About Melody Porter

Hello blogosphere! I am a long-time fan of human connection. I used to say that my major in college (above my actual political science & religion double major) was in friendships. Conversations over long meals or late nights on dorm hallway floors have been transformative in my life, and it only makes sense to me to dip my toe into new ways of opening up conversation here. I have worked at William and Mary since August 2008, and am Associate Director in the Office of Community Engagement. I spend my time fostering student leadership through alternative breaks. Doing so lets me fulfill what I understand my calling to be about: working for social justice in the world, and equipping others to do so with skill, sensitivity and great love. I earned my Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Religion from Emory University, and then served as a long-term volunteer for three years, beginning a job development program in Philadelphia and working with preschool children in Johannesburg, South Africa. I earned a Master of Divinity from the Candler School of Theology in 2001, with a focus in religious education. I managed a nonprofit family literacy program with immigrant and refugee families, and then served as Associate Minister at First United Methodist Church of Germantown in Philadelphia, working in areas of social justice and community development, and directing an after school program that served more than 100 high school students. Then, I returned to Emory to serve for three years as director of Volunteer Emory, a student-led department for community service. I believe in the power of mutual connection and service to transform lives and create social change. I also love cheese fries.

Dwight Weingarten: Taking a Direct Role

Dwight Weingarten widget

OCE Community Profile Series
By Daniela Sainz | November 6, 2013

Dwight Weingarten is a senior who plans to take the lessons that he learned from his volunteer opportunities at the college and apply them directly to his career aspirations for the future. After spending some time understanding the motivations behind his fealty to Project Phoenix, a tutoring and mentoring program, it is easy to see how the College is a community that fosters a passion for service beyond formal educational settings. Dwight’s experience volunteering for Project Phoenix developed and strengthened his desire to teach after graduation. Here, we explore how Dwight’s passion for teaching was cultivated and how he plans to broaden his horizons in the future.

Office of Community Engagement: How are you involved in community engagement at William & Mary?

Dwight Weingarten: I am involved with Project Phoenix, a tutoring and mentoring program involving three middle schools within the Williamsburg area. I am a tutor coordinator, so my main responsibility is sponsoring the tutoring. Project Phoenix has been around since 1992, so the program has been in place for about 20 years. We tutor in every subject, including: foreign languages, science, math, etc.

OCE: How has this work contributed to community needs?

DW: So many kids need that extra push to succeed; it’s a unique opportunity to get support from someone outside of their school. Having high-achieving students who attend William & Mary mentoring them is a fantastic opportunity; the college students can relate to their pupils through similar past experiences.

OCE: What does active citizenship mean for you?

DW: To me, active citizenship means that you have to take a direct role in what you commit yourself to. You are not “doing what you are supposed to,” you have to really become personally invested in improving the community. Active citizenship is the realization that I have lived a life of good fortune, and that I have an obligation to help out in the community in whatever way I can.

OCE: How has your experience working in the community affected your educational career at William & Mary?

DW: I am a History and Education major, and working with Project Phoenix has strengthened my desire to teach. Seeing how strong the program is has made me aware of the greater need for these kinds of programs elsewhere. Every middle school student should have one. Unfortunately, we can only accept about 20 students into the program from each of these schools. The need for the programs is so much greater.

OCE: How do you plan to use what you’ve learned as an engaged citizen beyond William & Mary?

DW: I plan to become certified to teach! I have really enjoyed the mentoring aspect of my responsibility, and the amazing support that we give the students outside the classroom consolidates the 360 degree aspect of working with the students.

OCE: What is the most memorable or striking moment you experienced during your engagement work?

DW: There have been a lot of memorable experiences, but what comes to mind is one of the Saturday programs where the kids got to meet some of the players on William & Mary’s football team. The joy on the kids’ faces was incredible, it was almost as if they were meeting someone in the NFL. Being able to play on the field and listen to these players tell their stories was fantastic, and everyone appreciated it. It was one of the most successful day activities we had ever organized.

 

Nic Martinez: Passing on the spirit of service

OCE Community Profile Series
By Graham Bryant ’13 | July 30, 2013

When you think of the qualities and dedication exemplified by William & Mary’s many active citizen service-learners, the image you conjure is inevitably one of someone like Nic Martinez ’14. As president of the College’s Nu Rho chapter of Alpha Phi Omega, a national co-ed service fraternity and one of the largest community service organizations at William & Mary, Martinez helps coordinate the efforts of around 300 service-minded students dedicated to meeting the needs of Williamsburg and beyond. When not working with APO, the government major and economics minor frequently devotes his time to OCE projects and events, passing along his passion for service learning the College’s next generation of engaged scholars. We sat down with Martinez to talk about his experiences and future plans.

Office of Community Engagement: How are you involved in community engagement at William & Mary?

Nic Martinez: Since freshman year I have been on numerous trips with Branch Out Alternative Breaks. They range from going to Nicaragua with Bridges to Community, to driving down to Newport News to work with Habitat for Humanity. This past spring I traveled to Philadelphia to assess homelessness and income inequality. I led the Housing and Healthcare 7 Generations Pre-Orientation trip to the Eastern Shore. Among other things, I have worked locally with the Habitat ReStore and Campus Kitchens. The OCE helps me always stay busy!

OCE: Tell me about your experiences as a 7G co-leader. What were your responsibilities and what trip did you work on? What did you gain from the experience?

NM: One the face of it, the trip was focused on the housing and healthcare situation of migrant workers on the Eastern Shore of Virginia. But throughout the trip, I realized the issues at hand were interchangeable with any other issue. The real learning experience was facilitating human interaction and compassion. I have been on trips in the past as a participant, but by leading a trip, I was able to pass on the spirit of direct action, service learning, and sustainable social reform. I also get to introduce incoming freshmen to the College, which is always awesome.

OCE: Can you tell me about your involvement in APO and briefly discuss what APO does in the community?

NM: This past fall I became the president of Alpha Phi Omega. One of my favorite aspects of APO is the community that we provide for people to feel more comfortable seeking out direct service. Having a network of friends that one can do service with is key to facilitating action. I remember being a freshman and I had no idea where to go to do community service. APO guides members to the OCE and creates the social pathway to find new resources and opportunities.

OCE: How have these roles contributed to community needs?

NM: The OCE and APO alike both have short term goals: helping those in need with direct action. For example, bringing pre-made meals to low-income community members is a short-term solution. Then there is a middle term goal of learning about the problem at hand and really understanding it. It’s important to realize why the problems exist in the first place, while factoring in many different variables. In the long-run, I hope that students will go on to post-graduate work with these problems and goals in mind, thereby raising their social issue awareness.

OCE: What does active citizenship mean for you?

NM: It involves learning about the process of social change. Helping feed others or picking up trash in a campus clean-up project is important. This is the dirty work to social change. It is also very important to know the reasons for excessive littering on campus and how we can alleviate it. Finally, active political and social participation in the future is needed so that we can shape our community and policy in a way that fixes the issues.

OCE: How has your experience working in the community affected your educational career at William & Mary?

NM: I’m government major with a minor in economics. I enjoy pondering the issues that affect our society and the political discourse that goes along with these issues. Understanding the economics behind social issues is also very important to me.

OCE: How do you plan to use what you’ve learned as an engaged citizen beyond William & Mary?

NM: I plan on studying further in public administration or public policy. I will always stay politically active and hope to shape the policy in my community.

OCE: What is the most memorable or striking moment you experienced during your engagement work?

NM: I helped people without permanent housing sell a street newspaper in Philadelphia. For the first time in my life I felt invisible and worthless because people walking by on the streets thought I was homeless too and ignored me. It really helped me see things in a new perspective and change my views about the socioeconomic conditions in urban areas.

Graham Bryant