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Scenes from The University of Rhode Island

URI student named Newman Fellow, Recognized for leadership, community service

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KINGSTON, R.I. -- May 5, 2011 -- University of Rhode Island student Scott Andrews is president of both URI’s Chapter of Habitat for Humanity and the URI College Democrats. Those roles merge his passions and reflect his belief that a gap exists between community service and political activism, a gap Andrews works to bridge.

For example, he envisions students raising a roof on a Habitat house in the morning and advocating for affordable housing at the Statehouse in the afternoon.

It’s not surprising that Campus Compact chose this man-of- action for its first group of 135 Newman Civic Fellows who come from 30 states. The award honors inspiring college student leaders who have demonstrated an investment in finding solutions for challenges facing communities throughout the country. Through service, research, and advocacy, Newman Civic Fellows are making the most of their college experiences to better understand themselves, the root causes of social issues, and effective mechanisms for creating lasting change. Newman Civic Fellows are nominated by their college presidents.

The award is named after the late Frank Newman, a founder of Campus Compact, who dedicated his life to creating systemic change through education reform. (Newman served as president of URI from 1974 to 1983.)

Andrews enrolled at the University of Miami in 2008 on an academic scholarship and majored in business. “I didn’t know my passion so I didn’t care what I majored in. I just wanted to make money,” said Andrews, a 2008 North Kingstown High School graduate who served as student body president.

As the nation’s economy crumbled, however, he saw that corporate greed led to the meltdown. He began to take stock of himself and personal values. At the same time, Andrews heard presidential candidate Barack Obama say, “focusing your life solely on making a buck shows a certain poverty of ambition.” Obama asked citizens to believe in their own abilities to change the world and leave it better for the next generation, saying: We are the ones we have been waiting for.

That message inspired Andrews to finish his freshmen year in Florida and head home.

He enrolled at URI, became an active member of community service groups including URI Habitat for Humanity, URI SAVES (Students Actively Volunteering and Engaging in Service), and Student United Way. He switched his major to political science with minors in leadership studies and business.

“This is the right decision. URI is the place for me,” he said, noting that his mother and his father earned their bachelor’s and master’s degrees at the University. He plans to take time off for the presidential race, graduating either in Dec. 2012 or May 2013.

Last summer, he began a three-week stint in U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse’s Providence office, which morphed into a yearlong internship. This summer, Andrews will intern in the senator’s Washington, D.C. office.

For the past year, Andrews has volunteered with the Obama for America organization, building on the grassroots movement that elected the president by empowering communities across the country.

In appreciation of his efforts, Andrews was invited to meet President Obama on the tarmac as Air Force One arrived in Rhode Island last fall and to attend Michelle Obama’s Holiday Open House dinner at the White House in December.

“I brought my computer because I needed to write an essay for Professor (Al) Killilea’s class,” says Andrews. “I wrote, Why I Believe In National Public Service, in the airport and came to class the next morning still wearing my suit to present my case.”

Last year, he enrolled in Gail Faris’ Honors Class, Classroom Without Borders, which focuses on issues of poverty, homelessness, hunger, and the Civil Rights Movement. During spring break, the class traveled to Birmingham, Ala. to work with Habitat for Humanity for a week.

This year, Andrews spent another alternative spring break in New Orleans with URI SAVES/URI Habitat for Humanity, led by students Evan White, Courtney O’Keefe, and Chelsea Tucker with guidance from Sarah Miller, coordinator of the URI Feinstein Center for Service Learning.

“These experiences have propelled my belief in the ability of individuals to positively transform their communities, this country, and the world,” said Andrews. “The ability for a group of students, who barely knew each other, who barely knew how to use construction equipment, but who had a desire to learn and overcome obstacles, to completely re-do a roof in one day, speaks to the capabilities we have to shape the future. I believe we all have a role to play in this world: you can either complain about the problems from the sidelines, or jump in the game and work toward a better tomorrow.”

An honors student, Andrews is planning a two-and-a half-day, non-partisan, student political empowerment event next year, he’s tentatively calling Rhode Island Student Political Boot Camp.

“It will help bridge that gap from service to activism. The boot camp, a kind of everything you need to know about issue advocacy and running for office, will feature the best speakers who can show how it’s done.”