Keuka College must be crazy for community service. After a record spring on behalf of the community, including nearly 1,000 service hours by almost 200 members of the campus body, primarily students, following May floods that devastated Penn Yan and Branchport, this year’s Angel Tree benefit set a new record.
Donations given in 2014 on behalf of 31 needy children and two additional families, each with four children, totaled $9,033 – that’s four times greater than last year’s contributions, according to Valerie Webster, who supervises students holding roles as community service advocates in the Center for Experiential Learning. The Community Service Advocates coordinate the Angel Tree program for Keuka College.
Similar to Angel Tree programs elsewhere, participants select an angel-shaped ornament from a Christmas tree with the name of a local child or family in need and their wish list of gift items. Donors then bring items to the sponsoring organization so each child can have a merry Christmas.
According to Webster, who delivered goodies Dec. 4 with community service student advocates, “some of the bags are so heavy, it will take two students to lift them to get out of here.”
The partner agency receiving donations for local families, Child and Family Resources, Inc. is a unique family-centered service organization with locations in Rushville, Penn Yan, Geneva, and Seneca Falls. For nearly 40 years, the agency has offered programs to support of the educational, emotional, and social needs of families and children of all ages. Alicia Avellanda, lead early childhood educator at the Penn Yan office said the agency is “incredibly grateful to partner with Keuka College for this very special program. Thanks to the wonderful students and college community we are able to share some holiday spirit with local families.”
Webster said she could not count the number of participants among students, faculty and staff – she only knew it exceeded all previous participation. According to her, not only were students, staff and faculty physically requesting “angels” from the tree, but even ASAP adjunct professors emailed in, sight unseen, to request information on a child they could support with Christmas gifts. Even local merchants, including Weaver’s Bicycle Shop on Route 14A, got involved. According to Webster, the shop owner sold students in the Rotoract club three bicycles at reduced cost with no shipping and handling, to give to a family who lost everything in the May floods. The Rotoract club sponsors an entire family for the Angel Tree project each year, she said.
“I just want to say thank you to the whole campus community for doing this, “she said. “I’m very grateful and I’m so proud of everyone right now.”
“When we recall Christmas past,” said the late comedian Bob Hope, “we usually find that the simplest things—not the great occasions—give off the greatest glow of happiness.”
And the Christmas glow of happiness was evident in the number of bags and boxes for the 36 children receiving gifts though Keuka College’s Angel Tree Project. The gifts for the children were wrapped and delivered to the Child and Family Resource Center in Penn Yan, where Santa Claus was on hand to give the gifts to the children.
“Angel Tree is probably one of the most fun projects to do because it is devoted to making sure that local kids in need have a good holiday,” said Mitch Leet, a sophomore art and design major from Stanley and community service advocate.
The Angel Tree Project is one of the College’s longstanding traditions. Students, staff, and faculty select a paper angel from a Christmas tree. The angel contains a child’s age and gender, and a suggested gift of toys, clothes, or both.
The Angel Tree Project saw “contributions from students, staff, faculty, parents of students, and my husband, who loves to shop for the angels,” said Valerie Webster, community service advocate adviser and co-curricular transcript coordinator. “Every child is an angel and they all should have something special during this time of year.”
Savannah Fuller, a junior occupational science major from Philadelphia, N.Y., said the Angel Tree Project is her favorite to work on and she believes it is the most important project the Community Service Resource Center runs.
“Angel Tree is a project that takes everyone’s focus away from the ‘receiving’ aspect and turns it to the ‘giving’ aspect of the holiday season,” said Fuller, who serves as a community service advocate. “During this project we witness a coming together of students, faculty, and staff at Keuka College who all share the common goal of giving children in need the magical Christmas experience they deserve.”
Webster said Rotaract and the Association of Future Social Workers (AFSW) combined to help a family of six children, and their parents, while the PRIDE Club collected gifts for a family of three children and their mother.
Sarah Schneider, a sophomore unified childhood major from Stanley said she “loves being able to make someone else’s Christmas special and see the kids’ smiling faces,” while Leet said “it’s fantastic that we’re able to help so many families, because it is a tough world to live in right now, and sharing what we’re lucky to have just comes naturally.”
To Fuller, Angel Tree means “means putting a smile on a child’s face when they open the toy they’ve been dreaming of on Christmas morning. It means focusing on something other than yourself and reaching out to those in need.”
Added Nikita Wilkins, a junior biology major from Bloomfield: “Angel Tree provides an opportunity for needy children to experience Christmas. It gets the community involved in an activity that gives back. Christmas is more than gifts—it is the spirit of everyone coming together for a greater purpose.”
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 fifth in a series of profiles of Student Employee of the Year nominees. The winner will be announced at a luncheon Thursday, April 18.
Kayla Curtis of Red Creek, a senior psychology major at Keuka, was nominated for the 2013 Student Employee of the Year award for her work as student coordinator for the Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS) chapter on campus.
BBBS pairs volunteer “Bigs” (college students) with “Littles,” young students befriended and mentored by the Bigs.
Curtis has held that role since enrolling as a transferring sophomore at Keuka in the fall of 2010. But a transition in professional staff at the Greater Rochester BBBS office three weeks after Curtis started left her little training and only one match. Nonetheless, Curtis pressed forward. According to Valerie Webster, co-curricular transcript coordinator, she increased the number of matches from one to 12, handles all aspects of training and data entry for the “Bigs,” and does “98 percent of the work to keep the program operational.”
This includes organizing activities throughout the year that pairs of Bigs and Littles can attend, both on and off campus. Anytime an event is held on campus, Curtis arranges for Keuka’s AVI Fresh (dining services) to provide lunch or dinner for all Littles, so they can have a positive learning experience on a college campus.
According to Webster, Curtis exhibits a “work ethic, initiative and commitment to understanding and serving others” that will make her an asset to any organization after graduation. “Her positive attitude, patience and ability to work with people are refreshing and energizing,” Webster said.
Curtis has also been a resident assistant, a three-year member of the Psychology Club (current vice president), a member of two honor societies, and holds a 3.8 GPA.
The late American educator Mary Ellen Chase once said “Christmas is not a date. It is a state of mind.”
And the Christmas state of mind was evident in the number of ribbons and bows that adorned the bags and boxes for 38 children receiving gifts though Keuka College’s Angel Tree Project. The gifts for the children were wrapped and delivered to the Child and Family Resource Center in Penn Yan Monday, Dec. 3, where Santa Claus was on hand to give the gifts to the children.
“Angel Tree gives the College a way to do community service,” said Valerie Webster, community service advocate adviser and co-curricular transcript coordinator. “It makes people stop and realize how important it is to help others, and to understand the true meaning of the holidays.”
Freshman Mary Leet agrees.
“[Helping others at] Christmas feels more like Christmas when you give, rather than receive,” said the visual and verbal art major from Stanley, who also serves as a community service advocate.
A community service staple and College favorite, the annual Angel Tree Project is designed to make the holidays a bit brighter for area children in need. Students, staff, and faculty select a paper angel from a Christmas tree. The angel contains a child’s age and gender, and a suggested gift of toys, clothes, or both.
Savannah Fuller, a junior occupational science major from Philadelphia and community service advocate, said Christmas “is a time to cherish all kids, and by choosing an angel from the tree, I felt good knowing I helped make a child’s Christmas brighter.”
Webster said two clubs—Rotaract Club and Drama Club—bought gifts for two families. The clubs combined to give the families necessity items including cleaning supplies, laundry supplies, towels, and pots and pans.
Rotaract Club member Brittany Gleason, a sophomore mathematics and management major from Carthage, says “the club is all about community service, and we feel good knowing that a family is getting things they need that they might not otherwise be able to get.”
Added Webster: “The Angel Tree Project gives everyone a chance to have those wishes we all have. And it gives the community of Yates County insight into the giving spirit of Keuka College students.”