergraduate experience in a way that traditional coursework never could.”

During the summer of 2017, Sorrells partnered with EducationNC through the Jamie Kirk Hahn Foundation Fellowship. She worked on the early childhood team and learned more about the importance of early childhood education, nonprofit management and social justice. Her project with EducationNC combined her interests in education and nutrition, allowing her to study and report on summer meal programs in North Carolina.

After her fellowship, EducationNC offered Sorrells a position as a reporter and executive fellow for the spring of 2018. Now with more than 300 service hours under her belt through BPSS, APPLES and TABLE, Sorrells said that this position is a perfect fit for her interests.

“It allows me to work in a nonprofit organization that I believe is striving to make North Carolina a better place for all,” she said. “I will travel across the state and meet with various leaders and change-makers, as well as report on pressing issues in education and public health. I look forward to taking the lessons I’ve learned inside and outside of the classroom at Carolina and put them into action with my role at EducationNC.”


Photo credit: Rhesa Versola

Carolina Bucket Brigade

By Davis McKinney

Students in the pit filling buckets wtih clearning supplies at the Carolina Bucket Brigade.By definition, a bucket brigade is a chain of persons acting to put out a fire by passing buckets of water from hand to hand. On Friday, Nov. 10, more than 100 students and student-athletes responded to the call to aid those affected by recent hurricanes by participating in the first-ever Carolina Bucket Brigade. Students packed nearly 200 buckets with cleaning supplies to support relief efforts for disaster-affected areas like Puerto Rico, Texas, Florida and Mexico.

Both in the Pit and the Loudermilk Center for Excellence, students made their way down an assembly line, gathering cleaning supplies including dish soap, rubber gloves, air freshener, sponges and other much-needed items. The result was nearly 200 assembled buckets, which will be donated to the North Carolina Conference of the United Methodist Church and shipped to the areas in need.

“I loved assembling a bucket. It was so easy and it’ll help a lot of people,” said Sarah Grace McKinney, a first-year at UNC. “It’s great to know my school is working to help those who need it in so many places devastated by hurricanes.”

Student athletes at Blue Zone bucket brigadeHosted by the Carolina Center for Public Service in partnership with Carolina Athletics, the Carolina Bucket Brigade was one of many campus efforts to aid those still recovering from the recent hurricanes. “Carolina Athletics is thrilled to again partner with the Carolina for Public Service and to contribute to the bucket brigade project,” Korie Rich, assistant director for student-athlete development, said. “We know that people in our state are still recovering from Hurricane Matthew, and our student-athletes are glad to be able to help in any way possible. UNC recently hosted a men’s basketball jamboree to raise funds for disaster relief, and the Carolina Bucket Brigade is another concrete way for us to join with fellow Tar Heels as part of the ongoing relief effort, both in North Carolina and in other areas recently affected by natural disasters.”

The Carolina Bucket Brigade event was made possible through generous donations from Sherwin-Williams stores in Durham and Chapel Hill, as well as the local Home Depot, PPG Paints and numerous Walmart stores.

Though the event is over, donors can still support the University in its response to natural disasters by donating to the UNC Disaster Relief Fund.

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 made possible through the Murdock Family Alternative Break Experience Fund. 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.


Water Over the Bridge

By Alyssa LaFaro, Endeavors

From the competitive ports of China, to the innovative flood gates of the Netherlands, to the shifting sands of the Outer Banks, the sea creeps farther up the coastline every single day, and the distance between the top of the water and the bottom of bridges decreases — a major issue for port economies. UNC American studies professor Rachel Willis searches for solutions to help these communities cope with the impact of sea-level rise.

Orange traffic cones surround a fluorescent yellow-garbed construction worker on NC-12. He raises his hand perpendicular to the roadway, signaling to slow down with a weathered red stop sign. As cars speed past in the left-hand lane, enormous cranes on ocean barges lift heavy beams onto a bridge being built alongside the existing one.

Hurricane impact sidebarMore than 14,000 vehicles cross the Herbert C. Bonner Bridge every day — a lifeline for the people of Ocracoke and Hatteras islands, connecting them to the Northern Outer Banks. Below the bridge, tides from the Atlantic Ocean push into the widening Oregon Inlet, breaking through to the Pamlico Sound.

The Bonner Bridge Replacement Project began on March 8, 2016. The new structure is designed to withstand 100 years of ocean currents, built with high-durability concrete and reinforced stainless steel. But it comes after years of failed attempts to create a durable bridge and countless arguments over environmental concerns.

Constant beach erosion, severe weather, and high traffic volumes have regularly compromised the state of this roadway since its completion in 1963. In 1990, in the middle of the night, a state trooper watched a dredge collide with the bridge during a brutal nor’easter, causing 400 feet of roadway to collapse into the waves below. For three-and-a-half months, Hatteras Island could only be accessed by boat or plane. In 2013, safety concerns closed the bridge for 12 days when routine sonar scanning showed that substantial sand erosion had compromised the support structure. And in the summer of 2017, construction crews struck major underground electrical cables, knocking out power to Ocracoke and Hatteras islands for weeks.

Since the bridge’s original construction, more than $300 million has been spent to protect and repair it.

Thorp Faculty Engaged Scholar Rachel WillisRachel Willis watches the bridge construction from the water’s edge on Hatteras Island. She sighs.

“The ocean wants to open that inlet,” she says. “But we have put all this development and coastal infrastructure in a fixed place — and nature keeps taking it back. How are we preparing to protect the people in these communities? How can we make them less vulnerable? The answer is not ignoring the signs that nature gives us.”

Willis, a professor of American studies, global studies, economics, and a Thorp Faculty Engaged Scholar, researches the intersection of transportation infrastructure and sea-level rise.

How does a labor economist end up studying climate change? The answer is not one you’d expect: socks.

Knitting global social fabric

In the early 1990s, Willis and students compiled data from every child care center in North Carolina — research that contributed to the development of Smart Start legislation. In 1994, while presenting this research at a conference, she met a sock manufacturer who would eventually introduce her to Dan St. Louis, an industry specialist who created training programs to help factories better communicate with employees and help workers become better contributors.

Over the next 10 years, Willis followed the lifecycle of socks around the world. She traveled to Italy to learn where the machines were manufactured, to China to understand business practices of the United States’ soon-to-be biggest competitor, and to the Czech Republic to see where all the Soviet Union sock-knitting machines were made. In North Carolina, she visited more than 200 sock factories and interviewed thousands of workers, owners, supervisors, and suppliers, among other people in the industry.

But it wasn’t just about socks.

“A sock is circular knitting — what goes around comes around,” she says. “Following these complex knitting patterns around the world showed how everything is connected. The purpose of this research was, really, to find out the future of manufacturing, which was obviously declining in the United States. It quickly became clear that cost-effective land transportation was vital to global competitiveness.”

By land or by sea?

When you drive into Morehead City, you can follow the train tracks all the way to the port thanks to the city’s namesake John Motley Morehead, who, as governor, oversaw their construction in the 19thcentury. Today, boats still arrive at the port and directly load goods onto the trains, which make deliveries to local factories and villages along the corridor.

But this kind of infrastructure is the exception. “We’ve undervalued trains as a transportation method in this country,” Willis says. “It’s all about the interstate system here.”

Here’s why Willis believes the nation must put goods on railcars and then get railcars to ports: It costs about 80 cents per mile to move one metric ton of freight on an airplane. It costs 27 cents to move it by truck. It costs 2 cents by rail. “It costs one penny by water — and also by pipeline,” Willis stresses. These numbers don’t just represent product cost — they are a proxy for the amount of carbon put into the atmosphere to move goods around the planet.

The search for a solution

Thorp Faculty Engaged Scholar Rachel Willis bikingThe Dutch have a famous saying: “God built the world, but the Dutch built Holland.” About one-fifth of the Netherlands lies below sea level and 60 percent is vulnerable to flooding — startling statistics that the Dutch have learned to live with. Unlike most of the world, they have always worked to maintain a symbiotic relationship with the water.

Willis has always been fascinated by Dutch resiliency. And with good reason.

In the 13th century, they were already reclaiming land through the construction of dykes after flooding. Two hundred years later, the invention of the rotating turret windmill not only pumped water out of permanently flooded lands — it provided an energy source. Fast-forward to 1852, when the Dutch government reclaimed the land that is now Amsterdam’s Schipol Airport. They spent the next century taking land back from the sea and, in the 1980s, began the largest land reclamation project and erected the grandest flood barrier that the world has ever seen.

The barrier, called Maeslantkering, is equivalent in size to two Eiffel Towers placed horizontally on the water in the Hook of Holland. In 2015, Willis decided she had to go see it for herself. To get there from Amsterdam, she hopped on a wind-powered train (all Dutch trains are powered by wind) and headed to the Hook of Holland, where she rented a bike to complete the rest of the journey.

“I biked along the road between the shipping canal and the new high-capacity wind turbines that are powering all their trains,” she says. “It was amazing to see how you can take problems like high winds and turn them into solutions.” She also took a tour of the barrier and got to see firsthand the complex interactions of moving freight transportation.

“If you’re looking for an insane field trip, go see where these solutions are in full force,” she advises. Another great example, according to Willis, is the Thames Barrier— which prevents Greater London from high tides and storm surges moving up the North Sea. Stretching 1,700 feet across the Thames, the barrier’s 10 steel gates remain flush with the river floor until a threat of high tide — and then they’re rotated upward, to the height of a five-story building, to block rising waters from entering the city. The whole process takes anywhere from 75 to 90 minutes.

“In 2013 alone, the barrier was used 50 times,” Willis says. Since its completion in 1984, the barrier has raised its gates nearly 180 times.

A wonder of the modern world

Although the Dutch continued to pump water from land in the 20th century, they still encountered problems from flooding. The North Sea Flood of 1953, for example, killed more than 2,000 people and put more than 370,000 acres of land underwater. In response, the government began Delta Works, a series of construction projects involving dams, sluices, locks, dykes, levees, and storm surge barriers to secure and protect the deltas of the southwest Netherlands.

In addition, at Maasvlakte 2, they’ve built ports and shipping facilities on reclaimed land that doesn’t conflict with people living in nearby communities. “The Dutch spend the same percentage of their national income on infrastructure related to water management as the U.S. spends on military,” Willis says. “Because fighting the water is their national defense.”

That’s why Willis headed to the Netherlands again this past summer — to speak with experts in engineering, infrastructure, and regional planning. In recent years, the Dutch have refocused their efforts on engineering with nature to provide coastal protection. In 2011, they used 21 million cubic meters of sand to form a hook-shaped peninsula called the “sand engine,” which enables the forces of the ocean to deposit sand along the North Sea coast.

Willis realizes that these solutions are not financially possible for most of the world’s coastlines including India, Brazil, and even regions of the United States. “The costs are astronomical for all but the wealthiest communities and countries,” she says. “They are simply not in the community’s budget, much less the national or global budget.” The physical resources needed to develop these solutions are also in short global supply, she points out.

Optimism and education

Approximately 50 percent of the world’s population will live within 30 miles of the coast by 2050, according to Willis. What does this mean for neighborhoods, for families that live by the water’s edge? How do we prepare people for threats from more intense storms? Even more importantly, what happens to humans in places that are at-risk now, in places like the Maldives, Vietnam, and the Outer Banks?

“I have great optimism about finding solutions,” Willis says. “Because I’ve seen extraordinary examples of them.” She stresses that working toward solutions involves seeing the whole picture.

“Our goals are not American — our goals are global. That means continuing to travel to see how other countries are adapting to rising sea levels and more frequent flooding. Because the problem is not going away. It’s water over the bridge. These destructive flooding events are going to be more severe and more frequent as time goes on. We have to have a better plan, and our first step is educating people on why we need to move back from the water. We need to look at infrastructure in the short run that is adaptable to these flood waters, but we need to use policy and incentives to stop building at the edge.”

Rachel Willis is a professor of American studies, global studies, and economics within the UNC College of Arts & Sciences. She is a Thorp Faculty Engaged Scholar.

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

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.

One year after Hurricane Matthew, UNC’s work in the community continues

One of the most destructive hurricanes in the past decade, Hurricane Matthew delivered more than 13 inches of rain in North Carolina over the course of 24 hours. It caused $1.5 billion in flood damage to 100,000 houses, businesses and government buildings, took the lives of 28 North Carolinians, forced more than 4,000 people to evacuate, and slammed into 50 counties across the state, according to the North Carolina Department of Public Safety. One year later, North Carolina is still recovering and UNC continues to help those affected – first in the recovery process and now assisting with rebuilding.


Hurricane Matthew disaster relief trip to FayettevilleThe Carolina Center for Public Service has pledged $5,000 for building materials to the Adopt-A-Home program founded by the North Carolina Conference of the United Methodist Church (NCCUMC). Adopt-A-Home completely rebuilds and furnishes houses for displaced Lumberton residents. The Center will work with the Employee Forum, the Carolina Hazards Resilience Planners and other campus partners to provide volunteer labor to repair roofs, install walls and flooring, paint and more.

More than 1,000 Lumberton homes were damaged by Hurricane Matthew and for many residents not yet back in their homes, insurance and FEMA checks do not cover the full cost of repairs. Help from the UNC community ensures that another family will return to their home. In Lumberton, 176 houses are either finished or are currently being rebuilt.

Gary Locklear, regional director of Disaster Response for NCCUMC and a Pembroke, North Carolina native, witnessed his neighbors’ heartbreak as they looked at the remains of what used to be their homes.

“That was my first dose of reality,” Locklear said. “To watch this elderly woman asking ‘what can I keep.’”

Each home adopted through the program will be handicap accessible and will have new appliances. For homes that are beyond repair and must be rebuilt, there are two, three and four bedroom floorplan options to ensure each home is tailored to each family’s needs.

“I’m so passionate because Lumberton is home for me,” Locklear said. “I was there; I sat through all that rain. So many of these clients of ours, I know them… It makes them feel so good when I know someone they know or they recognize my name, and they feel they can trust me.”

Because the program relies on free labor, each house takes several months to build. The primary needs are for carpentry and construction volunteers, and money to meet the shortfall between the actual cost to rebuild or repair and insurance and FEMA funds.

Disaster Relief Trips

In the weeks and months after Hurricane Matthew, groups of UNC students, faculty and staff traveled to Lumberton, Garland, Princeville and Fayetteville, North Carolina to help with recovery efforts. Their work included mucking out buildings, tearing down water-logged walls and cabinetry, pulling up floors and removing debris. The next phase in the relief effort focuses on rebuilding. This semester, the Carolina Center for Public Service is sponsoring rebuilding trips to Lumberton on Oct. 6 and Dec. 1. These day trips are open to the campus community — faculty, staff and students. Work includes installing floors, walls and cabinets, painting and roof repair. While no experience is required, those with building skills are encouraged to volunteer. With supervisor approval, staff and faculty can use community service leave to participate in a relief trip.

Darrell Kidd on a disaster relief trip to LumbertonDarrell Kidd, exercise and sport science utility crew supervisor, has worked in construction for many years. He and his wife, Teresa, who is an accounting tech in the School of Social Work, participated in a disaster relief trip last December and plan to work in disaster rebuilding when they retire from UNC.

“I believe our trip helped people see that there are those who care – [from] those who are older to those who are young,” Kidd said. “We had a great mixed group that worked hard together and I am interested in going down again with UNC. I have many talents in the construction area and believe that I could be of help to those who are working hard to restore the homes that were damaged.”

To learn more about UNC disaster relief trips, visit Hurricane Matthew Disaster Relief efforts.


Researchers across UNC-Chapel Hill are also working on projects in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew. More than sixteen teams are working on storm-related projects on topics such as water quality, buy-out programs and coastal resilience.

Mark Little, director of NC Growth, is helping to coordinate a corporate community investment project and other UNC system resources to address Princeville’s challenges and needs around rebuilding nearly the entire town, much of which sits in a floodplain.

Larry Engle, an epidemiology professor, is developing a web-based tool to help local public health professionals and state decision-makers prioritize and target community-level interventions for areas impacted by hurricanes.

Gavin Smith, Coastal Resilience Center director and head of the Hurricane Matthew Disaster Recovery and Resilience Initiative, and his team are working with city officials and local residents in six priority communities across eastern North Carolina to assist them in developing post-disaster recovery plans.

To learn more about UNC research on Hurricane Matthew, see the Hurricane Matthew infographic.

If you would like to get involved in any of these efforts or know of other projects to share, contact

– Carolina –

Public service trainings connect students to community organizations

By Becca Kronebusch

The Buckley Public Service Scholars program (BPSS) strives to provide students with various diverse, specialized training opportunities within the community. One recent training partnership between BPSS and the YMCA of the Triangle taught students on how to effectively protect children from abuse through the Stewards of Children program.

Ryan Nilsen, program officer for the Carolina Center for Public Service, said there was a great deal of interest in training programs promoting child safety.

“It was a great fit because we have so many students looking for trainings and so many of those students are working directly with children,” Nilsen said.

Meredith Stewart, YMCA Child Safety and Program Risk Meredith Stewart, director of Child Safety and Program Risk at the YMCA, is a passionate advocate for Stewards of Children and leads most training sessions. In her training sessions, Stewart shares that one out of every 10 children is sexually assaulted in the United States. Learning about how to protect children in our community is paramount to ending child abuse.

“The sexual abuse of children is preventable, and I might have some information… that, if shared with other adults, can save a child,” Stewart said. “It is my responsibility to share this education with others so that children are protected and cared for and we, as a community, grow the next generation of healthy adults.”

Training sessions cover the five steps of protecting children: learning the facts, minimizing the opportunity, talking about it, recognizing the signs and reacting responsibly.

BPSS student Julia Corbett, a junior public policy and economics major from Somers, New York, said she participated in the training because as a camp counselor and babysitter, she cares about the children she interacts with.

“The most beneficial part of the training for me was the video interviews with survivors of child sexual abuse,” Corbett said. “Their stories were revealing and informative, and it helped me understand how abuse happens, what it looks like and its impact on children and survivors.”

Stewart also said she values the partnership between BPSS and Stewards of Children. One of her favorite parts about these sessions is meeting different people and learning from them.

“The story of child sexual abuse is not mine alone to tell,” she said. “I am just a messenger and teacher of prevention and awareness. I always say the best way to learn something is to teach it so I will keep teaching and learning… to change the statistics on child abuse.”

Stewards of Children will continue to partner with BPSS to train more students to successfully advocate for all children. The program also has community training sessions in various locations across the Triangle. Visit the YMCA of the Triangle to learn more or register for a community training session.