May 15, 2015

Eleven SUNY Empire State College Students Recognized with Service Awards

Melinda Wills-Stallings is presented with the college's student service award by President Merodie A. Hancock at the 2015 Student Wellness Retreat

Melinda Wills-Stallings is presented with the college's student service awardat the 2015 Student Wellness Retreat. Photo/SUNY/Joe Putrock

Eleven SUNY Empire State College Student Service Awards were presented at the college’s 2015 Wellness Retreat held last month in Albany. The award was created to recognize the college’s students who have dedicated themselves to improving the college community and the communities where they live and work.

The recipients are:

Sandra Barkevich, Amsterdam, a student with the college’s School for Graduate Studies, who earned her undergraduate degree with the college online, serves as editor of the college’s student newsletter, co-chair of the Student Affairs Committee and as a voting delegate on the SUNY Student Assembly. Barkevich founded her own editorial services business, WriteType Editorial Services, which serves a number of New York Times bestselling authors.

Maureen Lundberg, Albany, is a College Reading and Learning Association certified peer coach. She received the Albany-Colonie Regional Chamber of Commerce Women of Excellence Award in sales and marketing and is very active with fundraising activities at the Center for the Disabled.

Lauren Masset, Buffalo, is chairwoman of the Buffalo Creek Oxbow Wetland, which is charged with providing wetland restoration through service learning. She also created Cans for Community, an annual, 10-day food drive that helps support the West Seneca Food Pantry, now in its third year.

Lorraine Pippins, Brooklyn, has been a foster parent to more than 20 children. She played a major role in establishing the nonprofit organization BedStuy Advocates, which trains individuals to become family advocates who provide support for parents of children in different systems, such as educational, child welfare, juvenile delinquency and mental health.

Jawana Richardson, Long Island, helped create and serves on the executive board of the Minority Students in Action student club. The club has more than 85 members and helps students who may feel left out become more involved in college. She recently was appointed to the college’s Alumni Federation Board of Governors as the liaison to the student clubs, and was accepted into University at Albany’s Women in Civil and Government Leader Institute. She also advocates for special education students and lobbies for the rights of those students.

Robin Rizzo, Long Island, has volunteered at the Westbury Senior Citizens Center for more than six years. She leads its most successful fundraising event, the annual golf outing, now in its seventh year, which raises about $10,000 annually. She also serves as an executive board member for the center. Rizzo is a member of the Adult Protective Services Committee.

Melinda Wills-Stallings, Long Island, is the student representative for the Long Island location on the Student Affairs Committee. She serves as treasurer of the Minority Students in Action club. In this role, she submits budget requests and maintains the budget and expense reports. Wills-Stallings presented a workshop at the 2014 Student Academic Conference, “Native American Struggle: Assimilation to Activism.”

Aleshia Akers, Ithaca, participated in CityYear in Harlem,  N.Y. for 10 months. While working for CityYear, she tutored and mentored for an elementary school. She now volunteers for Legal Assistance of Western NY (LawNY), which helps low-income residents of Tompkins and Tioga counties gain access to free civil legal services as an AmeriCorps member.

Gina Bartolomeo, Saratoga Springs, School for Graduate Studies, began volunteering with Team Rubicon, a disaster relief organization that unites the skills and experiences of veterans and first responders to respond to natural disasters. As its volunteer programs manager, she helps engage volunteers in between disasters and prepares them to respond to disasters through service projects, trainings, fitness events and socials. She has volunteered and assisted with disaster relief following several natural disasters, such as hurricane Sandy and the tornadoes in Moore, Okla. and Faulkner County, Ark.

Debbrah Schneider, Rochester, has been involved with the Re-Engagement Center for more than two years. The center is an alternative middle-school program that houses students in grades 6-12 there for a variety of emotional or behavioral reasons. While working there, she saw a need to bring community services to these students, to show them the benefit of helping others. In the past two years, Schneider has led the students on various community service activities, including making lunches for the homeless through a workshop called the Peanut Butter and Jelly Factory, wrapping shoeboxes filled with hygiene products and other activities. Schneider also started a college-ready program at the center.

Zofia Vasil, Canandaigua, has worked for 11 years with the Ontario ARC, a nonprofit organization serving children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. She recently began working with the primary care unit at the Canandaigua VA and assists veterans in accessing quality medical care.

About the Service Award

The Service Award recognizes those students who have participated in worthy causes, in addition to managing their busy lives as students, employees and family members. Creating a sustainable world requires people to take care of one another. This award was created to honor Empire State College students who dedicate themselves to service to others. Scholarship is also important in the selection process – the group has a combined G.P.A. of a 3.88.

The application process requires students to complete two personal essays and to submit two letters of support. Students must write about their life experiences and goals and also produce a 2,000-word essay describing their service experience and what they have gained from it.

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