Making an impact big and small, through the Feinstein way at URI

KINGSTON, R.I. – December 18, 2014 – Engage. Serve. Lead. These three words may seem small, but to the students involved with the University of Rhode Island’s Feinstein Civic Engagement Program they have a big impact.

Established by a generous gift from Rhode Island philanthropist Alan Shawn Feinstein in 1995, the Feinstein Civic Engagement Program promotes the integration of service with academic study to enhance student learning and involvement with outside communities and agencies.

“Volunteering has been something that I feel very strongly about and have been involved in throughout my entire life. The idea of being able to lead a group of students through community service projects was something I knew I had to be a part of,” said Aaron Chandler, a sophomore civic engagement leader from Brewster, N.Y.

“Service provides all of us the opportunity to learn more about ourselves while meeting unique members of our communities with inspiring stories to tell. It is truly an honor to watch students grow as leaders while inspiring their peers, teachers and community members to make a difference,” said Sarah Miller, coordinator of the Feinstein Civic Engagement Program and URI Clearinghouse for Volunteers.

First-year students are introduced to civic engagement experiences through the Feinstein Enriching America Program (FEAP) – a required assignment of the URI 101 course offered evert fall. FEAP offers an average of 70 service projects over a 10-week period, serving 35 agencies and resulting in an average of 7500 hours of service.

“I found out about the Civic Engagement Leader (CEL) program from Caitie Runyon, who was my peer leader at the Leadership Institute in 2013. Since then Caitie has been an incredible mentor, teacher, and friend to me. As a CEL this semester I have been on quite a few projects where I know I have made an impact,” said Sam Klemarczyk, a sophomore civic engagement leader from Newfields, N.H.

Feinstein Experience participants can continue their community engagement through the Clearinghouse for Volunteers, Civic Engagement Leader and Service Intern leadership programs, Community Service (CSV) classes and Service Learning courses. URI also has a variety of philanthropic student organizations including URI Students Actively Volunteering and Engaging in Service (URI S.A.V.E.S.) and Habitat for Humanity, who plan two Alternative Spring Break trips every spring semester.

“My favorite project would have to be the Cranston Senior Olympic Games. I was the lead CEL on this particular project and was very proud of the turnout. The best part for me was interacting with the senior citizens throughout the day,” said Klemarczyk “They provided the students with words of wisdom, and told us stories about their glory days. It was evident we brightened the seniors’ day by being there to help them compete and enjoy themselves, which was a great feeling. This is why I think being a CEL is so powerful. Whether I’m clocking times for the 50-meter dash, or doing arts and crafts, every project makes a difference.”.

The Service Intern and Civic Engagement Leader program is the largest and most important student leadership program. CELs are upperclassmen that facilitate community service experiences through the Feinstein Experience during the fall semester. The Service Interns are former CELs who have applied and been accepted to be part of the management team for the CEL and Feinstein Experience programs. For the 2014 calendar year, there were 10 Service Interns who, during the spring semester, recruited and selected the next CEL team, organized training and helped plan the Feinstein Experience calendar for the following fall semester.

“My absolute favorite part of being an Intern was watching my CELs grow as leaders and discover their passion for service. In addition to my leadership position as the Human Services Intern, I am also the President of URI Habitat for Humanity, as well as one of four student leaders planning the Alternative Spring Break Trip traveling to Charleston, S.C. this spring,” said Monica Niebrzydowski, a senior kinesiology major and 2014 Human Services Intern. “I can’t see any of this being possible if it wasn’t for my involvement in the Civic Engagement Leader program. The confidence, passion, knowledge and leadership skills I possess are all thanks to the phenomenal people and service that I have surrounded myself with these past 4 years at URI.

The 2014 Civic Engagement Leader team consists of 46 students who share a passion for dedication and service. They earn 3 elective Community Service (CSV) credits while enhancing their leadership skills and inspiring younger students to make a positive difference in the community.

“I volunteered to be a Civic Engagement Leader this semester because of my passion for service and leadership. I truly believe that if people gather together for a common purpose, they can make a positive impact in this world,” said Liana Tun, a sophomore, civic engagement leader. “I work specifically with the Human Services team, and projects we have facilitated include the Cranston Senior Olympics, various Volunteer Blitzes, Chalk-It-Up Against Bullying, and the Oxfam Hunger Banquet. We focus specifically on issues such as hunger, homelessness, and reaching out to people in the community,” the Newington, Conn. resident said. Tun also applied and was selected to be one of the Business Service Interns for 2015.

During the fall semester, the Service Interns help guide and support the new CEL team. Although Service Interns can choose to enroll for CSV credit, most volunteer for this year long appointment. For the 2014 team, only one student chose to enroll for credit. Civic Engagement Leaders facilitate service projects, problem solve, and lead post-event reflections. They ensure that each project is memorable and meaningful for the student participants, agency and the community being served.

“My fellow leaders are some of the most selfless and genuine people I know and I am happy I was able to get this opportunity to meet them all. In the wise words of my mother, “Everything you do in your life is a privilege, not a right.” I am so grateful for every opportunity that I have been presented with and being a leader was another way for me to give back to the community,” said Chandler. “I learned a lot about myself throughout this experience and I highly suggest it to anyone who enjoys community service as much as I do. There is no saying how much impact you can have on another person by volunteering, and that’s probably the greatest thing about it. It is truly amazing how so little can do so much.”

Student leaders are vital to the Feinstein Civic Engagement Program and are even more essential to the future of Rhode Island. Volunteering not only gives students the opportunity to meet people with similar interests and values, but it also provides them with opportunities for growth and development through passion for service.

“Leadership in service also challenges students to step outside their comfort zone and look at our society and world through a different lens. The best part of my job is working and volunteering alongside these student leaders and every year I become more impressed and inspired by the level of dedication, passion and commitment that each student brings to their leadership position,” said Miller. “I am proud to have them out in the community spreading the positive message of compassion and leadership throughout Rhode Island and beyond. To be honest, they inspire me daily and I find it difficult to find the words to describe this amazing group of individuals.”

“The best part about this program is seeing how our student volunteers change and reflect on the service they’ve done throughout the semester. Being a part of the Feinstein Experience at URI has helped me grow as an individual and become more connected as a Rhody Ram,” said Tun.

To learn more about the Feinstein Civic Engagement Program contact Sarah Miller, or 401-874-7422.

This release was written by Caitlin Musselman, a URI Marketing and Communications intern and a public relations and political science major.

Pictured above

Civic Engagement Leaders (From left to right, Sam Klemarczyk, Liana Tun, and Aaron Chandler) Photo by Nora Lewis

Group Photo w/Sarah: (From left to right, Sam Klemarczyk, Sarah Miller, Aaron Chandler, Liana Tun, and Monica Niebrzydowski) Photo by Nora Lewis

Feinstein CEL Team 2014: (Feinstein Civic Engagement Program Leaders) Photo courtesy of Sarah Miler

Feinstein Intern Team 2014: (2014 Service Interns) Photo courtesy of Sarah Miler