The Newest Cohort of Civic Leaders

Nine More O’Hanian-Szostak Fellows for Civic Leadership Work Directly with Community Members

Fostering the next generation of civic leaders starts in the classroom and extends into the community. Continuing to integrate civic engagement into the curriculum is a major initiative for Colby; one that is propelled forward by major campaign commitments that create innovative programs, including the O’Hanian-Szostak Fellows for Civic Leadership, an initiative of the Office of Civic Engagement.

“The program for Civic Engagement and Community Partnerships provides opportunities for students to become thoughtful leaders, critical thinkers, and socially responsible citizens,” said Elizabeth Jabar, inaugural Lawry Family Director of Civic Engagement and Community Partnerships. “Through the O’Hanian-Szostak Fellows for Civic Leadership program, students explore the civic dimensions of their academic discipline and develop the intellectual grounding and confidence to address complex public problems and impact change. By integrating academic study with community engagement and critical reflection, students are challenged to become active citizens who propel social change in their local communities and the world.”

As Colby’s first fund specifically for select student leaders with a significant commitment to civic responsibility, the O’Hanian-Szostak Fellows for Civic Leadership was established in 2019 through the generosity of Trustee Emerita Anne O’Hanian Szostak ’72 and Michael J. Szostak ’72. The O’Hanian-Szostak Fellows for Civic Leadership offers funding for up to 10 Colby students each academic year to pursue self-identified projects. Working in partnership with local organizations, a faculty advisor, and with support from Office of Civic Engagement staff, fellows begin to develop real-world solutions that address specific community challenges such as youth development, food insecurity, public health, and environmentalism.

“The opportunities afforded to O’Hanian-Szostak Fellows will enhance these students’ academic experiences and allow them to make meaningful contributions to our community, ultimately preparing them to become civic leaders throughout their lives,” said President David A. Greene. 

The fellows for the 2020-21 academic year have spent the fall semester designing and planning their projects and will move into implementation followed by completion in the spring. This year’s projects range from creating an after-school coding club to connecting with nursing home residents through photography and music. Below are snapshots of their work within the community:

Andy Blake ’23 of Carlisle, Massachusetts and Maggie Blake ’23 of Carlisle, Massachusetts
Park Storymap

Waterville is home to numerous unique parks and green spaces. However, many of these incredible parks are not known or used by most of the city’s residents. Through their project, Andy and Maggie Blake ’23 aim to make Greater Waterville residents and the Colby community aware of these places by creating an interactive story map website with Geographic Information System (GIS) mapping. The website will have a map and brief description of each area, as well as stories from those who love the parks, descriptions of unique features, history, and fun facts.

Regan Bragg ’21 of Marshfield, Maine
Waterville Junior High School Coding Club

Working closely with staff and students at the Waterville Junior High School, Regan Bragg ’21 plans to establish an after-school coding club and project-based curriculum with a focus on collaboration that will better integrate and emphasize the importance of technology. Students will learn the fundamentals of coding concepts through hands-on projects in a collaborative work environment in which they can work openly with their peers and build teamwork skills. Bragg hopes the club will continue as a staple of the school’s computer science program and extend to outside coding-related events in the state, which may include a visit to Colby’s Computer Science Department or a Project>Login coding event in the future. This project comes at a time when learning to code is critical. Today only 24 percent of computer scientists are women; a percentage that will continue to decline if more programs don’t address this need. The biggest drop off of girls in computer science is between the ages of 13 and 17, making middle school an ideal time to create interest in the topic. Bragg’s project was featured in the Morning Sentinel.

Morgan Honor ’22 of Tuxedo Park, New York and Isabel Lobon ’22 of Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts 
STEM On the Run

Morgan Honor ’22 and Isabel Lobon ’22 are partnering with Waterville High School to provide a formal STEM tutoring program. The program will include enrichment and hands-on activities to spark a love of science and expose students to the wide array of medically related careers. An accompanying lecture series would entail inviting health care professionals and scientists to discuss their career path, why they chose it, and what their job looks like. These talks will provide students with interactive conversations and insight into how science is applied in the world outside of the classroom.

James Kim ’21 of Goyang-si, South Korea
From Pen to Pal

James Kim ’21 plans to work with local elementary schools to design a pen pal program. Kim’s project includes the recruitment and training of volunteers who will be matched with local students. The program will include weekly letters submitted by volunteers that are then delivered to the students along with a writing prompt for the classroom. Colby students also will deliver monthly writing workshops to the elementary students to compliment the teachers’ curriculum. The project aims to instill the power of writing and encourage human connection in today’s world of remote learning.

Cheshta Prasad ’22 of Schenectady, New York
Music in the Community

To bring Colby music into the community, Cheshta Prasad ’22 aims to create more opportunities for off-campus performances. Working with Bedside Manor, a memory care facility in Oakland, Maine, Prasad hopes to offer online musical performances by Colby students to the facility’s residents. While in-person performances would be preferred, this spring’s performances will likely be conducted live via Zoom or sent as recordings. Starting this project and performing music will allow music to spread beyond campus borders and provide therapeutic benefit to Bedside Manor residents. Prasad hopes to also establish a sustainable project model for Colby volunteers to continue bringing these enriching performances to community members.

The Colby Symphony Orchestra performs Vivaldi’s “The Four Seasons” outside the Colby College Museum of Art for a recording as part of Cheshta Prasad’s project.

Hannah Southwick ’21 of Wakefield, Rhode Island
A New Age of Creativity: Picturing Spaces for Art

In a time of physical isolation, people have relied more heavily on visual, digital stories to connect to an increasingly unreachable world. In a two-part project Hannah Southwick ’21 will provide disposable cameras and photography lessons to elderly residents of a local nursing home to empower them to tell their own stories, addressing their need for diverse activity and human contact. Secondly her project aims to collect and digitize family photos from Waterville residents to create a more extensive and sustainable digital archive that can be easily accessed by residents across the community.

Ketty Stinson ’21 of Brunswick, Maine
Waterville Seed Library

Through partnership with Caroline Wren ’20, this project was launched last academic year when the Waterville Public Library expressed interest in implementing a seed library. Seed libraries have existed in Waterville in the past, and the goal of Ketty Stinson’s project is to re-establish this resource, so that it can be used by the community for years to come. The Waterville Seed Library will provide free, continuous access to seeds for all community members, as well as access to extensive step-by-step information that map out the planting process from beginning to end, including useful tips for Maine-specific growing and programming for all ages and experience levels.