Students capture two Governor's Service Awards
One program seeks to help young people create a better future for themselves. The other program seeks to help people live better lives today, despite tough economic times.
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On May 3 in Richmond,. both programs received a Governor’s Award for Volunteerism and Service, presented annually by the Governor's Advisory Board on Volunteerism and National Service and the Office on Volunteerism and Community Service on behalf of the Office of the Governor. These awards recognize the significant contributions of Virginia citizens to the life and welfare of the Commonwealth and its people.
“This year’s recipients reflect the tremendous difference individuals, families, businesses and non-profits can make in their communities through volunteerism,” said Governor Bob McDonnell. “Each honoree’s contribution began with one word, ‘yes,’ and as we recognize their vision and accomplishments, we encourage all Virginians to follow their examples by engaging in their communities.”
In only its fifth year, William & Mary’s Campus Kitchen received the award in the Educational Institution category in recognition of the 175 meals a week upwards of 100 students cook, package and deliver to four public housing developments in Williamsburg.
“It’s a huge honor,” said Chelsea Estancona ’11, the advisor for Campus Kitchen. “Having come into (my) position through AmericaCorps and being in touch with the networks of volunteer organizations locally and at the state level . . . knowing how many things are done in the education institution category . . . and coming up through William & Mary’s culture and knowing all of the wonderful things the students here do, to be the organization that receives this honor means a lot to me.
“I’m extremely proud of the things we’ve done this year and I’m extremely proud to have been a part of them, to have helped them.”
Meanwhile, twins Khaki and Stacey LaRiviere ’14, received the award in the “family” category for starting L.E.A.D. Up! (Leadership, Education, Action and Development Up!) during their sophomore year at Midlothian High School outside Richmond, Va. The program, which has mushroomed to six other high schools, has touched more than 600 students.
The LaRiviere sisters began L.E.A.D. Up! to give experience to any student interested in leadership training. There was no application process, no minimum grade-point average. Any student had access, and any student who so desired was included.
The twins created a binder with a start-to-finish game plan for the schools and students to follow. Initially, they handed students a form letter to use in contacting local businesses seeking support and mentoring students in a variety of elements from how to run a meeting or put together a press packet, to parliamentary procedures and the legalities of running a business. Students would have four or five training sessions a year depending on how many businesses they could enroll. At the end of the year they’d do a show-what-you-know presentation and a community service project that the students would initiate.
“Part of why we created L.E.A.D. Up! was because a lot of students would go out for class officer positions and it was usually a popularity contest and the same students kept getting those really valuable experiences, like learning how to delegate and learning to run meetings,” Stacey explained. “The schools were losing a lot of opportunities for students to get that training, so we decided to do something giving equal access for everyone.”
Both programs’ success comes as a result of consistent hard work.
Campus Kitchen receives food from two collection sources on Monday and Thursday evenings. Students then use the kitchen of a local church to cook and package the meals for delivery the next night.
Meals are put into two-, four-, and eight-person containers and delivered, along with brief visits between students and those receiving the assistance.
“When I first started at William & Mary, I tried a bunch of things, but this was really unique because not only was it helping the community but also I liked the sustainability of reusing the food that would be otherwise wasted,” said student coordinator Sarah Holko ’13. “I started volunteering at cooking shifts and really got into it, then decided to join the executive committee. Once you do that, it’s hard to leave because everyone is so focused on growing and expanding the program.”
Campus Kitchen did grow and expand in 2011-12. Members held a small career seminar in which they taught residents about preparing a resume and filling out a job application. They held a barbecue for the four communities they deliver food to in order to grow relationships. And they implemented a mentoring program that had been in the planning stage a year ago, getting 30 students paired with children ranging in ages from 4 to 16.
“It may be possible to teach students in class how to run an organization, how to survey a community for its needs or how to recruit volunteers, but CKWM provides a means of learning by doing,” FISH president Cathy Sadowski wrote in her letter of support of the Campus Kitchen nomination. “This has materially helped an all but invisible population in Williamsburg, but it has also developed young leaders who see a need, chart the path to meet it, utilize available resources, and inspire their fellow students to lend a hand. The students I’ve met with Campus Kitchen will be using these skills the rest of their lives.”
Last summer, the LaRiviere twins met with W&M President Taylor Reveley, Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs Mark Constantine and Chesterfield County School Superintendent Marcus J. Newsome about starting a L.E.A.D. Up! program on campus. Reveley and Constantine approved; bylaws and a constitution have been submitted, and the twins hope to get the ball rolling this fall.
Students who are L.E.A.D Up! program coordinators will seek out subject matter experts from Williamsburg and surrounding business communities. The experts are asked to coach courses like “Business Presentations,” “Fiscal Responsibility and Budgeting,” “Project Management,” or “Responsibility and Liability” to area high school students.
Then, William & Mary students move through their own training in “Group Facilitation,” and other leadership skill sets to assist and mentor the high school students in their programming. Specifically, the college students will introduce the program to the high schools, working in an advisory role to help set up high school L.E.A.D. Up! chapters in the Williamsburg-James City County area.
“Think of it as an ‘each one, teach one’ scenario,” said Khaki. “The goal is to help young people achieve leadership success in the workplace and within the family.”
The twins see several benefits. The students benefit from engaging directly with area businesses and community leaders, building relationships that might grow into employer relationships. Businesses are able to expand their own leadership and mentoring opportunities through participating in their L.E.A.D. Up! college chapter. Professionals are exposed to talented students, who are exposed to the services, products and impacts of the participating businesses and organizations.
Collegiate members will assist the high schoolers with their selected community service projects that are the culminating programs selected by the students. The purpose of these programs is to provide a service or project of positive impact to the community by utilizing the new skills learned. One example of a community project is a partnership with a local symphony to collect a variety of string instruments to be redistributed to under-served public schools to promote the learning and love of the arts.
“The result is a pool of trained high school leaders, college leaders and more engaged community leaders,” said Khaki. “The by-product? Strengthened ‘Town-Gown’ relationships.”
Campus Kitchen is hoping to expand out of Williamsburg and into James City County. They started that process by hosting a couple of events outside the city, including a Thanksgiving meal delivery.
“It’s really interesting to see how much of a difference a few people can make,” Holko said. “I like to think that (the program) is really helping the people that we’re serving, but it’s also easy to get overwhelmed sometimes when you realize there’s still so much that needs to be done. It’s still upsetting that there are so many people in Williamsburg who have problems meeting their food necessities. It’s been hard to see that even though we are growing and expanding, there’s just so much need.”