Sahnun Mohammud: Giving a Voice to the Situation in Somalia

OCE Community Profile Series
By Daniela Sainz ’15 | October 2013

Sahnun Muhamed for blog

Sahnun Mohammud is a Junior at the college who has been heavily influenced by the civil war that has been occurring in his native Somalia for over 20 years. Partially inspired by his mother, who runs a Non-Government Organization in Somalia, Sahnun decided to lead an initiative on campus to raise student awareness about the humanitarian crisis in Somalia. Students for Somalia is an organization that raises awareness about the humanitarian crises and raises funds for development projects in Somalia. Here we explore how Sahnun helped create the student organization and some of the challenged that he has had to overcome to bring it into fruition.

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

Sahnun Mohammud: I give a voice to the situation in Somalia – I educate the campus community on the humanitarian struggle that has been happening for the past two decades in Somalia. We campaign for topics to be addressed and for guest speakers to come to our campus. We work on several projects, primarily projects that focus on development in Somalia. We raised over $6,000 in collaboration with Purdue University for an Internally Displaced People Camp to be built. It’s currently in the process of being approved for construction, but the process will begin in the next few months.

OCE: What does active citizenship mean for you?

SM: Active citizenship means someone who recognizes that they are a part of a society, and they strive to better that society outside of themselves.

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

SM: It has made me develop fantastic leadership and social/interpersonal skills. They are very different skills from the ones that you learn within a classroom setting. It definitely made me more well-rounded.

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

SM: I plan to start a business. I have the leadership, organizational, and interpersonal skills from my experiences with Students for Somalia. I plan to be in a similar situation when trying to organize people in the future. I would like to think I will be well prepared to organize people and organize them well.

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

SM: The first meeting we ever held for Students for Somalia consisted of a small group of people that had a vision, but not sure how to implement it. After the meeting was over, we had created a place to meet, and we had a trajectory in mind. We got down to it. We weren’t sure about a lot of things but the whole organization had been conceptualized.


Patrick Belcher: You Can Drastically Alter the Course of Someone’s Life

OCE Community Profile Series
By Daniela Sainz ’15 | October 2013

Patrick Belcher for eng profile

Mr. Patrick Belcher, Executive Director of the American Red Cross in Yorktown, Virginia is a community partner that came to the Red Cross with close to 20 years of professional sales experience as his background. While being involved in sales was interesting and engaging work, it did not compare to being able to utilize the skills he acquired to make an impact in the community today. In his words, fundraising is a kind of sales but it differs in that when you are asking for money, you are helping so much more than just the person selling the product. He spoke of his other role: that of being a father to his eight-year old son, and how he takes great pride in being able to share how he helped changed someone else’s life at the end of the day. Here we take a closer look at exactly how Mr. Belcher’s work is helping to change lives in the community, and how students at the College can get involved as well.

Office of Community Engagement: Tell us about your role in the community.

Patrick Belcher: I am affiliated with the Red Cross, and as an organization we have two mandates that we strive to achieve. The first is to be the second responders to any disaster. The second is to serve armed forces families that are in need, to provide a sense of community between soldiers and their families. We provide about 80% of the blood used in hospitals in Hampton Roads. A lot of people don’t know that roughly every two seconds, someone needs blood. There is always a high demand for blood, but because it has a short shelf life, more donations are always needed and appreciated.

OCE: What role do W&M students play at the Red Cross?

PB: The students help organize and run extremely successful blood drives. Current President Meg Weichers is working on ways to expand community disaster education. There are various fundraising efforts as well, but the club itself wants to do much, much more.

There are so many great talents on this campus, and we want to capture as much of those talents as we can. We may or may not have a fierce winter this year, and there are a lot of things to be thought of. W&M does a great job of giving back to the community. The [Campus] Rec community does first-aid and CPR training for the W&M community at a very low cost.

OCE: What benefits does your organization derive from working with William & Mary students?

PB: There is nothing like the ability to understand the fact that donating a pint of blood saves three lives. William and Mary students are super motivated. Whether it’s about corporate philanthropy or building connections, the Red Cross provides so many skills that fill out the details of your resume. There are many things that you can be aware of at Red Cross. Even projects that don’t directly impact the immediate community can make a difference, such as organizing a card signing to wish soldiers well during the holidays.

OCE: How does your organization help educate student volunteers about community needs?

PB: The Red Cross is an international organization. Being associated with it gives you access to worldwide information. In every community, we can see mirror images of ourselves. The tragedies that happen gives us a story, and they tell us how we need to prepare for a future disaster. We can know and share stories: for example, a lot of people in the Jersey shore probably never thought they would have to worry about their lives changing so suddenly. Now, disaster emergency plans are priorities of most families along the East coast of America.

OCE: What does active citizenship mean for you?

PB: To me, active citizenship means understanding that one person can make a difference. The Red Cross provides all kinds of these opportunities. Donating one pint of blood saves three lives. Even skills learned from first aid and CPR courses can drastically change the course of someone’s life. A friend of mine was once at a barbecue when a baby girl suddenly began having a seizure – there were twelve people there and he was the only one who knew how to react and he did so immediately. How many people can say that they drastically altered the course of someone’s life?


Lauren Hong: Supporting Community

OCE Community Profile Series
By Daniela Sainz ‘15 | Nov 6, 2013


Over the summer, Lauren Hong, Class of 2014, dedicated her time to assisting the Campus Kitchen at W&M. As an intern, she helped deliver weekly meals to local food-insecure families. Her experience was made possible with funding from a Community Engagement Frant that helped her support herself throughout the summer. Her work over the summer was multifaceted – including cooking and planning aspects as well as the opportunity to run some programs for children and families. Lauren emphasizes that Campus Kitchen is an organization that is dedicated to more than just donating meals.

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

Lauren Hong: When I was in high school, the mentality towards service was very different. While in college, I learned more about why we do the things we do and ways to effectively reach out to the community in order to get a better understanding of what they think are successful programs. I truly understand what it means to be a volunteer and be engaged within the community.

OCE: How has this work contributed to community needs?

LH: Over the summer, we provided about 150 meals a week. The number of volunteers have been dwindling since the beginning of the semester, but we still have quite a dedicated team working with us. We exclusively use fresh vegetables and raw meat from the farmer’s market to create healthy meals that are delivered to food-insecure neighborhoods twice a week.

OCE: What does active citizenship mean for you?

LH: To me, active citizenship means not just taking your position in the community for granted. Everyone has a way to positively impact the community. We all have the responsibility to educate ourselves, meet with others, and engage in the community. We need to think of the issues we see and the issues we don’t see. We can’t afford to sit around, we need to prioritize being engaged in community.

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

LH: I’m a senior, and am figuring out what I want to do after college. I think I would like to work in underserved communities – possibly in a medical sense or doing non-profit work. I will be applying to Teach for America and hope to be able to continue with my service work with a full-time job after graduation.

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

LH: I plan to use what I’ve learned to continue being engaged in the community. I would like to build my career off of service work. I plan on volunteering for organizations, and have lifelong partnerships that I hope to keep.

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

LH: It happened over the summer – when we were getting to know the kids [in the communities we brought meals to], they began to recognize us and became extremely excited to see us. The work is difficult sometimes and it’s easy to become discouraged, but it is the little moments like this that help to break down the walls between the students and the community. These moments help us show the community members that benefit from the program that we love their kids and families, and that we want to support them in any way that we can.


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

Great News for Building Tomorrow

The Office of Community Engagement is enthused and proud to announce that Building Tomorrow, Inc., founded by alumnus George Srour (’05), has received a grant from the Clinton Global Initiative totaling five hundred thousand dollars. The grant will help BT to continue their work in Uganda building schools for a better future.

“When George Srour, BT founder and executive director, first visited Uganda as a United Nations intern, he recognized that there was a real and effective way to help the millions of underserved children throughout sub-Saharan Africa. Inspired and emboldened, he returned to the College of William & Mary, ready to do his part to help the children he met overseas.

In December of 2004, the College of William & Mary accomplished an extraordinary thing. Through their Christmas in Kampala campaign, students raised almost $45,000 to fund the construction of a new school in Kampala, Uganda. In May 2006, the students at William & Mary could see the results of their hard work with the completion of Meeting Point Kampala.

With that, a movement was born. Srour was awarded the inaugural Simon Fellowship for Noble Purpose that allowed him to make building schools for children in sub-Saharan Africa a full-time job. Building Tomorrow was created as a continuation of Christmas in Kampala, to empower young people to make a difference in their global community.”

The College holds so many opportunities for students to pursue positive social change movements in their neighborhoods and around the world. What will you do?

by Michael Steiner

The Pulley Family Story

Some people dream of starting a multibillion-dollar company. Others fantasize about a life with a butler, a maid and seven houses around the world. The Pulley Family dreams a much simpler dream: the family strives to help college students realize their dreams so that they can in turn help someone else. This fall I had the privilege to sit down with Tish and Carolyn Pulley to hear their story and learn about more about the family’s passion for service. As I sat quietly listening to the awe-inspiring legacy of the Pulley Family I could not help but smile to myself; these were people who truly cared.  The eyes of both Carolyn, one of the 10 Pulley siblings and Tish, the wife of one of the siblings, danced as they laughed about the dynamic between the and tears gathered in their eyes as they talked about the Pulley siblings mother, Rose B. Pulley, and her soft-spoken heart for service. There was something special here. I could feel it.

The two outlined the lives of the Pulley Family like a well-written play over the course of the next two hours and I listened quietly, hanging on to every word… The Pulley Family grew up in Ivor in South Hampton Country, Virginia. The Pulley children understood service as a natural part of life, but learned the concept of civic engagement through work ethic, persistence and diligence.  Ragan Bradshaw Pulley, the eldest of the ten siblings, enrolled at The College of William and Mary in 1935 and started the Pulley Family tradition of attending the college that continued for the next 18 years. Carolyn described the siblings as individuals who wanted to give back in whatever way they could. R. Bradshaw, Franklin, and David Pulley, Tish’s husband, gave back to the country through military service and the other siblings that attended W&M contributed on a local level as teachers and in other ways in their individual communities. They truly believed that making an impact mattered. Bradshaw was so grateful for his time at the college that he invested in his younger brother, Franklin’s education. Franklin helped David through school and the story continued until five of the ten Pulley siblings had graduated from William and Mary. Each proceeding sibling helped the next one behind him until each one had achieved his or her goal of completing higher education. Their contributions to the college and life legacies have settled between the bricks, where they will lay forever.

One of the siblings, Marsden did not think it enough simply to support his siblings as they embarked on their educational careers through William and Mary; it was also about the many gifts the school had given to his family. To thank the college, every summer Marsden brought the best watermelon he could find in South Hampton County to the financial aid office to show his gratitude for their support and belief in his education. A simple gesture with the little he had to show that he appreciated the college.

When David Pulley passed away in 1993 the Pulley Family wanted to adequately honor his life and share his heart of service with the college community. To encourage a culture of service on the William and Mary campus, the family worked with then President Timothy Sullivan. Pulley Family members collaborated with the newly erected Office for Service to establish an endowment in David’s honor. The family understood the importance of service work, but also the necessity for college students to be making money during their summer vacation. Together, with the Office of Service the family established the Pulley Family Endowment for Public Service to provide funding for students to execute summer service projects so that they could afford to not be making money and instead donate their time to help people in need.  Jane Smith, class of 2012 received a grant from the Pulley Family and had the opportunity to travel to … “I feel so fortunate to have been able to take a summer to serve in Mexico and discover my passion for youth. I will certainly remember this kind gesture and give back in some way in the future.”

The first year the fund was established in 1994, family members were only able to send two students to perform service projects. Since that time the endowment has grown and sent over 150 students from W&M all over the United States and countries across six continents. The grant money now sends 12 students per year on service projects and is allocated to students through the Office of Community Engagement and Scholarship. The family’s contributions to the endowment have generated more than $150,000 in service grants. Family members hope that someday the fund will not only provide undergraduates with the opportunity to pursue their passion in service, but also recent graduates who are interested in nonprofit work or developing their own outreach initiative.

“We are good at telling the background, but the future and what’s to come – that is hard to know!” Tish Pulley exclaimed. “The beautiful thing about service is that it affects not only yourself, but your friends, children and others. People see you giving of yourself, whether in time or money, and the feeling rubs off. It really is nice to feel like you are making an impact on someone.”

If Rose B. Pulley was still with us today to see the impact her children have made, I think she would be proud. Students from a variety of backgrounds and academic interests are now offered the chance to explore their hearts and passion in service and give back in a productive and sustainable way. The Pulley Family story demonstrates a life lesson applicable to all: sometimes a little giving goes a very long way.

by Maddy Smith

Annual Awards Luncheon

The Spirit of Service award is designated for two non-graduating students who have been involved in community service and have demonstrated a sense of caring, concern and willingness to be involved in addressing community issues.  This year we received many impressive nominations and as is tradition, two students were selected.

Our first Spirit of Service Award winner is Aly Kozacek.  Aly’s list of activities demonstrates depth and breadth of commitment:

  • Rainbow Therapeutic Riding Center
  • Prince William Hospital
  • Dream Catchers Therapeutic Riding Center
  • The co-founder of United Against Infectious Diseases
  • CARE for AIDS internship
  • And Phi Sigma Pi honor fraternity service chair where you have coordinated numerous activities for members

But more, your depth of commitment is evident in the comments from her nominator from Prince William Hospital.  She writes, “Aly’s work ethic is truly remarkable.  We all found her to be incredibly dependable, trustworthy and honest.  Her compassion and concern for others was demonstrated every time she was with patients.”

For these reasons it is our honor to award Aly Kozacek with the Spirit of Service Award.

Our second recipient is equally dedicated to her community.

OCES 010Andrea Lin is the site leader at Williamsburg Landing, she volunteers at Olde Towne Medical Center and she tutors with College Partnership for Kids and Student Peer Advisory Network.  Andrea wrote, “I chose to attend William and Mary because of its strong commitment to community.  My William and Mary story is directly related to my community engagement.”

Your nominator wrote, “When Andrea approached us about starting a volunteer program at Williamsburg Landing, it was well received by all.  Andrea successfully recruited and now organizes forty students to visit each week.  The program would not have been possible without Andrea’s strong passion for geriatric care.”

We are so proud that you have made William and Mary the place to call your home.


The Tradition of Service Award is given annually to one graduating senior that has been involved in significant community activities throughout their college experience.   This year two recipients have been selected.

Our first Tradition of Service award winner is Anna Mahalak.

OCES 011Anna your list of community activity and engaged scholarship sets you apart from peers.  You were a Sharpe scholar, a Branch Out participant and Relay for Life team captain your freshman year.  You were then a research assistant in Dr. Charity-Hudley’s linguistics research lab and a community studies fellow during your sophomore year.  During your junior year you were a team member for the Bosnia Project, a Sharpe Fellow and you designed a research project entitled, “Nonviolent Communication in Youth educational Programming.”  This year you are a teaching fellow for the Bosnia Project, a Sharpe Fellow, an academic coach in high schools, Vice President of ODK and more.

In your essay you reflected, “My experience in classes has taught me how institutions, such as education, shape politics.  I have gained insight on how power over institutions shapes society.  My classes have provided greater meaning to the role of the education system in political socialization and multicultural understanding.”

Your insights epitomize the role of the active citizen and the engaged scholar. It is with great pride that I present you with the 2012 Tradition of Service Award.

Our second award winner is equally dedicated in her academic pursuits and community action.

Anna Dausman, you were selected to co-facilitate the International Justice Mission during your freshman year.  You continued to lead IJM during your sophomore year while conducting a research project on the importance of Swahili and other heritage language programs at the college level.  You were selected as a Branch Out site leader and successfully led students on an alternative break that addressed urban educational inequalities.  That summer you volunteered with a children’s home in Kenya.  Junior year you continued to lead IJM, you again lead a Branch Out alternative Break and you tutored with Literacy for Life.  This year you founded and led the Kenya Sustainable Village Project partnering with a pediatric HIV/ADIS relief organization in Kenya.  You served as the Branch Out alternative breaks national student director and provided training for 24 site leaders.  You volunteer with FISH food pantry and ARC of Williamsburg and you will work for Break Away after graduation.

In your application essay you wrote, “At William and Mary I have come to learn that as an active citizen and a person pursuing social justice, I will act differently.  My peers and professors have challenged me to imagine the ways in which I might contribute my academic strengths and interests to pursue those paths.”  You conclude by reporting, “I entered the College as a student and volunteer, I graduate voluntarily committing my life to the pursuit of healthier communities and a shared responsibility in addressing inequalities at their roots.”  Your College is so proud of you.

by Drew Stelljes, Ph.D.

Freshmen Service Award

Every year, the W Society presents the Freshmen Service Award to one freshman who has exemplified a commitment to service in the William & Mary community and beyond. The award recognizes an individual with an outstanding commitment to positive social change—someone who demonstrates a deep tradition of engagement, a critical approach to service, and a history of inspiring those around them with humility and maturity. The 2012 recipient embodies this award fully.

From the day she stepped on campus, this year’s award recipient has shown commitment to the cause of combating educational inequality. Despite being a new member of the Tribe, during the fall semester she sought and found a way to serve her cause by working with high school students through a mentoring program called Lafayette Kids. As the Lafayette Kids co-president in charge of programming, she has taken the initiative to create engaging programs for the students such as a Chinese New Year celebration and a healthy snacks program. Through Lafayette kids, this individual tutors and mentors younger students twice a week at the Learning Center at Lafayette Village, a Community Housing Partner’s low-income housing development. Beyond structured time working with this specific program, this compassionate individual has organized outings with her mentees such as a manicure and frozen yogurt outing. She has also served as an informal liaison between Lafayette Kids and the Sharpe Program, coordinating rides and tutoring times with Sharpe Scholars. Additionally, the recipient dedicated time to contributing to a thorough research prospectus for the program. This year’s recipient has demonstrated that she is able to think critically about social issues like education inequality within the surrounding Williamsburg community and to garner her understanding and passion through action.

Her nominator writes: “Madeline has demonstrated great skill at tutoring children of many ages and skill levels, keeping order and enforcing discipline in a fair and effective way, and forming tight bonds with the kids and fellow volunteers at Lafayette.

Her commitment to truly engaging with the Lafayette Kids community through forming personal relationships with the kids, Americorp supervisors, and William and Mary volunteers and pursuing her interest in educational inequality through providing tutoring and mentoring to low-income students has been extraordinary. Madeline is the epitome of an active citizen: she continues investigating the social issue she wants to resolve while actively working to create immediate change in her community and reflecting on the effectiveness of her work. Madeline is worthy of every award in the book!”

The W Society is honored to recognize this year’s Freshman Service Award recipient, Ms. Madeline Grimm.

by W Society

Research Paper on Boys and Girls Club, Campus Kitchens and Lafayette Village

The role of third party institutions has been widely recognized as a factor that helps to decrease the achievement gap between the students in America’s schools. According to the Boys & Girls Club of America, “Research shows that youth participation in quality out-of-school time programs is linked to significant gains in standardized test scores and work habits, as well as reductions in behavior problems among disadvantaged students” (“Our Nation’s Dropout Crisis” 5). The purpose of this project was to study the operations of some such institutions that work with children from low-income backgrounds. These institutions were of two kinds: 1) Campus based organizations run by students from the College of William and Mary and 2) local branches of a national organization. The former category was comprised of the campus groups “Campus Kitchen Project” and “Lafayette Village Project”. Campus Kitchen Project, an affiliate of D.C. Central Kitchen, serves many needs of the Williamsburg community by preparing and delivering meals to economically depressed neighborhoods and having a mentorship program for the children who live in these areas. Lafayette Village Project works with the children who live in the Lafayette Village area, playing with them and providing them with homework assistance. The later category was comprised of “The Boys and Girls Club of the Virginia Peninsula”, a local affiliate of the national organization known as the Boys and Girls Club of America. The mission of the BGCA is “to enable all young people, especially those who need us most, to reach their full potential as productive, caring, responsible citizens” (“2010 Annual Report” a2). Through this project, we hoped to find greater insights into how third party institutions go about attempting to close the achievement gap.


The first step in the process of collecting data for the project was to use the internet to discover information about the national organization Boys and Girls Club of America. By reading its website and independent studies conducted about different aspects of the organization, we obtained a better idea of how Boys and Girls Club of America operates and whether or not it is effective. However, the primary method used to collect data for this project was through interviews. Through phone interviews with Arlene Armentor and Jonathan Putt of The Boys and Girls Club of the Virginia Peninsula, and in- person interviews with Tony Batt and Sarah Holko of Campus Kitchens Project and Mary Grech from Lafayette Village Project, we received insider information about the workings of the organizations and the personal opinions of those who work for them.


Boys and Girls Club of America does several things to increase the academic achievement of the students enrolled in the clubs, such as offering the program Project Learn (“Project Learn”). The efficacy of Project Learn has been validated in an independent study by the Harvard Family Research Project. The study found that students who were enrolled in “Project Learn” showed greater grade improvements in a 30 month period and missed fewer days of school than students in community programs not affiliated with the Boys and Girls Club of America (Schinke, Cole and Poulin). The effect of the Boys and Girls Club of America as a whole (as opposed to one of its programs) was stated to in a study published in the Journal of Community Psychology, which found that “Overall monthly attendance at the Club was positively related to self-reported grades, enjoyment of school, and effort in school” (Anderson-Butcher, Newsome and Ferrari 38).

At a more local level, Boys and Girls Club of the Virginia Peninsula also has shown signs of effectiveness. According to Arlene Armentor, some of the participants in their clubs become the first members of their family to go to college or graduate from high school, and she says “we hope to change patterns”. She cites the example of a student in their BE GREAT: Graduate program whose grades improved significantly due to the programs work (Armentor). She says “I have seen kids go from violent to not violent, and have seen improvement in grades and in social skills” (Armentor). Jonathan Putt states that if children remains in the program for eight to ten years, he sees them “making healthier lifestyle choices, having a greater appreciation for the arts, sports, and fitness, and developing the mindset that they need to give back to their community”.

There are several reasons for the success of the Boys and Girls Club of the Virginia Peninsula. Armentor states “We are really fortunate to have a great board and staff who are visionary and focused on a strategic plan”. She sees this more local chapter’s affiliation with the national organization as a positive because they are able to receive grants from the money given to Boys and Girls Club of America by the national government or corporations. She also values the partnerships that BGCVP has with the schools and public housing developments that house the clubs, because it allows them to operate in a more cost-effective manner. She is proud of BGCVP’s ability to “stretch a dollar”. To continue to operate successfully, she emphasizes the need to grow strategically. BGCVP also appears to treat their volunteers well. This is important because volunteers are such a key component in the success of any organization. Armentor states that, “We have a [person in an administrative role] who orientates volunteers and make sure that [the volunteers] are comfortable”.  When it comes to education for the students, Armentor claims that “We have learning everywhere…For example, the gardening club teaches information that is on the SOLs”. BGCVP mixes an effective administration system with effective programming to achieve results.

Campus Kitchens Fun at Five relies on creating connections with the children and families within the neighborhood. A few dedicated students are responsible for the success of this program which uses sports and play time to form relationships with the children (Batt). These relationships formed the basis of the mentoring program, where one William and Mary student is matched up to one child in the community. This fosters deeper, closer relationships and allows the college students to pour into the kids lives through mentoring programs (Batt). By targeting the next generations in these low socioeconomic areas, director Tony Batt believes the college students can help to break the cycle of poverty.

Lafayette Village is another example of a few dedicated students making connections through play and helping the young children to excel in their education. The program was started by President Mary Grech and another friend who began to play with the children after school on a daily basis (Grech). This turned into a much larger program helping the students with their homework, feeding them snacks and mentoring them on a weekly basis. This program is part of a much larger national system which works in low socioeconomic communities to supplement the education children are receiving in public schools (Grech). While the Lafayette Village is a relatively small program in Williamsburg, it is rapidly growing. The biggest issues facing this organization are lack of space and room needed to expand (Grech). There is ample participation from the community and a high volume of week-to-week and committed volunteers.

Both Lafayette Village and Campus Kitchens rely on volunteers from the College of William and Mary to work with the students in their respective communities (Holko). Neither of these organizations does much in the way of recruiting, rather students hear about them through word of mouth or email list serves (Grech, Holko). Retaining volunteers is not very difficult, according to our interviewees because students who are committed to helping out or making a difference will continue to volunteer week in and week out. These dedicated students are vital for both Campus Kitchens and Lafayette village and provide a springboard for growth within both organizations.


In our project, we surveyed three different third party institutions, Boys and Girls Club of the Virginia Peninsula, Campus Kitchens and Lafayette Village, all of which do their part to fill the achievement gap in the public school system by working within communities to help students. Our survey of the techniques and methods used by these different organizations lends a more complete picture of what third party institutions do to help the community. All of the organizations share the same goal of ameliorating the achievement gap and breaking the poverty cycle by reaching the next generation of students, but the methods they employ are unique to each organization and offer novel approaches to help the students.

Boys and Girls Club uses after-school programs such as Project Learn to increase student attendance in school and grades in the classroom. Campus Kitchens uses a mentoring program when students and college mentors are paired up one on one to help the students holistically. An older college student aids the child in academics, family life and problems with peers. Lafayette Village works on a micro level through committed volunteers who are actively involved in the children’s lives. All of these organizations rely upon the strength and determination of volunteers who work with the children to help them succeed. It is through these volunteers that change, shown by the statistics and scores of the kids involved in these programs, is happening from day to day.

Works Cited

Anderson-Butcher, Dawn, W. Sean Newsome, and Theresa M. Ferrari. “Participation in
Boys and Girls Clubs and Relationships to Youth Outcomes.” Journal of Community Psychology (2003): 31-55. Wiley Online Library. Web. 19 Feb. 2012.

Armentor, Arlene. Personal Interview. 27 Mar. 2012.

Batt, Tony. Personal Interview. 25 Mar. 2012.

Boys & Girls Club of America. Our Nation’s Dropout Crisis Is Everyone’s Problem – Why Boys & Girls Clubs Are Part of the Solution. Rep. Boys & Girls Club of America, 2010. Our Nation’s Dropout Crisis Is Everyone’s Problem Why Boys & Girls Clubs Are Part of the Solution. The Boys & Girls Club of America, Sept. 2010. Web. 4 Feb. 2012.

Boys & Girls Club of America. “PROJECT LEARN”. Boys & Girls Club of America. Boys & Girls Club of America, 2011. Web. 4 Feb. 2012.

Grech, Mary. Personal Interview. 26 Mar. 2012

Holko, Sarah. Personal Interview. 26 Mar. 2012

Putt, Jonathan. Personal Interview. 2 April 2012.

Schinke, Steven, Kristen C. Cole, and Stephen R. Poulin. “A Profile of the Evaluation of
Boys & Girls Club of America – Project Learn/Educational Enhancement Program.” Out-of-School Time Evaluation Database. Harvard Graduate School of Education, 6 Dec. 2011. Web. 11 Feb. 2012.

by Annie Daughtrey & Brianna Buch