Community Engagement Commitment Student Profiles

Click on the student's name to see their profile of how they demonstrated their Community Engagement Commitment

Beau Ohlgren

Josh Reiss

Shaina Castonguay

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Emily Ehley

 

Beau Ohlgren

Major: Environmental Studies (Policy)

Work Crew: Residence Life

Year: Class of 2013

Self Knowledge: Within my first year, I volunteered with MANNA Food Bank, Steadfast House, Black Mountain Community Garden, INSULATE!, Room in the Inn, Loving Food Resources, Asheville Community Theatre, NC Stage, Brother Wolf Animal Rescue, Blue Ridge Pride, and the Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy. I was also a “Big Brother” with Big Brothers Big Sisters, and worked each week with a 6-year-old in Asheville. To my amazement, by the end of my first year, I had already volunteered over 200 hours.

Understanding of Complex Issues: My third year at Wilson, I attended a fall break trip to New Orleans on environmental discrimination. This perfectly combined my interest in environmental policy with my desire to contribute my time to raise awareness on the issue of environmental discrimination.

Capacity for Leadership: I volunteered with Tranzmission Prison Books for all of my years at Wilson. I met them at Sign Up to Serve my first semester (best event of the year!), was very interested in their program, and I never left. I am now a core member of their group. Through my work with them my second year, I delved into the root causes of prison issues and our prison industrial system and fed that back into my work crew at the time, EMPOWER, and I led workshops on the subject. My final year at Wilson, I led a service break trip to Lynchburg Grows, a holistic urban farm that hires people with special needs and focuses on education of the community instead of efficiency. They use beyond-organic practices and were an absolute inspiration. I also had so much fun getting to know my co-leader and all of my participants.

Commitment to Community Engagement: I have learned so much from my experiences at Wilson, especially my time with Tranzmission and my two break trips. I came in with an interest in service, and left with a passion. Service is such a great way to meet people and to feel involved with your community. I am off to the UK for graduate school, and I know no one in the entirety of Europe, so I am planning to use service opportunities to connect me to fellow engaged citizens as soon as I arrive.

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Josh Reiss

Major: Sustainable Business

Work Crew: The Echo

Year: 2014

Self Knowledge: I’ve tried to use service as an opportunity to learn about the people and food systems in the greater Asheville area. I volunteered with Black Mountain Community Garden, Black Mountain Primary School Garden Club, MANNA Foodbank, Steadfast House and Food Not Bombs in my first year.

Understanding of Complex Issues: During my second year I did individual service with Home Free Bagels, an organization that employs people dealing with homelessness by producing NY-style bagels in Asheville. The chance to work on a regular basis with people who were experiencing life in a totally different way than me was an amazing experience that has enriched my understanding of people and ability to understand people.

Capacity for Leadership: I organized a weekly service trip to the Black Mountain Primary School Garden Club for a semester. This was a great chance to see that you really make anything happen if you work with the folks in the Service Program Office. I got some great experience in organizing people as well.

Commitment to Community Engagement: As a Sustainable Business major and hope-to-be social entrepreneur, I am looking forward to affecting positive social change by changing the ways people do business. The Service Program Office has guided me in the direction of several inspiring social enterprises that have helped me to grow as an individual and as a member of the Asheville community. I’m currently working as an intern with a local nature-based business accelerator—a position that I won directly as a result of a referral from Karen Kyle in the Service Program Office.

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Shaina Castonguay

Major: Anthropology/Sociology

Work Crew: Student Activities

Year: 2013

Self Knowledge: During my first year, and to a certain extent in later years, I explored a variety of different issues and organizations. I volunteered with Mountain Housing Opportunities, Habitat for Humanity, Vagina Monologues, ABCCM, and the Veteran’s Quarters. I became deeply interested in housing and homelessness issues, and that passion carried through the rest of my time at Wilson.

Understanding of Complex Issues: During my first semester, I engaged in an issue workshop for Housing and Homelessness. Not only did I learn an incredible amount about the root causes of these issues, but I was able to reflect on my learning while working with AHope, a Community Garden in Asheville, and Steadfast House. I also did a project on national homelessness statistics, and learned that homelessness is not a permanent fixture of society, and that homelessness rates have actually been drastically rising. We need to address this, and realize that we are capable to doing so much more than we are currently doing. In addition to the issue workshop, I also took a WWC Service Learning study abroad course and traveled to Belize the summer after my junior year. We studied comparative psychology with the Oceanic Society by working with dolphins and helped paint a shed, plant palm trees and mangroves to protect the shore, and assisted daily with dolphin research!

Capacity for Leadership: My involvement in my issue workshop and service experiences led me to become an anthropology major, and I conducted my capstone research on the discourse surrounding homelessness. I worked closely with Homeward Bound and its various shelter programs, as well as the Asheville Homeless Network. Due to my regular service commitment, I was able to create close ties to these organizations as well as the people in these programs. I studied stereotypes, how we talk and think about homelessness, and how that affects the lives of those who don’t have stable housing. Getting involved with the Asheville Homeless Network was especially exciting because it is an organization run by and for homeless people, and has an entirely different atmosphere than most of the other places I worked with. I didn’t do this directly for service, and instead went as a researcher. It was incredible to be at a place that was so equalizing and challenged traditional ideas about what service and community engagement can be.

Commitment to Community Engagement: After graduation, I would like to have a job or at least volunteer in a shelter to help ensure that homeless populations are respected and listened to. I am empowered more by the idea of advocacy than direct service, and I think it is important to address homelessness issues at a policy level. My experiences at Wilson have made me an advocate for homeless issues, and I will definitely continue this work throughout my life.

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Emily Ehley

Major:Environmental Studies/Environmental Education

Work Crew: Landscaping/Native Plants Crew

Year: Class of 2013

Self Knowledge: My first year at Wilson I jumped into every service opportunity that I could find. I was drawn to these experiences because I felt uprooted in an unfamiliar community, and service was a familiar way to connect to place. Most importantly, it connected me to people. I found that the most meaningful work involved a commitment over some period of time, which gave me the opportunity to learn about the people with whom I was working and the underlying issues that created a need for our service. The most significant service experiences of my Freshman year were tutoring third graders at Project March Learning Center in a low income neighborhood, participating in an issue workshop on homelessness, and taking part in a break trip that focused on food security in Asheville.

Understanding of Complex Issues: I took the RISE Advocacy class my sophomore year, which taught me about prevention, education, and response to sexual violence in our culture and community. I began to make connections between social norms and the violence of individuals. The class connected me with fellow students and members of the Asheville community who were also passionate about ending the silence. I finished the class feeling empowered that I could be part of the solution.

Capacity for Leadership: I visited Lord’s Acre community garden spring break of my freshman year, during my first break trip. The group leader encouraged me to lead the weekly trip to the garden that summer. I drove out every week rain or shine, and through that experience I cultivated relationships and gardening skills that continue to grow two years later. By going on the break trip I found the Lord’s Acre, and through my work at the garden I found my major. I have no idea what my life would look like now if I hadn’t made those connections.

Commitment to Community Engagement: Spring break of junior year I went on my third break trip, this time as a leader. Planning the trip taught me about the realities of work in the nonprofit sector. The logistics and emails sometimes made my head spin, but it was exciting to connect with organizations whose work I admired. The best part of the trip was exploring the issues of community-based conservation and environmental education with other students who were as passionate as I was. As the trip progressed, I watched the strengths of each individual become the strength of the group. I can’t tell you what my future service work will look like, but I do know that I will use these skills to give back in every way I can.

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