At the heart of social work is service to others, and in that dimension, Keuka College senior Nakita Simons sets the standard.
Praised as a natural-born leader, the Prattsburgh resident and social work major coordinates so many special projects for non-profit agencies and organizations between home and school that it can be hard to keep them all straight. For her multitude of service, Simons was recently named one of six student Social Workers of the Year at a regional chapter event for the National Association of Social Workers (NASW). The NASW award recognizes social work students in the New York State Chapter’s Genesee Valley Division who have made significant contributions in the field.
According to Stephanie Craig, associate professor of social work and chair of the College Division of Social Work, Simons “is versatile, dedicated and one of the most diligent new social workers to enter this field. She’s got a lot of social work insight that has just really blossomed and developed through her experience here.”
Just how much does Simons serve? Well, she delivers holiday food baskets for the needy and serves at a bake sale fundraiser for the Howard Union Church. She coordinates Christmas gift deliveries through the Angel Tree project and runs twice-monthly volunteer support at Milly’s Pantry in Penn Yan for the College’s Association of Future Social Workers (ASFW) chapter. The ASFW members also host an annual Hunger Banquet to raise awareness of poverty, and assist the Branchport-Keuka Park Fire Department with their annual Halloween party for local children.
As president of Phi Alpha Theta, the College honors society for social work students, Simons coordinates all fundraising and community service work for the group. The newest venture, slated for April, will be conducting service work on behalf of veterans at the Bath VA Medical Center, she said. Back on campus, Phi Theta Alpha has also given a presentation on veterans’ issues, including mental illness, homeless rates, and other needs. In addition, Simons has served three years as a New Student Orientation (NSO) mentor, logging extra hours on her own to take new freshmen under her wing and show them skills for success.
In addition, Simons, who also served as a biology tutor, maintains a 3.9 grade point average, said Craig who attended the NASW awards banquet with Simons last week.
And the NASW award is not the only one. Simons boasts another prestigious accomplishment: earning a BSW Child Welfare Scholarship from New York’s Social Work Education Consortium. The scholarship carries a two-year employment contract as a child welfare caseworker with a county Department of Social Services agency and the possibility of earning additional scholarship money for a master’s degree in social work, provided all goes well in an initial semester-long practicum. But once again, Simons stands apart. (more…)
Editor’s Note: Where can a Keuka degree take you? This is the third in a series of snapshot profiles on members of Keuka’s Class of 2013.
Emily Ekstrom ’13 graduated cum laude with a B.S. in education and has accepted a post as a special education teacher serving grades 3-5 at Holiday Park School in Phoenix, Ariz.
During her four years at Keuka, the Ashville, N.Y. resident participated in the Equestrian and Education clubs, worked as a lifeguard and also as a facilitator for the Teamworks! Adventure course, served on Student Senate and was vice-president of Sigma Lambda Sigma, Keuka’s college-wide honor society.
“Although I have never done a Field Period at the school, my previous Field Periods have helped,” she said, referring to Keuka’s required 140-hour annual internship. “As much as I hated the paper work, I loved my Field Periods and all the experiences I gained from them.”
Ekstrom’s prior Field Period internships included a third-grade inclusion classroom in Bowling Green, Va., a 4-H summer camp in Long Island, N.Y., a month in two different special education classrooms at Chautauqua Central School, and a fourth-grade classroom in Falconer, N.Y.
Ekstrom added that another bonus was the support from close personal ties at Keuka, such as those she found in the division of education, via a mentor affiliated with the Teamworks! Adventure course and the College chaplain.
Jonathan Accardi, director of campus recreation and aquatics at Keuka College, received a double dose of good news Thursday (April 18).
After winning the College’s Work-Study Supervisor of the Year Award, Accardi learned he had also captured the Northeast Association of Student Employment Administrators (NEASEA) Supervisor of the Year Award.
The NEASEA’s Supervisor of the Year program begins at an institutional level and progresses to the regional level. The award was established to recognize the integral part that the supervisor plays in the education of a student employee. Supervisors act as mentors and provide education to their students not gained through the classroom. Students at colleges and universities across the region were asked to nominate supervisors they felt were especially worthy of recognition.
In all, 91 supervisors were nominated, including seven from Keuka, and 11 schools submitted their winner for consideration for the NEASEA award. Accardi bested winners from colleges in New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Massachusetts, Maine, Pennsylvania, and West Virgina.
According to senior Samantha Stevenson, who nominated Accardi, he communicates continuously with student workers, is always open to comments or concerns, and freely shares his vision for future campus recreation programming. Stevenson called Accardi one of her greatest mentors. (more…)
Editor’s Note: Here is a look at the seven people nominated by students for the Work-Study Supervisor of the Year Award, which will be presented at a luncheon April 18.
According to international student Sini Ngobese ’15 of South Africa, College Chaplain Rev. Eric Detar creates a warm and positive work environment in the Center for Spiritual Life. With his kindness, generosity, compassion and patience, as well as light-hearted spirit, the rewards of working in the CSL office have extended farther than wages, she said.
The work shift begins with a heartfelt smile and greeting and a few moments to catch up and ensure that all is well, Ngobese said. It’s not simply a polite inquiry, she said, “but a genuine interest for my well-being which, as a student who is an ocean and continent away from home, helps me feel welcome, cared for and important.”
Each work shift has enabled her to learn positive skills that will benefit future workplace endeavors, she said. New tasks are explained with patience and stated in a conversational manner, rather than as commands. If ever a mistake is made, Detar never chastises, but rather empowers her how not to make errors in the future.
“He wholeheartedly praises the good, which helps me as the employee feel motivated, important, encouraged, enthusiastic and inspired,” she said, adding that, Detar’s personable demeanor and propensity to share laughter have helped instill a love for the job and a passion for contributions made to the department.
“As a result, I feel more a fundamental part of the office and its prosperity as opposed to a mere work-study employee. Consequently, I have a huge sense of pride for the office, its projects and events,” Ngobese said. However, she added that of all the great experiences gained as Detar’s office assistant, “the best reward of all is the awesome friendship we’ve established.”
A fun, sweet, helpful and friendly spirit are among the many positive characteristics of Eva Moberg-Sarver, director of student activities.
According to Lauren Esposito ’15, who works for Moberg-Sarver as a student activites and Campus Activities Board (CAB) assistant, “Eva brings fun and energy into the office” and has helped make it more exciting for Esposito to come to work each day.
“I have never seen her in a bad mood and she is always nice to everyone,” said Esposito. “She truly cares about the campus, especially the students. She challenges me to do better and work harder. She is my inspiration and I look up to her or advice, wisdom, cheering up and just nice conversations.”
Moberg-Sarver has been a “remarkable” addition to the Keuka community, Esposito said, and has put in hard work across the numerous areas of campus activities and events that she oversees. Through a positive personality, Moberg-Sarver gets others excited about happenings on campus and is herself, excited about what is happening.
“Her shining personality makes her more than worthy for this prestigious award,” Esposito said.
One of the first people sophomore Savannah Fuller ’15 met as a freshman was Valerie Webster, co-curricular transcript coordinator and community service coordinator. Fuller received the Experiential Learner of the Month Award as a high school senior in January 2011 and a partial academic fellowship to attend Keuka.
Knowing that completing at least 50 hours of community service was a fellowship requirement, Fuller, an occupational science major, kept Webster’s name in her head.
“I went into her office and was immediately greeted with enthusiasm and spunk,” said Fuller. “After volunteering at the office, she recommended that I apply for the community service advocate work-study position. Having a supervisor who is passionate about helping others makes being a community service advocate meaningful.”
Webster’s ”unrelenting dedication to her work-study students and enthusiasm for community service are the highly commendable,” said Fuller. “She told me there was always work to be done and that I was always welcome. Knowing this has made working in the office rewarding.”
According to Fuller, Webster “is always on top of the projects in which community service advocates are involved, and knows how to approach any problem we encounter, big or small. Even while on leave due to major surgery, Valerie made it a point to check up on the community service advocates and give us advice.”
Not only does Fuller count on Webster as a supervisor, but also as a friend.
“She is a mother figure to me,” said Fuller. “I count myself among the large number of students who know we can lean on Valerie when we are having a bad day, and are too far away from home to hug our own mothers. Her office is a safe haven when the stressors of college become overwhelming, and her guidance and support have allowed me to build important skills essential to success.”
While Emily Ekstrom ’13 has been TeamWorks! facilitator for just one semester, she said it’s the only work-study job she’s had that has challenged her and made her a better person. She gives a lot of the credit to her work-study supervisor, Molly McGuigan ’11, TeamWorks! manager.
“It is Molly’s first year in charge of the TeamWorks! program, and she has gone above and beyond any supervisor I have ever had on campus,” said Ekstrom.
As an education major, Ekstrom said her work-study job helped prepare her for the challenge of student teaching.
“A large component of this was Molly,” she said. “She helped me build my TeamWorks! facilitating skills so that I could bring them into the classroom for my students. She not only provided me with the materials, but ideas and advice on different lessons I could do with my students.”
Ekstrom said McGuigan provides a challenging work environment, and pushes the facilitators to go outside their comfort levels.
“Molly encourages us to grow as workers and students with a combination of classic team building activities and fresh ideas,” said Ekstrom. Even though TeamWorks! is a student-led program, Molly is there for moral support, which is always welcome when running a program. She knows just what to say to help us through, and I think she is not so much as boss, as she is an older sibling watching over your shoulder. She is there help us when we have a problem as well as celebrate our successes.”
Ekstrom said that whether she wants to chat about an upcoming program, grab a piece of candy, or just talk about a class, one of the best aspects of having McGuigan as a supervisor is her open cubby policy.
“A real benefit of knowing that Molly graduated from Keuka is that she knows what we are going through, and always has some insightful help when we are in a pickle,” said Ekstrom.
According to Samantha Stevenson ’13, who has worked under Jon Accardi, director of campus recreation and aquatics, for the past four years, Accardi has expanded campus intramural programs from just four sports to more than 30 different annual events that go beyond intramural competitions to include overall fitness and health.
“[Jon] does everything he can to try and get more of the student body involved and active in the Weed Physical Arts Center,” Stevenson said.
As a result, many of the new programs or events introduced under Accardi’s tenure were launched by work-study students. Some of these events include yoga, fitness boot camp, Zumba, a dodgeball tournament now in its sixth year, a rewards program that marks 30-, 45- and 60-day uses of the fitness center with small prizes, and an obstacle-course event last year that has morphed into a “Zombie” Run event this year. The latter three were created with the inspiration of former students Ashley Valentine, Joe Debar, and Alicia Wimmer.
Accardi interacts with work-study employees in a way that makes them feel like colleagues, not “underlings,” Stevenson said, describing how that includes encouragement and praise, recognition of hard work, and at times, a push to press on in spite of challenges.
“I gained determination and integrity to achieve any goal I set for myself from Jon’s leadership. With these experiences, I have achieved a higher understanding not only of what it means to work hard, but how to motivate others to do the same,” Stevenson said, calling him one of her greatest mentors. “I know that I’m a better person because of it, and anyone working under Jon in the future will be, too.”
Halie Squires ’13 has worked in the Office of Admissions as a student ambassador for a year-and-a-half. In that time, her work-study supervisor, Tom Jackson, marketing and administrative manager for traditional admissions, has made her believe her role is valuable.
“One of Tom’s main goals in the office is to ensure that the student ambassadors know we are part of the collective whole of the admissions staff,” said Squires, a senior occupational science major. “This is one of his most important roles as our supervisor. He also provides guidance and support to the administrative assistants within the office, ensures prospective students will have a great visit to campus, and collaborates with everyone on campus.”
According to Squires, Jackson also tries to have the student ambassadors connect what they’re learning in class to what they try to achieve in their work-study role.
“During our staff meetings, he encourages us to incorporate our skill sets and background into our tours and interactions with prospective students and their families,” said Squires. “Tom encourages us to work together, ask questions, and be part of a team so that students enjoy their visit to the fullest potential, and make the admissions office run smoothly.”
Squires admits that the admissions office can sometimes be a difficult and stressful place to work, since what needs to be accomplished must be accurate, organized, and completed in a timely manner.
“Tom reassures us that yes, while the work can be challenging at times, it is rewarding,” said Squires. “He knows how to keep us motivated and working toward the goal of admissions—finding students who will enjoy the Keuka College experience. He will tell us, ‘Remember when you’re walking on campus, and see people you took on tour who are now enrolled as Keuka College students? Isn’t that worth the work?’”
Added Squires: “Tom is a wonderful addition to the admissions office, and a phenomenal work-study supervisor. Without him in the office, I am not so sure things would run as smooth as they do.
Rachel Dewey, communications specialist in the Office of Communication and Keukonian co-adviser, was nominated by Danielle Petrilli, editor of the student newspaper.
“Even with her own hectic schedule, Rachel is always willing to talk with the Keukonian staff if they have any concerns with changes made, or if they have questions about how to interview or get in contact with Keuka staff and faculty,” said Petrelli.
Petrilli preaised Dewey for Rachel always having a “welcoming spirit” and being ”eager to help in whatever way she possibly can, whether it be story ideas, or how to approach a story lead.
“No one deserves this [award] more than her; she is the most flexible person, and is always willing to set up a time that works for us, as well as keeping me informed of her schedule so I don’t just drop in and have her be gone. Rachel keeps us on track, but also allows us to do our jobs without hesitation.”
Editor’s Note: This is the sixth in a series of profiles of Student Employee of the Year nominees. The winner will be announced at a luncheon Thursday, April 18.
Alicia Fisher ’14 of Corning, an occupational science major, has been nominated for the 2013 Student Employee of the Year for her work as an office assistant in the Division of Social Work.
Nominated by Paulette Willemsen, administrative assistant, Fisher was commended for an outgoing personality and a willingness to take on responsibilities. Fisher works independently, follows tasks through to completion, has excellent communication skills, is extremely organized, and reliable, Willemsen said.
“Alicia is dependable, hard-working, conscientious, has a positive attitude and always comes to work on time. She is flexible and is willing to work on any assignment and readily accepts the challenge of something new. She has been a tremendous asset,” Willemsen said.
In addition, Fisher is active in several campus clubs, including the equestrian team, Health & Wellness Club, Student Occupational Therapy Association, Honoring OT Leaders, and the Relay for Life Ceremony Committee. She also served as a mentor for New Student Orientation.