Students honored with awards for service

MIDDLEBURY — The nearly 50 Middlebury College students gathered in the McCullough Student Center on Monday evening were a remarkable bunch, according to Dean of Students Gus Jordan, Barclays Capital Managing Director Patrick Durkin, and Vermont democratic gubernatorial candidate Matt Dunne.
The students had all been singled out for  recognition for their outstanding community service projects as part of the annual awards ceremony. That evening, 11 of them received awards for their outstanding service.
The evening’s speakers, Jordan, Durkin and Dunne, all recognized the work of the nominated students and their peers in charitable organizations, both local and global. After listing the many achievements of those gathered — from volunteering at a health clinic in Nepal to mentoring students in local schools — Jordan added that there were many more who did charitable work but who had not been recognized.
“These are only a few representative examples,” said Jordan. “More than 1,500 of our students participate in civic engagement activities annually, offering more than 47,000 hours of service.”
To Matt Dunne, former director of the AmeriCorps VISTA federal volunteer organization and current manager of community affairs for Google, the students’ work, though peformed in one small community, was nonetheless far-reaching.
“You have a chance to be at the front of a new localism,” said Dunne. “The projects you are doing are incredibly locally based, but they’re tackling problems that are global in nature. The work that you are doing at this local level has the potential, because of this communication era, to be more powerful than ever on a global basis”
After Tiffany Sargent, director of the college’s Alliance for Civic Engagement, announced each nominee’s name and listed the work he or she had done to volunteer, John McCardell and his wife, Bonnie, stepped to the front in order to present their namesake awards.
McCardell presented the award in his name, given each year to the volunteer who brings Middlebury College and the town of Middlebury closer together for the benefit of the public. This year the award had not one but 56 winners — the volunteers at Charter House, a transitional housing facility run by the Middlebury Community Care Coalition.
The representatives chosen to receive the award were senior Robin Curtis, junior Veronica Muoio, sophomore Yuan Lim, senior Carolyn Sparkes and junior Elizabeth Foster.
The Bonnie McCardell Public Service Award each year goes to a student who volunteers in areas concerning youth and family services, literacy and support for middle to early high school students. This year, the award went to sophomore Alice Urban, who works as a mentor and coordinator for the Community Friends organization, an organization that partners college students with area schoolchildren as mentors. She has also written and received grants for the program and started a new initiative called Sense of Place, which gives children the chance to visit museums and important locations in Vermont.
The Dana Morosini Reeve ’84 Memorial Public Service Award went to junior Katherine Bass, who started the organization Juntos to help area migrant workers overcome obstacles related to language, transportation, paperwork and child care.
“Under Kate’s leadership, Juntos has tripled its number of student members, expanded its partnerships and begun a policy and advocacy wing to address structural issues surrounding immigration in Vermont,” said Sargent. “I know that Dana would be proud of you for your hard work and determination, just as we are.”
Sargent went on to present six other Public Service Leadership Awards to:
• Moriel Rothman, a junior, for his work on education and communication on Israeli-Palestinian relations, both on campus and in the Middle East.
• Mikaela Lefrak, a senior, for her extensive work on campus and global organizations, her involvement with the United Way of Addison County Days of Caring, and her visits to an elderly man in Leicester through the Champlain Valley Agency on Aging.
• Laura Williams, a junior, for her work as co-president of the campus Habitat for Humanity group, for the weekly work groups she has organized in Middlebury and, during school breaks, to North Carolina, New Mexico and Romania.
• Joseph Brent Allen, a junior, for his work with the John Graham Emergency Shelter in Vergennes, his organization of a spring break trip to New Orleans to work on service projects, and his work with resettled refugees in the Burlington area.
• Hannah Burnett, a senior, for her work in local and global public health — for organizing weekly public health roundtables, coordinating symposia on public health, and helping people ranging from schoolchildren in Cornwall to doctors and nurses in Rwanda.
• Carolyn Sparkes, a senior, for her work with the John Graham shelter, the Charter House, and her summer work teaching low-income students from West Philadelphia and Camden, N.J.
Sparkes, who received an individual public service award and represented the Charter House volunteers for the McCardell award, said she was thrilled.
“It’s really an honor,” said Sparkes. “And it’s great to sit here and hear what everyone else is doing.”
Award winner Laura Williams gestured around the room to the other nominees.
“Everyone deserves one of these awards,” she said. “It’s so humbling.”
The evening’s award winners will choose a charitable organization to receive a $300 donation from Middlebury College in their honor.
Durkin, who 17 years ago helped found the annual awards, commended the students for further enhancing the college’s reputation for public service.
“The causes that you take are the hard ones,” he said. “They’re the ones that don’t come with trophies. You’re not on a stage performing, but you’re doing extraordinary work that is, and is becoming more so, what the character of this college is all about.”
Reporter Andrea Suozzo is at [email protected].

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