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Student Profiles

Many students at Wake Forest are engaged with community partners in the Winston-Salem community in a mutually beneficial relationship that is educational for the student and contributes to meeting the needs of the community.  Some of our wonderful students and their community partners are highlighted below.

Yasin Ali and World Relief

Yasin Ali, a charismatic junior senior majoring in Political Science and minoring in Global Trade & Commerce and International Studies, wanted to further his experience with the nonprofit world. He had previously founded an organization to support the growing Somali refugee population in the town to which he had immigrated.  Interning with World Relief in High Point and Winston Salem as part of the Institute for Public Engagement 2012 Summer Nonprofit Immersion Program, Yasin welcomed recently-arrived refugees from Burma, Bhutan and Iraq, preparing and helping them move into their new apartments and adjust to life in a new country.  Yasin particularly enjoyed the ENGAGE Seminar component of the immersion program:  “Doing the readings, discussing different aspects of nonprofit careers with fellow interns, hearing about stories and journeys to current positions in the non-profit sector, helped deepen my thinking about different career possibilities.” Jessie Garnett, Case Manager and Match Grant Employment Assistant, commented on Yasin’s outstanding positive outlook, flexibility, and willingness to go to the extra mile.”    Yasin recently had an article published on the Importance of International Community Support for Somalia.

Brandi Bugg and CareNet, Inc.

Brandi Bugg is a conscientious senior double majoring in Political Science and Sociology.   Through her courses in “Social Problems” and “Racial and Ethnic Politics,” Brandi realized “the importance of the nonprofit sector as a vital part of any economy and society.”  She wanted to gain experience working in a nonprofit dealing with health equity or public health to develop problem solving strategies.   As part of the 2012 Institute for Public Engagement Summer Nonprofit Immersion Program, Brandi interned with CareNet, Inc./ Wake Forest Baptist Health, working “to improve the health of the mind, body, spirit and community.”  Her focus was to identify possible grants for CareNet to expand into new areas of service and to develop a sophisticated outcome measure to be used across the Carenet network.  Erica Gregory, Director of Finance, complimented Brandi’s ability to work independently and the research she accomplished that will allow clinicians to enhance the care they provide to clients.

Erin Cassidy and Art for Art’s Sake

Erin Cassidy is an avid proponent of public art, is a senior majoring in Religion (with a concentration in Religion and Public Engagement) with a Studio Art minor.  Erin has a passion for engaging others in the world of art and reaching out to communities to make art accessible to them.   She sees art as “an untapped resource for community engagement across racial lines . . . . My own perspective has been deconstructed and reshaped upon encountering new people with diverse interests, experience and expertise.”  Erin brought her enthusiasm and experience with the Big Tent Project and START Gallery to her internship with Art for Art’s Sake (AFAS) as part of the Institute for Public Engagement 2012 Summer Nonprofit Immersion Program.  AFAS seeks to educate and celebrate the community through mentoring programs and scholarships in visual art, craft, and music.  Erin said her internship “provided me with many experiences that will help me to take on new tasks . . . .  I have earned to face new challenges and think creatively to solve problems with the help of my supervisor.”  Julie Knabb, Vice Chairman/Art Director commented, “Without the support of your program and a passionate student intern by the name of Erin Cassidy, our organization would not have been able to jump start a new pilot program for community work in such a short time frame.”

Kelly Cherwin with CHANGE and Harry’s Veterans Community Outreach Services, Inc.

Kelly Cherwin, an energy-filled senior double-majoring in Communication and  Sociology, wanted to work with a nonprofit “founded and rooted in zealous passion.” Her aim was to find out  how to organize and sustain support to further community building, diversity, and social justice.  As part of the Institute for Public Engagement 2012 Summer Nonprofit Immersion Program, Kelly worked with  CHANGE,  Communities Helping All Neighborhoods Gain Empowerment, and its partner Harry’s Veterans Community Outreach Services, Inc. While CHANGE is committed to building a stronger community by developing relationships across racial, ethnic, economic, political, social, and religious lines, Harry’s offers supportive services to veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces and their families.  Kelly said:  “The internships had a profound effect on my beliefs and values.  At CHANGE I learned the difference between justice work and service work and how to live in the space between the two dichotomies . . . I was challenged to think about the different aspects of my identity and how that affects the way I relate to other people. . . .My experience affirmed my future life plans and career goals.”  Mustafa Abdullah, Lead Organizer, said “Kelly is extremely passionate about our work and intentionally building relationships.  Many of our leaders who had relational meetings with her told commented that she is ‘wonderful,’  ‘intelligent’ and has a good instinct for community organizing. . . . She went over and beyond her learning agreement and program agreement.”

Stephen Clark and The Shalom Project

Stephen Clark, a committed junior majoring in English and minoring in Political Science, interned with The Shalom Project as part of the Institute for Public Engagement 2012 Summer Nonprofit Immersion Program.  The Shalom Project seeks to build a strong and healthy community by meeting the needs of people with compassion, celebrating diversity and working for justice. This fit well with Stephen’s interest in understanding and working to address community issues.  Before this internship, Steven and a Wake fraternity brother had created H.O.P.E. (Helping our People Excel) House, a co-ed community that works to mentor young elementary and middle school students through weekly tutoring and outreach.  At the Shalom Project, Stephen assisted with the food pantry, cothing coset, health clinic and The Big Chill Annual Fundraiser.  Stephen said that his internship “helped teach me a ton about my own values and morals. I learned firsthand about altruism.”  Kismet Loftin-Bell, Executive Director of The Shalom Project commented on Stephen’s enthusiasm and flexibility and what a tremendous support he was in all community endeavors during his internship.

Rachel Dobson and The Winston-Salem Symphony

Rachel Dobson is an enthusiastic senior, majoring in Sociology and Religion and minoring in Women’s and Gender Studies.  Her participation in an International Leadership and Service Program in South Africa prepared her to follow her passion to help others learn to help themselves.  Also a leader in the Wake Forest Marching Band, Rachel brought her community spirit and love of music into play in her summer internship.  She worked with the Winston-Salem Symphony as part of the Institute for Public Engagement 2012 Summer Nonprofit Immersion Program to renew advertiser commitments and secure new advertisers for the fall/spring playbills.  Beth Macy, Assistant to the President, said “I can’t say enough good things about Rachel.  She came in ready and willing to tackle any challenges . . . She ended up being a natural at selling ads for our playbills and we not only met but exceeded our sales goal.”

Danielle Gallant and Family Services, Inc.

Danielle Gallant is an impassioned senior, majoring in Sociology/Women’s and Gender Studies and minoring in Entrepreneurship and Social Enterprise.  Danielle’s goal for her internship as part of the Institute for Public Engagement 2012 Summer Nonprofit Immersion Program was “to gain understanding of how development works within a large human services organization.” Danielle worked with Michelle Speas, Development Director for Family Services, Inc. , “building tomorrow by strengthening our communities and families today.”  Danielle commented that the experience “reinforced my commitment to service and my interest in a career in the nonprofit sector and shed new light on my relationship with service and justice work.”  Michelle described Danielle as highly motivated and professional and said she hoped to be able to employ her in development in the future!


Meagan Hoglund and the Children’s Museum of Winston-Salem

Meagan Hoglund is a fun-loving and energetic senior majoring in Elementary Education who recognizes that “teaching children not only molds their individual futures, but also the future of the whole world.”   Meagan wanted to understand the inner workings of a nonprofit organization seeking to teach children in fun and creative ways through her internship with the Children’s Museum as part of the Institute for Public Engagement 2012 Summer Nonprofit Immersion Program.  Patricia Carroll, Education Coordinator, commented, “I felt so strongly about Meagan’s ability to take a task and make it her own that when we had to find a substitute lead teacher for a camp, she was the first one I thought of.”


Chelsea Hosch and Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust

Chelsea Hosch is a highly professional junior considering a major in Business and Enterprise Management and minor in Communication. Her Principles of Marketing class encouraged Chelsea to think about nonprofit management and experience firsthand the principles and practices that nonprofit work entails, Chelsea interned with Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust, as part of the Institute for Public Engagement 2012 Summer Nonprofit Immersion Program.  She gained invaluable experience relating to health care, grant-making, and philanthropy.  Allen Smart, Health Care Division Director, recognized Chelsea’s ability to work with many staff members on different needs:  “She did a fine job of juggling and balancing as she developed a national communications list for over 100 sites as part of the Trust’s major marketing project.”

Deanna Margius and A Brighter Path Foundation/Winston-Salem Industries for the Blind

Deanna Margius, an outstanding junior majoring in Biology and minoring in Spanish, is considering the possibility of optometry school upon graduation.  She had previously volunteered in Nicaragua identifying the onset of glaucoma and giving medications to prevent blindness.  As part of the Institute for Public Engagement 2012 Summer Nonprofit Immersion Program, Deanna worked with A Brighter Path Foundation.  According to her supervisor, Jenny Viars, “Deanna was instrumental in planning and carrying out this year’s summer camp for children who are blind or visually impaired. . . . I feel like she was a perfect match for both our organization and our team”  Deanna said, “The program taught me that the skills and attitudes developed at a young age have an enormous impact on a child’s future . . . I have gained a lot of emotional intelligence and social skills through my internship.  I have learned so much about the disabled community, and have become accustomed to their unique needs. ”

Olivia Mercer and El Buen Pastor Latino Community Services

Olivia Mercer, a dedicated senior majoring in Spanish and minoring in Secondary Education had her dream internship with El Buen Pastor Latino Community Services (El Buen) as part of the Institute for Public Engagement’s 2012 Summer Nonprofit Immersion Program. El Buen seeks to strengthen Latino families in the Old Town area and help them adapt to their new lives in Winston-Salem.  Olivia is passionate about working to overcome the achievement gap in education, particularly non-English as a first language children.  Working at El Buen strengthened Olivia’s passion to pursue a career teaching in the Latino community.  She formed close bonds with her supervisors and fellow interns.  Mary Bolton, Executive Director, commented that “Olivia participated fully in program planning for our summer tutoring and enrichment program.  She was an integral part of our daily activities, teaching a class and managing students . . . Olivia was a perfect fit for our organization.

Raheem Polk and Crisis Control Ministry, Inc.

Raheem Polk, an enterprising senior majoring in Political Science and Minoring in Business sought experience through the Institute for Public Engagement 2012 Summer Nonprofit Immersion Program that would enable him to provide assistance to others and pave the way to a possible future career as a lawyer.  He interned with Crisis Control Ministry, Inc., which seeks to assist people in crisis to meet essential life needs and to become self-sufficient. Raheem commented that “working with Crisis Control helped strengthen my beliefs and values in terms of helping and supporting my fellow man. . . . . Aside from affording me invaluable assets and skills, such as communication and interviewing skills . . . this experience helped me realize that I love to work face-to-face and one-on-one with people.”  Vicki Jones, Director of Community and Volunteer Relations remarked on Raheem’s “compassion, intelligence and self-assurance” and she that,  “in addition to providing financial crisis with help relating to their issues, he made individuals in serious situations have hope.”

Parker Smith with AIDS Care Service, Inc and The Experiment in Self-Reliance, Inc.

Parker Smith is a creative third year law student who wanted to broaden her understanding of nonprofit organizations and expand her skill set.  As part of the Institute for Public Engagement 2012 Summer Nonprofit Immersion Program, Parker worked with both  AIDS Care Service, Inc.,  providing a broad range of programs and services for clients throughout Northwest NC infected and affected by HIV/AIDS, and The Experiment in Self-Reliance, Inc. (EISR), supporting working low-income and chronically homeless people to achieve their full potential. According to Parker, the ENGAGE Seminar, part of the immersion program, “forced me to reflect on my work and my motivations and goals in the nonprofit sector.”  The internship “taught me a lot about grant writing and development, which I would now consider as a career path. . .  I developed relationships that will be beneficial to me in the future.”  Rivkah Meder,  Development Officer at AIDS Care Services, said “Parker laid a very firm foundation for the continued creation of the oral history project, created an outstanding welcome and resource guide for new housing program participants, and assisted greatly in researching and writing several grants.”  Similarly, Casey Hammons, Development & Agency Relations Manager with EISR, commented , “Parker exceeded expectations and successfully completed her assignments; many of which had competitive deadlines.  We couldn’t have mail-ordered a more perfect fit for our organization.“

Alesha Watson

Alesha Watson, focused on social justice, is a rising junior majoring in Political Science and minoring in Global Trade and Commerce Studies.  As part of the Institute for Public Engagement 2012 Summer Nonprofit Immersion Program, Alesha worked with Big Brothers, Big Sisters Services, Inc., helping children realize their potential and build their futures.  Alesha put together and taught tobacco prevention workshops for children of different ages and created materials to be included in future volunteer trainings.  Alesha commented, “I am a giver by nature . . . my internship has nurtured this characteristic, broadening my perspective on possibilities to give back.”  Rebecca Edwards, VP of Programs and Operations, expressed her appreciation for Alesha’s “great job of presenting the materials to the groups.”

Jay Lowrey:

Senior psychology major Jay Lowrey meets with his supervisor, volunteer coordinator Marinda Maxwell, during his summer internship at Hospice in Winston-Salem, NC.

Senior psychology major Jay Lowrey meets with his supervisor, volunteer coordinator Marinda Maxwell, during his summer internship at Hospice in Winston-Salem, NC.

Jay Lowrey worked with Hospice & Palliative Care in Winston-Salem to launch a new program where patients can leave a recorded memento for family and friends. Lowrey, a senior psychology major, has been organizing methods for implementing the Life Review program, including coordinating requests with caregivers and training volunteers to help patients through the process. Lowrey says he chose to work with the Hospice center in part because of experiences with the organization when his grandmother died. “I was excited to have an opportunity to work at Hospice this summer. It’s a happy place to work. Everyone is extremely positive and gracious. It’s not about dying. It’s about how our patients lived. The issues our patients deal with are issues we will all have to deal with at some time,” said Lowrey.

Anna Harris:

Senior psychology major Anna Harris talks with a resident on the front porch of Prodigals Community—a long-term drug rehabilitation facility in Winston-Salem where she worked this summer.

Senior psychology major Anna Harris talks with a resident on the front porch of Prodigals Community—a long-term drug rehabilitation facility in Winston-Salem where she worked this summer.

Senior psychology major Anna Harris volunteered at the Prodigals Community during a local mission trip over winter break. Touched by the stories of hope and love, she decided she wanted to spend her summer nonprofit internship helping the ministry. Harris assisted prospective residents with applications and helped write on the organization’s first newsletter. Committed to her work, Harris often worked longer than she was scheduled to work, and her supervisor, Dianne Dawson Garrett, credits her with “jumping in to do whatever needs to be done.” “Through my work at Prodigals, I was able to learn about what it really takes to run a nonprofit,” says Harris. “I was also exposed to people with different life experiences who I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to meet otherwise.”

Lauren Arrington:

Lauren Arrington, a junior psychology major, studio art minor, was selected by the city of Winston-Salem to receive one of this years two Martin Luther King, Jr. Young Dreamers awards. The City of Winston-Salem Human Relations Commission annually honor individuals in our community who keep the legacy of Dr. King alive by working for equality and justice for all. The award was for her work on the Transforming Race project and a series of public art projects she did in Art 215. Click here to read more.

Jawad Wahabzada:

Undergraduate Communications major Jawad Wahabzada has worked with Jon Bougher, a recent MFA graduate of the Documentary Film Program to produce a film on child labor victims in Kabul, Afghanistan.   Their effort to raise awareness about this important issue caught the attention of CNN International.

Watch the video interview: Child Labor in Kabul

Below are some examples of students who are doing community based research. These students recently presented their work as part of the URECA Annual Research Day (more on URECA).

Thane Campbell:

Thane Campbell, a junior Anthropology major with a Pre-med concentration, accompanied Wake Forest professor, Dr. Jeanne Simonelli, on a seven week journey to Nicaragua where he worked with La Familia Padre Fabretto, a not-for-profit organization that strives to counter the impact of poverty in Nicaraguan communities. During his time in the country, Thane worked in Fabretto’s health clinic and in doing so gained valuable experience delivering health care in a poor area of an underdeveloped country and with the help of his mentor Dr. Simonelli, Thane learned the basics of performing ethical and practical anthropological fieldwork by analyzing some of the functions of the Fabretto clinic from the basic perspective of both Medical and Applied Anthropology. This opportunity was made possible by the Anthropology department’s project, Health and Helping: Perspectives on Rural Medicine and Anthropological Fieldwork, one of Wake Forest University’s many community-based research initiatives.

“In recent years, Type II diabetes has become one of the fastest growing public health concerns in the United States, in part as a result of increasing obesity rates. As awareness of this problem grows, it is a social and human imperative to determine how diabetes is affecting the poor.” That is why senior Biology major Amy Liang took to the streets of Winston-Salem with Wake Forest professors Dr. Saylor Breckenridge and Dr. Ana Wahl to determine the Linkages between Homelessness, Diet, and Diabetes. The goal of their study was “to investigate the prevalence of Type II diabetes among the homeless in Winston-Salem, NC and to attempt to identify some of the factors that could exacerbate diabetes or increase the risk of its development in homeless individuals.”  This research project is yet another example of Wake Forest’s commitment to apply the University’s motto of Pro Humanitate in the University’s endless pursuit of knowledge.

Kendall Hack, Rachel Handel, and Carrie Stokes:

Kendall Hack, Rachel Handel, and Carrie Stokes spent the summer of 2010 with Wake Forest professor, Dr. Ananda Mitra, in India, researching the issues affecting the local education system in Leh, the capital city of Ladakh, India. Leh’s education system faced many obstacles, including lack of the resources necessary to provide for an adequate education. Because of this, products of Leh’s schools often found employment opportunities to be scarce. What these three Wake Forest students witnessed in that Himalayan city affected them so deeply that they chose to return with Dr. Mitra the following summer to conduct more research and further assess the strengths and weakness of the community’s school system. Through their collective research efforts, Dr. Mitra, Kendall, Rachel, and Carrie were able to determine which educational practices that local teachers implemented were successful as well as shed light on areas in which school policy could be improv

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“Our project was intended to gather information that we could not discover from the US and use it to (potentially) draft an in-depth survey to be distributed by and amongst the contacts we made last summer (2011). It is our intent that it will be an on-going research project – the survey would provide us with quantitative data that could be used to make effective recommendations.” With thoughtful inquisition and diligence, Wake Forest professors like Dr. Mitra and students like Kendall, Rachel, and Carrie work together to positively impact communities both at home and abroad.

Laura Grace Carroll:

Laura Grace Carroll is a Psychology and Communication double-major. Her research project, which was mentored by Dr. Alessandra Beasley Von Burg, is titled “Health Education Research in Rural Kenya.” Her research abstract follows below:

“Sub-Saharan Africa has 24% of the world’s disease burden, but is addressed with less than 1% of the world’s health care spending”- Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, Half of the Sky

With this information in mind, the research idea for me to study Health Communication, particularly in the education system in Kenya was developed and implemented. This research is focused primarily in a rural area near the base of Mount Kenya, where 20,000 people depend on one health clinic and the idea of Health Education on precautionary topics is extremely new.

Though the research began with researching how health concerns were communicated, it quickly changed as it became apparent that health concerns were scarcely communicated or mentioned at all. The three main areas of research were Samaria Health Center, the local clinic that treats the sick throughout the community; Mapema Primary School and Mountain Star Academy, two local elementary schools where participant observation took place, trial “Health Seminars” were developed, tested, and successful; and starting a CommunityDevelopment Center that will continue to encourage healthy lifestyles and provide educational books and references regarding health concerns. The focal point of the research ended up being educating children on basic preventative health initiatives that they could implement, and the beneficial effects of these throughout the community.

Amy Liang:

Amy Liang is a senior biology major with a minor in sociology. The title of her research project “Determining the Linkages between Homelessness, Diet, and Diabetes,” and her faculty mentors were Dr. Saylor Breckenridge and Dr. Ana Wahl. To read her research abstract, see below:

Research Abstract: In recent years, Type II diabetes has become one of the fastest growing public health concerns in the United States, in part as a result of increasing obesity rates. As awareness of this problem grows, it is a social and human imperative to determine how diabetes is affecting the poor. Connolly, et al (2000) have shown that Type II diabetes, occurring in the middle years of life (between the ages of 40-69 years), is inversely associated with socio-economic status1. Despite the unique set of challenges that diabetes presents to the homeless, a gap exists in both the medical and sociological literature addressing the particular association between homelessness and diabetes. The goal of this study is to 1) investigate the prevalence of Type II diabetes among the homeless in Winston-Salem, NC and 2) to attempt to identify some of the factors that could exacerbate diabetes or increase the risk of its development in homeless individuals. Data for this study was obtained through individual interviews at each of the four homeless shelters in Winston-Salem.