Inaugural MacDonald Community Service Scholars begin their work

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By Janell Smith

Edited cropped MacDonald ScholarsAs the nation’s first public university, public service is part of UNC’s mission. Now a new scholarship is helping to make service an integral part of students’ academic experience, too. The MacDonald Community Service Scholarship provides tuition support to a select group of four incoming students who have demonstrated a commitment to community service.

Anish Bhatia of New Hyde Park, New York; Maximiliano Flores-Palacios of Gastonia, North Carolina; Finn Loendorf of Stanley, North Carolina; and John Roberson of Durham, North Carolina were selected as the inaugural scholars.

The MacDonald Community Service Scholarship, renewable for four years, also enables students to participate in a unique series of programs focused on increasing their knowledge and skills related to community service.

“I never saw myself as someone who really went out of their way for community service,” Finn Leondorf said. “And I certainly never thought it could lead to something as exciting as the MacDonald Community Service Scholarship.”

In addition to the tuition scholarship, MacDonald Scholars are also enrolled in the Buckley Public Service Scholars program, which will help them develop their public service portfolios and skills related to community service. They are also part of the First-Year Service Corps and will complete 100 hours of service in their first year at Carolina alone.

In their third year, Leondorf, Flores-Palacios, Roberson and Bhatia will become MacDonald Community Fellows through the MacDonald Community Fellowship, where they will create individual public service projects and receive funding to implement the project. Their unique service projects will be completed by the time they graduate.

Though this seems like a tall order, these first-year students are not intimidated by the scholarship requirements.

“Ultimately, public service is an investment,” Max Flores-Palacios said. “Engaging in one’s community betters that community; not only for ourselves but also for future generations and I think that is what public service is about–building on our communities so that future generations can live in greater harmony.”

While the future seems far away for these inaugural MacDonald scholars, their career aspirations range from creating social entrepreneurial businesses to practicing social justice law to working in health professions. At the core of the each of their plans is to maintain a spirit of service.

“It’s important to me to be engaged in public service,” John Roberson said. “I have had many privileges growing up, socially, economically, geographically and so on, and there are far too many who did not and do not have those privileges.

“I think … it’s my responsibility to use my privilege, whether it be my money, time, voice or other resources, to help those without.”

In addition to their scholarship, these MacDonald Scholars will complete at least 1,000 hours of service over the next four years at Carolina. They also will receive training, mentorship and support in pursuing their particular public service interests.

“While I have always perceived public service as an external means of helping others in need,” Anish Bhatia said. “I, too, have benefited from activity within the community.

“To be recognized for that as a MacDonald Community Service Scholar at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is an incredible honor.”