Incoming first-year undergraduates saw their final years of high school dominated by the twin pandemics of COVID-19 and racial injustice, and by a period of intense political upheaval and polarization. For many, these experiences heightened questions of community, responsibility and citizenship, and created a desire to work for good. How might these questions and impulses shape this cohort into a community that values collaboration and is committed to partnership within and beyond Duke?
The new DukeEngage Gateway program invites these students to collaborate with community partners in their hometowns during the summer prior to their arrival at Duke, while joining a virtual community of engaged peers, faculty, and alumni to consider the responsibilities of citizenship, best practices in community-based collaboration, and their own sense of purpose in the world.
“After learning about redlining and historic housing injustices faced by BIPOC communities, I decided to get involved in zoning reform advocacy in my hometown,” said incoming freshman Coral Lin, who is working on a DukeEngage Gateway project with the City of Newton, Massachusetts’ Planning Department. Lin hopes to study housing policy and urban studies at Duke. “The Gateway program’s training and mentorship opportunities will not only help my work this summer, but also help me develop effective strategies for advocating for social justice.”
Ishaan Brar is working on a Gateway project in partnership with The Mission at Kern County, in his California hometown.
“Bakersfield has had a homelessness crisis for several years, but due to COVID-19, many shelters, such as our Mission at Kern County, are in critical need of support from all sides, especially in the realm of medical care and reducing barriers to medical access,” said Brar. “I have partnered with them to develop a telemedicine project to help address many of these issues.”
Even before they arrive on campus, Gateway allows students to begin building relationships within the Duke community. In addition to their community projects, participants engage virtually in reflection workshops led by Duke faculty and in weekly “community conversations” about citizenship with leaders in public service fields.
“Our small group reflection sessions give students the opportunity to think deeply about their work, to discuss challenges and celebrate each other’s accomplishments, and to learn about each other’s communities. They also offer a valuable opportunity to consider big questions like how to do work that has a lasting impact.” said Deondra Rose, Associate Professor in the Sanford School of Public Policy and one of the DukeEngage Gateway faculty facilitators. The weekly meetings with faculty cover topics such rights and responsibilities of citizenship, working across ideological lines, and how students can think about their role in relationship to Duke and Durham once they move to campus. “It is a privilege to be a part of these energizing conversations, and we are so excited to welcome these bright, energetic, inspiring young leaders into the Duke community.”
Through Gateway programming, participants explore the challenges of community engagement, and strategies for making sustainable relationships while maximizing impact. Additionally, participants are placed in mentoring “pods” with Duke alumni who have completed DukeEngage.
“DukeEngage Gateway is so exciting, since it allows me to make an impact in my community before I leave, while still looking forward to my future at Duke by connecting with like-minded peers, passionate faculty, and amazing speakers – all of whom offer insightful new perspectives on the work we do,” said Brar.
Another Gateway student, Ian Bailey, shares Brar’s enthusiasm. He is working with a local office to support the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization’s contact tracing efforts.
“When I applied to Duke, I wrote in my application, ‘Duke will give me the opportunity to follow my curiosity, create solutions, and work collaboratively to improve society,’” Bailey said. “My first semester has not yet started, and Duke has already lived up to those expectations.”
Meet the Students
Abigail Strausbaugh Hjemlstad (Ross, California)
Organization: National Economic Education Delegation
The National Economic Education Delegation (NEED) was created to encourage economic education and help voters understand current economic policy issues in a non-partisan way. My project will be to increase the number of people reached by NEED presentations, with a particular interest on engaging younger voters.
Adway Wadekar (Westborough, Massachusetts)
Organization: WeCARE (Westborough Committee on Antiracism in Education)
WeCare seeks to incorporate anti-racist policies into our public school system, and is in the process of building a more public profile. In order to do so, I will build a website to highlight WeCare’s goals and to compile the resources they have used to accomplish their goals.
Alexandra Ahdoot (Great Neck, New York)
Organization: Friends of the Israel Defense Forces (FIDF)
I’ll be spearheading a project for Friends of the Israel Defense Forces. I’ll formulate and launch FIDF’s Teen Committee to engage the youth in my community and orient them with FIDF’s mission through creative initiatives.
Anushka Goel (San Jose, California)
Organization: Association for India's Development (AID)
The Association for India’s Development (AID) is a volunteer-based organization composed primarily of members of the Indian diaspora based in the US who wish to give back to India. For my project, I will be working with the vaccine awareness team, whose goal is to support the vaccine rollout in parts of India by improving access to information about the vaccine and curbing vaccine hesitancy, a growing problem.
Christopher Kan (Annandale, Virginia)
Organization: Strategic Water Alliance of Rotary District 7610
The Strategic Water Alliance (SWA) of Rotary District 7610 in Alexandria offers many under-served communities access to clean water. My project is to amp up the SWA’s online presence by creating social media pages and a fresh, new website.
Coral Lin (Newton, Massachusetts)
Organization: City of Newton Planning Department
The City of Newton planning department works to support the city's quality of life and place.
I will focus on community engagement for Newton’s Zoning Redesign project, specifically on reaching groups that are often overlooked or missing from community feedback. I will also create a communication strategy to involve and educate citizens on the reform process. I plan to create material to be distributed to the public, whether it might be through print media, a zine, public art, or social media.
Disha Jotsinghani (Dublin, Ohio)
Organization: Charitable Healthcare Network
Charitable Healthcare Network is working to build and reinforce confidence in the COVID-19 vaccines, especially among healthcare personnel in the safety-net sector, by providing “goody bags” with informational cards, buttons, and stickers to free clinics, posting flyers and distributing FAQ sheets for waiting rooms. I will design materials, assist on calls with manufacturers, compile address lists for shipping, and speak with medical professionals to write accurate information about COVID and vaccine side effects.
Elsie Gothman (Idaho Springs, Colorado)
Organization: Clear Creek Library Distract
I will be working with the Clear Creek Library Distraict to design a virtual summer reading project. This includes preparing program materials, such as craft kits and story walk signs, providing technical support during virtual programs, providing Storyfish program support (cleaning the aquarium), possibly assisting with preparing a promotional mailing for programs, and researching animal prostheses done by young people to inspire and promote STEM.
Emily Robers (Chapel Hill, North Carolina)
Organization: The Walking Classroom
The Walking Classroom is a nonprofit organization that curates podcasts for children in educational settings to listen to during 20-minute walks. I will be providing sales support; my primary role will be creation of a prospect list for the nonprofit as well as primary communication with clients.
Emma Zubak (Chicago, Illinois)
SheVotesIL is a political action committee that aims to educate voters about the issues that are important to women and get more female candidates elected to office. This summer, SheVotesIL will be working on various voter registration and education projects surrounding the 2022 primary. My role will be researching the candidates, putting together educational infographics, helping to register people to vote, and finding ways to encourage them to vote women into office.
Ian Bailey (Garden City, New York)
Organization: Pan American Health Organization / World Health Organization
I will be an intern in the Health Emergency Department (PHE) of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO/WHO), the World Health Organization’s regional office for the Americas. I will be focusing primarily on contact tracing and case investigations in the Americas.
Ishaan Brar (Bakersfield, California)
Organization: The Mission at Kern County
The Mission at Kern County serves local homeless populations by feeding, sheltering, and addressing the needs of the underserved with dignity. I will partner with them to address the issues of poor medical access that affects homeless populations, such as mental health issues, substance abuse, and other health related problems. I will collaborate with local physicians, who will provide care by virtual tele-medicine sessions several times a week, and I will assist the dissemination of scientific information on COVID-19 and the vaccines to promote vaccination and fight vaccine hesitancy.
Jake Park-Walters (Cary, North Carolina)
Organization: Marbles Kids Museum
Marbles Kids Museum is one of North Carolina’s largest and most community-orientated nonprofits. I will, with feedback from various Marbles department heads, plan and construct Marble’s first formal internship process from the ground up. With a more efficient and further reaching internship program, I hope to bridge the employment gaps created by COVID. I also hope to create an easier pipeline for potential interns to find positions they love and want to fill.
Jennifer Shoemaker (Clover, South Carolina)
Organization: Quilts of Valor Foundation (Old Glory Quilters)
Old Glory Quilters is a Quilts of Valor registered group which honor our nation’s veterans by presenting them with handmade patriotic quilts. I will participate by making quilts, recommending design patterns, provide publicity via social media and local media outlets, and write an article for the QOV newsletter.
Furthermore, as a student my involvement and social presence can encourage other youth to become involved in Quilts of Valor or other similar organizations.
Kaeden Hill (Marietta, Georgia)
Organization: National Park Service: Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area
I will help the National Park Service (NPS) organize and process data from ongoing research endeavors and surveillance systems for the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area. This will include using GPS data to determine the size of local dog parks that may be contributing to fecal contamination of local streams, organizing and processing visitor data for local parks, building online reports of Chattahoochee tributaries, cataloging animal species seen in park cameras, and sharing my progress through the park’s social media pages to engage the public.
Kulsoom Rizavi (Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh, India)
Organization: Udayan Care
Udayan Care is a Delhi based non-profit organization which has branches around India. I'll be working with the Art Department of Udayan Care, which serves for advocacy, research and implementation of aftercare issues: 'aftercare services' in context of child and youth development refers to social schemes undertaken for the benefit of individuals who have grown up in foster care, orphanages or other institutional care systems. My responsibilities will involve creating communication material, interviewing the Aftercare Outreach Programme youth (ages 18+), conducting English speaking sessions with them, and creating a short film to document the work of Udayan Care
Mainur Khan (Austin, Texas)
Organization: The Office of TX Representative James Talarico
I will be working at the Office of TX Representative James Talarico on a project that will help target political apathy and political lack of engagement among the youth of Central Texas. My work will help deconstruct complex political topics into easily explainable topics that will be available on Talarico's large social media platform, assist a large voter registration initiative among high school seniors, and will help make Representative Talarico and his platform more accessible to his constituents through coordinated events (such as interviews, town halls, etc.).
Maria Izzi (Herndon, Virginia)
Organization: Northern Virginia Conservation Trust
the Northern Virginia Conservation Trust (NVCT) is a non-profit land trust that works on land conservation in my local community. I will be working with the NVCT’s first Strategic Conservation Plan, an effort to identify which private lands in the region are a priority for conservation based on geographic information system (GIS) mapping. I will be helping with the Strategic Conservation Plan in three primary ways: research, data visualization, and ArcGIS.
Minjee Kim (Seoul, South Korea)
Asian-Maeul is a migrant community center in Korea that works with migrants from countries like China, Thailand, Nepal, Japan, Bangladesh, and the Philippines. Their services include medical / mental health care coverage and connection to pro bono lawyers. I will work with Asian-Maeul on tasks such as: grant writing/searches, maintaining a database, and onboarding new volunteers. I will also develop a database of news articles, reports, and scholarly literature on how the pandemic has changed migrants' living conditions to inform Asian-Maeul in its operations.
Olivia Peña (Key Biscayne, Florida)
Fill-A-Bag is a grassroots community organization designed to empower people to turn daily walks into meaningful beach clean-ups by providing reusable bags and buckets at stations strategically placed along the beach to fill with trash as they stroll. In addition to coordinating with organizations and companies to schedule clean-up, I will be in charge of designing a website for Fill-A-Bag and overseeing their social media accounts in order to introduce to what we do and how easy it is to bring environmental intelligence to our communities.
Rachel Weissman (Oceanside, New York)
Organization: The Bethany House
The Bethany House (TBH) has three shelters which house single moms and their kids, and single women. Over the summer, I will help TBH certify two of their houses as family shelters, and their third house as a singles shelter through the New York State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance (NYS OTDA). These certifications will grant the houses funding per room per night. This funding would better the standard of living for the guests. Additionally, I will provide guests with virtual tutoring for GED and citizenship tests.
Sarah Konrad (Carmel, Indiana)
Organization: Carmel Clay Public Library
I will be helping the Carmel Clay Public Library to catalogue the number of Own Voices books (novels where the author comes from the community or group the book depicts) it has in its Children's Collection. I will be filtering through authors' websites and social media pages to document what communities and groups they identify with and comparing those with the communities and groups their novels and works depict. I will also be helping to conduct a diversity audit of the Children's Collection.
Sera Balkir (Inverness, IL)
Organization: Future of Change
Our Future of Change (OFOC) is the youth-led chapter of Her Future Coalition, a nonprofit that provides education, shelter, and mental health programs for survivors of human trafficking. I will work to improve the effectiveness of OFOC by researching US policies aimed to combat human trafficking , leading community meetings, communicating with elected officials, and fundraising.
Shawon Chowdhury (Dhaka, Bangladesh)
Organization: The Bangladeshi Perspective
The Bangladeshi Perspective is an organization with one goal: any young Bangladeshi can look at the resource repository and find relatable advice with mentoring in any field of interest. I will work to create a website with a custom search option with advanced filtering where users can search for the relevant keywords and filter the contents' format based on their need.
Sonia Green (Durham, North Carolina)
Organization: Southern Coalition for Social Justice
I will work with the Southern Coalition for Social Justice’s Youth Steering Committee (YSC). In my role at YSC I will provide support recruiting new YSC members for the 2021-2022 school year, assist with event planning, and conduct research on various aspects of the school-to-prison pipeline and their local and nationwide ramifications.
Tanya Manocha (Cypress, Texas)
Organization: YMCA of Greater Houston
The YMCA of Greater Houston emphasizes the importance of equality and the reimaging of opportunities for underrepresented students of Houston. My project will be to develop a vocational skill mentorship program for middle and high school students. I will be playing the role of community connection, reaching out to the Houston community for potential individuals interested in developing their role as a mentor to students.
William David (Asheville, NC)
Organization: The Great Forest Film
The Great Forest is a feature length documentary by filmmaker Garrett Martin in production. The project is the culmination of a collaboration of environmental researchers, universities, non-profits, tribal groups, and others to explore and communicate the unique importance of the Southern Appalachia region and its biodiversity. My role will include drone and still photography, film production and editing for promotional videos, and possibly graphic design. There will also be opportunities to promote the film and its messages and educate and inspire on the issue of land use in this unique region.
Young Kim (Tokyo, Japan)
EkoEats is an extension of Ekolokal’s grassroots mission to raise consciousness and convenience of sustainability in Japan. EkoEats is a service company that provides food in reusable takeout containers. I will be responsible for networking and researching the business models of similar companies overseas. I aim to set up and participate in meetings to discuss what solutions can be adjusted and imported into Japan. Although concentrated work will be focused over the period of the Gateway program, I plan on continuing progress remotely in North Carolina.
Yusuf Zayan (Cary, North Carolina)
Organization: Nonprofit Foundation
The goal of the Nonprofit Foundation is to create, incubate, and scale innovative means of nonprofit capacity building so organizations can give back in a more efficient and measurable way. They do this by providing a variety of technology resources that help nonprofits be better with their operation.
I will work with Nonprofit Foundation to establish a platform for other organizations to host their online events.