News

Photo of student smiling at the Public Service Leadership Awards.
Shivapriya “Priya” Nair ’25 received a Public Service Leadership Award for her commitment to anti-racism within the local school districts.

Middlebury celebrated student leadership and partnerships in public service at the 29th annual Patrick J. Durkin, Class of 1979, Public Service Leadership Awards ceremony, hosted by the Center for Community Engagement (CCE) on May 4.

“Since its founding in 1800, Middlebury has been known as the ‘town’s college,’” said President Laurie Patton in what was the first in-person Patrick J. Durkin ’79 Public Service Leadership Awards since 2019. Patton stressed the need to transform conflict in order to bridge divides and solve challenges facing communities and the world. Quoting the late Patrick Durkin, Patton said, “For it is from uncountable acts of kindness, hard work, and at times courage, that sets in motion waves of positive actions that together shape the character of individuals, a college, a community, a nation, and the world.

Patrick’s brother, Tim, spoke at the award ceremony, recalling his brother’s dedication to public service and thanking award recipients and nominees for their work in the community.

Tim Durkin chats with staff members at the Public Service Leadership Awards on May 4.
Tim Durkin, brother of the late Patrick J. Durkin, for whom the Public Service Leadership Awards are named, speaks with Middlebury College staff.

Keynote speaker Natasha Causton, Class of ’96 and world languages teacher at Middlebury Union High School, emphasized the importance of community and praised student and staff service to the greater community. You give me hope in the world. You have both the skills and the heart to go out and do good work, and you do it. You clearly have developed a strong sense of responsibility and a commitment to others. Your voice, your opinion and your perspective matter,” she said.

The following students were recognized at the 2022 Public Service Leadership Awards. The first four awards are named in honor of individuals with special relationships to Middlebury College, many of whom were in attendance over Zoom. The remaining six awards recognize students for their distinct commitment to and leadership in public service, and encourage continued pursuits of their engagement well after graduation and throughout their lives. 

The Dana Morosini Reeve ’84 Memorial Public Service Award recognizes students who exemplify Dana’s spirit and determination in advocacy work. Kevin Mata ’22 was presented with this award for his dedication to immigrant justice and advocacy for those marginalized by the immigration industrial complex. Kevin worked as a Spanish-English medical interpreter for the Open Door Clinic through the Privilege & Poverty academic cluster field experience, and he helps provide weekly one-on-one English lessons through the Juntos/Compas student organization. Kevin has also advocated for immigrants’ rights through Middlebury Alternative Break (MAlt) projects: first, as a participant providing support to immigrant detainees through the Capital Area Immigrants’ Rights Coalition, and then as a MAlt trip leader February when Covid derailed the CCE’s five planned MAlt trips. Kevin stepped up to develop local experiences that educated students on the history and context of migration in Vermont, including the ways history impacts current immigration policies.

The John M. McCardell Jr. Public Service Leadership Award—which recognizes students that bring Middlebury, both the College and the town, closer together for public benefit—was presented to Luke Robins ’23 for his commitment to justice reform and restorative justice practices. Luke was a Privilege & Poverty Academic Cluster intern and split time between the Addison County Public Defender and Addison County Restorative Justice Services. Luke worked directly with individuals involved in the criminal justice system, supporting a restorative justice model that holds offenders accountable in a community context that relies on volunteers. Luke took initiative to connect with other Middlebury students to support this work, bringing students together with other members of the community and enhancing the courts’ ability to practice a restorative justice model.

The Bonnie McCardell Public Service Award went to a student who exemplifies outreach in youth and family services, literacy, and the special needs of young people. As Lead Student Coordinator of Community Friends, a 1:1 mentoring organization at Middlebury, Madeline “Maddie” McKean ’22 helped keep mentors and mentees connected during the pandemic, finding creative solutions to engage kids online and supporting other mentors through the challenges of virtual mentoring. Maddie helped provide continuity for local schools and families during a time when mentoring relationships were more important than ever. Under Maddie’s leadership, Community Friends was able to consistently match Middlebury students with youth across Addison County, and provide resources to mentors to support and enhance their remote activities with kids.

The Tiffany Nourse Sargent ’79 Engaged Partnership Award honors an educational partnership between Middlebury College and a community organization to address community needs. Middlebury Regional Emergency and Medical Services (MREMS) and Middlebury College were presented this award for their partnership in responding to emergency calls in our local community. MREMS staff, student leaders, and Middlebury College staff accepted the award for their efforts in training, supporting, and mentoring Middlebury College students to become MREMS responders. Since 2002, Middlebury College has provided a J-term course teaching students the skills to become an EMT, training students to respond to emergencies in the greater Middlebury area.

Amanda Coccia ’22 and Linh Tran ’22 for their service as Middlebury Alternative Break program (MAlt) co-presidents, supporting MAlt trip leaders to develop justice-focused experiential learning experiences for peers. Amanda Coccia ‘22 was a Community Engagement Orientation trip leader to facilitate community-engaged experiences for first year students. Amanda then co-led a MAlt trip to Texas to help respond to recovery efforts after Hurricane Harvey. Linh Tran ‘22 joined a MAlt trip her first year at Middlebury, joining other Middlebury students on a trip to Costa Rica focusing on environmental restoration. Linh then co-lead a MAlt trip to California for an immersive learning experience into environmental justice.

Rostyk Yarovyk ’25 for his advocacy in responding to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Rostyk’s native country. Rostyk helped raise awareness of the conflict and support for Ukraine, working with other Ukrainian students to organize a two-week fundraiser with tables across campus as well as the United for Ukraine concert. Rostyk met with the Vermont Lieutenant Governor at the State Capital to discuss how Vermonters can support Ukraine, spoke to the Vermont State House of Representatives, and facilitated a “Seat at the Table” conference. That same day, the Vermont House passed a resolution donating $600,000 to help Ukraine. Rostyk has also provided English tutoring to Ukrainian refugees, interviews with VPR, and translated news articles to help fight misinformation. In addition to this advocacy, Rostyk volunteers with the Ukraine Global Scholars program, supporting Ukrainians applying for US colleges with applications and funding services.

The Nutrition Outreach and Mentoring (NOM) executive board, made up of Emily Bulczynski ’22, Grace Kirkpatrick ’22, Cassie Kearney ’22, Emily Hyer ’23, Emma White ’22, Emma Pagni ’23.5, and Indira Yuldasheva ’22, was recognized for their leadership in mentoring centered around nutrition and food education. The NOM executive board showed exceptional dedication to nourishing existing relationships with local community partners, in an ever-changing Covid environment, and growing new partnerships to support youth living in Addison County. This year, NOM led ongoing nutrition-based educational programming at Mary Hogan Elementary School, Middlebury Union Middle School, and Addison Central Teens. The NOM executive board exemplified the spirit of community, provided consistency for local families, and collaborated through shared responsibility and ownership.

Nicholas “Nick” Wagg ’22 was presented an award for his dedication to Brother to Brother, an organization that creates safe and affirming spaces for middle schoolers to foster healthy attitudes towards masculinity. Nick has been involved with Brother to Brother since his sophomore year at Middlebury, first as Treasurer and then as President. Even while Nick was studying abroad his junior year, he continued to join Brother to Brother meetings on Zoom to support the organization during Covid. In his position as President, Nick has done the hard work to create a sustainable organization that was impacted by the Covid pandemic and the inability to be in-person with middle school students. Nick intentionally built connections with new students to cultivate the next line of leaders for Brother to Brother and worked with other student organizations to collaborate on outreach and programming.

Andrés Oyaga ’23 was recognized for his advocacy in economic and human rights for migrant farm workers. Andrés has organized affinity spaces for BIPOC community members at the Knoll and most recently, joined a student solidarity movement with Migrant Justice to help center human rights and environmental justice in the dairy industry and Middlebury’s own energy portfolio. Andrés is not afraid to ask difficult questions and do the hard work of digging deep to find real and just solutions.

Shivapriya “Priya” Nair ’25 received an award for her commitment to anti-racism within the local school districts. Priya was a student in the CCE’s Community-Connected Learning course and partnered with Mount Abraham Union High School to develop and facilitate affinity spaces for BIPOC students and LGBTQ-identifying students. She joined an anti-racism task force and continued to support efforts to create affirming and supportive spaces for historically marginalized high school students. Priya also joined Language in Motion, a CCE program which collaborates with local K-12 teachers to develop intercultural curriculum for students. In her role with Language in Motion, Priya collaborated with other students to develop an anti-racism curriculum for Language in Motion, which will be introduced to local classrooms in the 2022/23 academic year.

Students pose for a group photo with President Laurie Patton at the Public Service Leadership Awards.
President Laurie Patton congratulates student recipients of the 2022 Public Service Leadership Awards at the Kirk Center on May 4.

About the Patrick J. Durkin ’79 Awards

Patrick J. Durkin was a member of the Class of 1979 and founder of the Public Service Leadership Awards. Durkin, who died by suicide in the summer of 2020, understood the importance of public service and helped Middlebury build collaborative relationships with local, national, and international communities. He helped Middlebury celebrate service and civic leadership and aimed to provide the same recognition for students dedicated to public service as those who achieve excellence in academics, athletics, or the performing arts.

In Durkin’s honor, the awards were officially renamed the Patrick J. Durkin, Class of 1979, Public Service Leadership Awards in 2021.

With support from the Durkin Fund, the CCE will make $500 donations on behalf of each award winner to a nonprofit organization of their choice. The Durkin Fund supports these awards and other CCE programs that foster student public service leadership. As of this year, the CCE will have recognized a total of 238 students through these awards and distributed $75,100 to nonprofit organizations designated by the student award recipients.

If you or someone you know is experiencing a mental health crisis, please seek support from Middlebury Counseling or MiddTelehealth (students), or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, or Crisis Text Line.