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Francoise Niyigena ’21, winner of the Dana Morosini ’84 Memorial Public Service Award, was honored for her service and advocacy in education.

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Annual Ceremony Honors Student Public Service

May 7, 2020

MIDDLEBURY, Vt. – Student leadership and partnerships in public service took center stage at the 27th annual Public Service Leadership Awards ceremony, hosted by the Center for Community Engagement on April 28. Middlebury President Laurie Patton, Director of the Center for Community Engagement Ashley Laux ’06, Patrick J. Durkin ’79, and Mary Hogan Elementary School Principal Jen Kravitz delivered remarks to more than 70 audience members participating on Zoom.

“The Public Service Leadership Awards are one of Middlebury’s most meaningful traditions—an opportunity each year for us to pause to recognize those among us who are working to address some of the most challenging problems we face today—locally, nationally, and globally," said Patton. "Every year, our community engagement is increasing, and this is the legacy we want to leave for the future, especially now in a time of turbulence for everyone.” Patton also celebrated the “extensive contributions” of recently retired Director of the Center for Community Engagement Tiffany Nourse Sargent ’79, including her establishment of the Public Service Leadership Awards. 

Alumnus Patrick J. Durkin ’79, one of the driving forces behind the annual Public Service Leadership Awards, affirmed the importance of service in students’ lives, and the deep, necessary impact that sustained acts of kindness and courage have on our world.

Kravitz shared a community partner perspective as the keynote speaker, reflecting on the many partnerships between the College and elementary school. “Together, we have made connections, and expanded learning opportunities for local students and college students,” Kravitz said. “You have expanded students’ palates and lunch offerings through taste tests of local foods. You have written postcards to a kindergarten class as you traveled on a boat, sharing the world with them. You have provided them with a mentor, a model of sportsmanship, caring, and thoughtful risk taking without a recess. You have inspired them to dream about a life after elementary school, beyond their life, to consider what they might be.”

This year, 42 students were nominated among the more than 1,500 Middlebury College students who participate in community engagement initiatives annually. CCE staff presented  awards and certificates to the selected winners:

The John M. McCardell Jr. Public Service Leadership Award was presented to Sabine Poux ‘20 for work as Editor-in-Chief of The Campus. She has collaborated with the Addison Independent and pursued journalism in a way that encourages Middlebury students to develop a deeper connection to the town. 

The Bonnie McCardell Public Service Award recipient Kira Waldman ’20 expressed commitment to youth in many forms: a camp counselor in the summers, a supporter of young female basketball players through the STRIDE foundation, and a meaningful part of Community Friends all four years as a mentor, coordinator, and former lead student coordinator.

The Dana Morosini ’84 Memorial Public Service Award was presented to Francoise Niyigena ’21 for her service and advocacy related to education. Francoise has presented in multiple Vermont classrooms through Language in Motion, participated in and led education-focused MAlt trips, and used an Academic Outreach Endowment grant to develop and facilitate curriculum through TEACHRwanda and Nu-Vision High School in Rwanda.

The Tiffany Nourse Sargent '79 Engaged Partnership Award was created this year to honor the impact of Tiffany’s leadership in connecting Middlebury College and the town of Middlebury in her 35-year tenure at Middlebury College, including as the former director of the Center for Community Engagement. It honors an educational partnership between Middlebury College and a community organization to address community needs. The Wild Middlebury Project and The Hannaford Career Center won the inaugural award for bringing together college students and local high school students to learn about the natural world together and share skills. The members of the student organization WildMidd serve as mentors to wildlife management projects completed by teams of HCC students, and HCC students teach WildMidd members about connecting with nature in Vermont. 

In addition to the named awards, the CCE also presented a number of Public Service Leadership Awards recognizing students for their distinct commitment to and leadership in public service, and to encourage continued pursuits of their engagement well after graduation and throughout their lives. The 2020 recipients were:

Jack Carew ’20 for his work on multiple community-connected grants that supported education in Haiti, indigenous language revitalization in Guatemala, oral histories in Chile, and connections between Palestinian literature and health in Jordan, and for his leadership with Middlebury Alternative Breaks, Language in Motion, Community Friends, and Page One Literacy Project. 

Brian Ketchabaw ’20 for his committed collaborative leadership of Middlebury College Access Mentors, including his senior thesis that explored the role of mentorship for first generation college students.

Mikayla Hyman ’20 who has worked tirelessly on projects, long-term leadership, advocacy, program development, and volunteering with Sister-to-Sister, Middlebury Refugee Outreach Club, the STEAM Girls Program, the first Feminist Science Art Show at Midd, WomenSafe, Addison Central Teens, Hillel, first responder groups, and United Way of Addison County. 

Ariana Rios ’21 and Isabella N. Rivera ’22 for their work together as co-presidents of Womxn of Color. They collaborate across the campus community, organizing the semi-annual art show, WOC mixers with other groups such as Distinguished Men of Color, faculty of color, and Feminist Action at Middlebury, as well as the very successful Black Pearl Ball in January – which is the only regular public celebration of womxn of color on campus. 

Leif Taranta ’20.5 for their demonstrated leadership in environmental activism at Middlebury. Leif served as a co-coordinator of the Divest Middlebury campaign and other campus environmental and social justice initiatives. Leif also was a lead organizer in setting up a mutual aid network and tools during the start of the current pandemic when the college moved to remote learning. 

Varsha Vijayakumar ’20 for her leadership in our local and global communities through participation and leadership within Middlebury Alternative Break Trips (MAlt), SGA, and more. Varsha led a MAlt trip to Florida focused on anti-human trafficking and this year served as MAlt’s co-president. As the current SGA president, Varsha focused on bringing together communities and creating an inclusive and transparent governing body. 

In keeping with the PSLA tradition, each of the student honorees received funds donated by alumni, which they, in turn will donate to a nonprofit of their choice. Over its 27-year history, the Public Service Leadership Awards have honored 220 Middlebury students.