Smriti Sharma Sapkota—Colby-Sawyer College
Being an international student at Colby-Sawyer College from Nepal, I am constantly looking for chances to educate people about diversity and racial matters. As I am the vice president of Cross-Cultural Club and President of the class of 2022 in SGA, I have been organizing cultural events and participating in talks touching topics like cultures and races. I am organizing an event called the International Festival where we showcase different cultures and their components like food, clothes, dances, etc. This has given us a ground to talk about our experiences and show who we are apart from being a student on campus. This has proven efficient because we have been able to explain to people why diversity matters, and why do we need to include people from all races and nationalities to our community. One of my future plans is to conduct monthly talk sessions ‘CSC Talks’ where we will give a platform to students, faculties, and staff to talk about their experiences regarding racial issues on campus and in their life.
Sachin Shiva—Dartmouth College
Children have the wonderful gift of questioning why the world is the way it is. As a child, I often asked why some individuals had to beg on the street, while I had a roof over my head and food on the table. This was my first exposure to injustice. Over time, I developed a passion for interrogating what are accepted as givens – inequality, homelessness, war, and so on. I got involved with political campaigns to advocate for more just policies in our society. However, I knew I wanted to examine these injustices at the ground level. Therefore, I constructed an Eagle Scout project to provide 100 backpacks packed with winter supplies to homeless individuals in the Chicago area. When I got to Dartmouth, I immersed myself in an ethical leadership program, where I learned the importance of vulnerability and collaborative communication. Last summer, I worked with a food bank called Philabundance to increase food donations from grocery stores that were donating surplus food to the food bank. These experiences have shown me that we must continue to demand justice for disenfranchised individuals, and as children often do, we must not hesitate to change the givens in our society.
Elpis-Sofia Bougiouk-Ververoglou—Hellenic American University
Hellenic American University has provided me with the opportunity to help many children in need through volunteering at the Hadzikonsta Foundation in Athens, Greece. With the guidance of my mentors, I became connected with the organization – one that houses and cares for children who have unfortunate family issues. I have been lucky to serve a population in need. At the Foundation, I taught English and assisted in exam preparation by developing revision and practice material, as well as by conducting mock examinations. Fortunately, my relationships with the children extended outside of the classroom thanks to tree planting events and other community gatherings. In addition to my work with the Hadzikonsta Foundation, I have volunteered for the past three years as a teaching assistant at the Hellenic American Union, my University’s partner institution. Most of my time was spent with young children, especially those who required special assistance and attention. Because of my experiences at the Hellenic American Union as well as the Hadzikonsta Foundation, I hope to become an EFL instructor and revolutionize foreign language teaching by intertwining my two passions, teaching and computing. My dream is to design video games for EFL students of different language levels.
Tallie Tam Phan—Plymouth State University
The person I am today is shaped by my involvement in the community and by helping out others when they’re in need. I also learned that compassion is something that you learn and practice to cultivate every day. I bring this mindset to my work at the Office of Community Impact as a Student Impact Ambassador and to my classes as a student at Plymouth State University. Recently, I became the President of the student organization PSU Volunteers, but I know that this opportunity was only made possible by the support of my peers. As a daughter living thousands of miles from home, I try to make a home out of the campus where I live by pursuing my passion to volunteer and connecting with others through doing service. Some of the most remarkable volunteering experiences I had were with Social Action Trips, where we went south to Mississippi to contribute to hurricane relief efforts, PSU Volunteers and other programs organized by the Office of Community Impact. I hope that I can be a role model for the youths and my peers through perseverance, kindness, and empathy.
Theresa Beardsley—Saint Anselm College
I was president of my high school service club, but it wasn’t until college that I began to understand the depth of community engagement opportunities and the importance of those experiences to build awareness. As a service-learner my freshman year I connected what I was learning in my social work courses to community organizations, and I began to see unique ways that community was trying to meet the needs of vulnerable populations. I quickly saw the many obstacles that created vulnerability. This motivated me to become a student coordinator where I had the privilege of supporting volunteers in work at a center for adjudicated youth. I now help manage dozens of community coordinators and continue to facilitate conversations about new ways to engage as a college community to better understand and address needs we see in community. My favorite part of the job is allowing students to explore solutions to community challenges and then join with community in action. While community creates a great lens to help people to understand social problems, the process of dialogue and reflection has helped bring about concrete ways for students on campus and people in community to define engagement that makes lasting change.
Alexandra Vergara—University of New Hampshire
I believe in radical empathy. I went to high school in Hartford, CT – the poorest city in the state, and mostly inhabited by people of color. I went to a magnet school that specialized in the arts, and majored in Theatre. Doing theatre in Hartford, I was exposed to the city’s incredibly rich artistic community and saw firsthand the resiliency these spaces possess.
Theatre teaches you how to be empathetic. One must learn why a character does what they do and what holds them back from achieving what they want. When that mindset is applied to people- you start to see them in a different light.
To build a strong community we have to be able to hear people’s stories, and understand what drives them and what gets in their way. Everyone has done that- told a story that was slightly uncomfortable to a friend in an effort to make them feel better. After that, we exchange notes. How do we heal? What is already working? If you’re coming from a place of privilege, how do you use that to lift up others, or when do you step back and make sure other voices are being heard?