The Office of Civic & Community Engagement (OCCE) has announced the winners of its 2021 Service Awards.
The OCCE Service Awards recognize students, faculty, staff, and members of the community who have successfully and effectively worked to create meaningful social change around a particular issue, either on campus or in the Winston-Salem community. In recognition of the uncertainty of the pandemic, the annual ceremony was celebrated virtually.
Established in honor of Chaplain Ed Christman, who retired in 2003 after 49 years of service to Wake Forest, each year the Christman Award acknowledges a senior that has gone above and beyond through both their volunteering and service to the community. This year’s award recognizes Savarni Sanka, as an engaged and committed advocate for refugees and migrant families for her work with the Student Association for the Advancement of Refugees (SAFAR) and Every Campus a Refuge (ECAR).
Since first arriving at Wake Forest, Sanka has been heavily involved with SAFAR, serving as its Vice President in her final year at WFU. As both a member and student leader she has continued to grow and shape the organization, working tirelessly to secure its success and longevity for years to come. As one of its founding members, Sanka has committed her energy to not only the mission of SAFAR, which works closely with ECAR, but the connection between Wake Forest students and the families, so that already established relationships can thrive with various entities involved for years to come.
As noted in her nomination, Sanka engages political, social, cultural and economic issues from all perspectives, including her own experience as a child of immigrant parents. She is an “informed and intelligent visionary, who works tirelessly to accomplish what is urgent, yet never loses sight of the systemic issues that refugee and migrant families face daily.” Her ability to tackle the immediate needs of families, while working on a long-term vision for both SAFAR and ECAR makes her a committed, passionate, engaged advocate for refugees and migrants and inspiration for her fellow students.
The Change-Maker Award, which honors a student that has demonstrated a long-term commitment to a social issue and has worked to lead their peers in the same commitment, goes to Wake Forest junior, Leilani Fletcher. Throughout her time as a WFU student Fletcher has immersed herself in social justice work, advocating for minority groups on campus.
As a freshman, she helped form the Anti-Racism Coalition (ARC) when conflicts over the university’s past and present racism came to a head. As ARCs mission of advocating for racial equality on campus continued to grow and it eventually transitioned to an advocacy group, Fletcher recognized another isolated campus community that needed space to process and connect – women who love women. Her experience as a founding member of ARC allowed her to work with stakeholders across the university to create Lavender Menace – a space for women, including trans and non-binary folks – who have a sexual or romantic attraction to other women to be in community with one another. In two years, she has grown Lavender Menace from an idea to the largest student support group in the LGBTQ+ Center.
Paralleling her work with ARC, Fletcher helped organize “Honoring Strength, Resolve and Legacy” last year, which celebrated the 50th anniversary of African American women integrating residence halls at Wake Forest. Refusing to let this history go unrecognized, she approached the Office of Diversity and Inclusion to discuss her vision for a forum, and worked closely with the staff to make the multi-day event a reality. Going beyond helping to plan the event, she even participated in a form as a student panelist, discussing the significance of this history for the University at the current moment.
As proven through her continued involvement with the campus community, Fletcher has an exceptional track record of public service and leadership work, impacting current and future Wake Forest students for years to come. As mentioned by her nominator, “Leilani has built a legacy for herself through the organizations she has created and the communities she has empowered. Her unfettered determination and multifaceted expertise will serve her well in the future as she continues to work and advocate for overlooked or marginalized communities.”
Junior Service Excellence Award:
Zoe Chamberlin and Ben Raiford
Recognizing a student who demonstrates exemplary service to the community and Wake Forest, both Zoe Chamberlin and Ben Raiford are the recipients of the 2021 Junior Service Excellence Award.
Zoe Chamberlin is deeply committed to education outreach. As the President of Wake Women LEAD – a student organization that builds relationships between Wake Forest women and middle school girls in Winston-Salem through after-school mentoring, tutoring and support – Chamberlain has not only sustained but evolved the program over the last year.
Because of her hard work and dedication, Chamberlain has continued a long-standing partnership with LEAD Girls of NC and grown the organization by expanding its community partnerships to include Authoring Action. In this budding partnership, she and other Wake Women LEAD students will help teach the creative writing process for Authoring Action to local youth moving forward.
Voting rights and access have long been a passion for Ben Raiford, who believes that voting is more than a simple step in democracy but that voter engagement builds stronger, more connected communities, and a stronger, more connected nation. This past year, working directly with Deacs Decide, Raiford helped to coordinate multiple voter registration efforts on campus, which led to over 250 new or updated voters in the Wake Forest community.
In addition, Raiford was instrumental in helping to secure an early-voting site within walking distance to Wake Forest’s Campus. Working directly with Deacs Decide, University leadership, Student Government, You Can Vote and the Forsyth County Board of Elections, Raiford helped to identify Winston-Salem First Assembly as an early voting location, which saw over 5,000 ballots cast.
Recognizing a student who demonstrates exemplary service to the community and Wake Forest, Drew Skilton is the recipient of this year’s Sophomore Service Excellence Award for his commitment to voting access, education and turnout.
Long before he arrived at Wake Forest, Skilton had a passion for politics. As a student at Wake Forest, he has taken advantage of every opportunity to support voting engagement and education by serving as both a Deacs Decide and You Can Vote Fellow. In each of those roles, he collaborated with several campus partners to bring a polling location closer to the Reynolda campus in an effort to decrease barriers to voting, registered students to vote and encouraged them to stay informed about what was happening in both national and local elections.
Additionally, in his role as Chief of Staff for Student Government, he ensured that voting and the election were a priority, creating the 2020 Election Task Force. With this task force, Skilton brought together student organizations that participated in any political work in an effort to stay informed, challenge both disinformation and misinformation throughout the election cycle and educate student voters.
Recognizing a student who demonstrates exemplary service to the community and Wake Forest, Sid Subramanian is the recipient of the 2021 First-Year Service Excellence Award for his involvement with virtual service programs and the Campus Kitchen.
Despite a year where in-person events have been few and far between due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Subramanian has found ways to engage in meaningful service as a freshman at Wake Forest. At first, it was through the Civic Leadership Project, a virtual program offered by the OCCE which prepared him to better understand and engage with the Winston-Salem community moving forward. Then, as safety protocols allowed, he became actively involved with Campus Kitchen to the extent possible. While service has looked different during the pandemic, his passion to continue to serve and engage with the local community while at Wake Forest is evident.
In a year that tested so many, the Ocean and Marine Conservation Club (OMCC) flourished during the pandemic. Spearheading conversations and events about the ocean and marine conservation, OMCC aims to instill awareness in both the Wake Forest and Winston-Salem community about pressing ocean issues, including ocean acidification, plastic pollution and overfishing. Their mission of educating their peers about ocean health is far-reaching, affecting everyone, but especially those around the world who already face poverty and resource scarcity.
This year, they put together engaging, quality and impactful events, including a speaker series – featuring conversations about sustainable hatcheries, eco-innovation for our oceans, communicating science effectively and careers in marine sustainability – film screenings, creek cleanups and more.
Given to a member of the Wake Forest faculty that represents the Pro Humanitate Teacher-Scholar ideal through their service to the broader community, this year’s Faculty Service Excellence Award goes to Justin Green. Recipients of this award practice impactful ways to incorporate service-learning in their teaching and research, and/or advising of community-engaged students, all of which are evident through Green’s work with both the Wake Forest and Piedmont Environmental Alliance’s Environmental Debate Program.
Outside of his responsibilities as a full professor of practice in the Communication Department and Head Coach for the Wake Forest Debate Program, Green has developed a partnership with the Piedmont Environmental Alliance (PEA) to bring debate education to the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County School District, all while teaching local high school students about the environment. For eight years he has provided debate instruction in more than a dozen local schools by volunteering to give lectures, conducting demonstrations and helping more than 500 students learn the basic skills of research, argumentation and formal debate.
At the conclusion of the program – in the midst of also preparing the Wake Forest Debate Team for the National Debate Tournament – Green holds a city-wide tournament where he runs the tabulation room, recruits judges, takes care of trophies, secures rooms, orders catering and even judges the debate himself. Once two teams remain, the tournament is paused until PEA’s Earth Day celebration, where they debate in front of the Winston-Salem community with an esteemed panel of judges that often includes the mayor and content area experts.
With other responsibilities under his belt, including coaching the nationally-recognized Wake Forest Debate Team, Green could easily keep his talents confined to Carswell Hall, yet he continues to share his knowledge and passion with the community in order to make it a better place.
Created in honor of Mike Ford, this award not only acknowledges the many ways that he inspired leadership both on campus and in the community, but recognizes a staff member who carries on the same legacy of servant leadership. This year’s recipient of the Michael G. Ford Servant Leadership Award is Kelia Hubbard, Director of International Students and Scholars (ISS).
Through her work with the ISS office, Hubbard inspires leadership for her colleagues, team and students on a daily basis. Within the Global Affairs Leadership Team, she has been a key voice as it selects additional development and learning opportunities for engaging across differences. For her ISS team, she is always looking for and sharing various professional learning opportunities tailored for the individual, detailing why they would be beneficial for both their personal and professional growth. When working with her students, Hubbard ensures that not only do they have all the information they need to maintain their visa status – which can be a complicated and stressful process – but supports them in learning how to navigate various systems, ask questions when unsure and advocate for themselves.
The Community Partner Service Award recognizes a stellar community partner that contributes significantly to the vision of Pro Humanitate through their collaboration with student organizations, staff or faculty departments, courses and other community-based projects. This year’s recipient is HandsOn Northwest North Carolina.
For years, the Office of Civic & Community Engagement and HandsOn NWNC have worked hand-in-hand on various programs, events and learning opportunities throughout Winston-Salem. Long-standing initiatives include Nonprofit Essentials – a series of courses taught primarily by Wake Forest faculty, administrators and alum, designed to strengthen the knowledge and skills of nonprofit board members, staff, and volunteers or those pursuing careers in the nonprofit sector – as well as the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Read-In, which promotes Dr. King’s legacy of service, literacy and community empowerment for local children.
The past year only saw that partnership grow with the addition of two new programs, including the Youth Engagement Coalition, which aims to increase youth service throughout Winston-Salem, and the High-Skilled Volunteer Network, which connects Wake Forest faculty and staff with various personal or professional expertise with a local organizations looking to build or sustain capacity.
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