2010 Community Action Fellows and Their Placements

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Julia Bender

Cornerstones of Science is dedicated to providing exciting opportunities for kids, teens, and adults to become involved in science. Julie Bender '13 (undecided) spent much of the summer creating costumes, experiments, and fun activities used to teach children about bones, blood, the heart, and body science fun. The curriculum Julie created will be traveling to public libraries across Maine and the nation. Julie was also involved in a myriad of other projects, including beginning a science blog, working closely with website design, and photographing Cornerstone’s involvement with the communities of Midcoast Maine.

"For many young kids, science has never been more than a class they take in school. I spent the summer encouraging kids to question and investigate the science all around us…the ocean, the wind, the tracks in the mud, the fireworks in the sky, the bones in our body. It’s quite amazing how much one can learn by teaching! By spending my summer with Cornerstones of Science, I have gained not only experience, but also incredibly valuable knowledge."

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Nora Krulwich

Nora Krulwich '11 (Psychology & Government and Legal Studies) worked with Tedford Housing, working on a variety of projects from collecting the stories of families who were turned away from the family shelter because there were no space available to writing grants to collecting and analyzing data. Nora worked on the biannual environmental assessment, collecting data and reporting on the current state of Tedford Housing and housing affordability in Mid-coast Maine.

"Working at Tedford was a fantastic introduction to issues surrounding affordable housing. I met and learned from the individuals fighting homelessness on so many fronts as well as the homeless men and women staying at our shelters. In other words, it introduced me to a whole new—and wonderful—segment of Brunswick."

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Rachel McDonald

Rachel McDonald '12 (Visual Arts and Art History) worked with Five Rivers Arts Alliance, a local arts agency based in Brunswick. She spent much of her internship helping with summer programming, the popular summer ArtWalks in particular, and strengthening Five Rivers’ web presence. She learned how non-profits work, researching other, similar membership organizations and revising Five Rivers’ membership plan in order to create a more effective base of support in the future. Rachel visited many local studios and galleries, meeting artists and art-supporters in the area and getting to know the southern Midcoast arts community that is so vital to the region’s prosperity.

"As an art student and art-lover myself, it has been a truly valuable experience to work with an organization that is so dedicated to making the local arts scene not only visible, but a fundamental asset of the community. It is easy for people to dismiss "the arts" as unimportant, but Five Rivers knows that art brings character and vitality to a place, and uses that principle to help strengthen the region."

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Shanti Purushotham

Shanthi Purushotham '12 (Neuroscience) worked with the Oasis Health Network to research health literacy and to initiate a health literacy education program. The goal of this program is to address patients’ health literacy needs by enhancing their understanding and communication with the healthcare providers. She also assisted patients applying for MaineCare. To facilitate patients’ access to community resources, she organized and compiled information from various community agencies to create an “Oasis Community Resource Guide”. Lastly, Shanthi worked to establish an “Internships in Case Management Program”, a partnership with local universities to have students serve as interns at the Oasis Health Center.

"Through my internship at the Oasis Health Network, I have had the incredible opportunity to learn about the healthcare issues faced by low-income people in our local community. Their daily struggles to acquire quality healthcare has enlightened me to the nation’s healthcare policies’ weaknesses and the need to better serve the uninsured. My internship has strengthened my connection with the community and has taught me that with both conviction and compassion, one can truly make a meaningful impact in others’ lives."

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Kristin Rogers

Kristin Rogers '12 (Psychology) spent the summer working with Preble Street, a social work agency that strives to provide a variety of quality, barrier-free services to empower people struggling with issues of hunger, homelessness, housing and poverty. Through her work with various agencies within Preble Street such as food programs, Maine Hunger Initiative, and Homeless Voices for Justice, Kristin was able to interact with members through work in the soup kitchens and food pantry, input and organize statewide food pantry data, and assist in advocacy work.

"My fellowship with Preble Street has not only allowed me to work with an amazingly passionate and enthusiastic group of people, but has also given me an invaluable insight into the complex problems that face people in poverty, and the obstacles these individuals often have to overcome in order to gain access to what most people consider the most basic goods and services."

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Sophie Springer

Sophie Springer '11 (History) worked with the Mitchell Institute, an organization which aims to increase the likelihood that young people from every community in Maine will aspire to, pursue and achieve a college education. The Mitchell Institute awards scholarships to Maine high school students to reach this goal. Sophie completed research and produce reports concerning higher education attainment and policy in Maine. In preparation for the 2010 gubernatorial election, she assisted on a white paper concerning role of the Maine state government in higher education. Sophie also helped update the annual “Indicators of Higher Education Attainment in Maine” as well as track Mitchell Scholarship alumni.

"Through my fellowship at the Mitchell Institute, I have gained a greater understanding of Maine students’ barriers to college attendance. I have learned how to both undertake this research as well as present it in an accessible format in order to inform public policy. As an aspiring teacher, I am excited to be able to use this research in order to better serve my future students."

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Colleen Sweeney

Colleen Sweeney '11 (Government and Legal Studies & Environmental Studies) worked for the Maine Volunteer Lawyer’s Project in Portland. VLP provides legal aid to low-income Maine residents in hopes that they may be given an equal opportunity to navigate the legal system. In addition to volunteering with the VLP the previous academic year, Colleen’s summer placement allowed her to broaden her knowledge of the legal realm. She invested most of her efforts interviewing clients over the phone and in person at the Court House Assistance Programs in the Portland and Lewiston District Courts. She also completed research on how the Earned Income Tax Credit can help Mainers overcome poverty.

"Many of our clients at VLP perceive the legal system as an extremely daunting obstacle, which has revealed to me how imperative legal services are to those living in poverty. I have gained an immense respect for my coworkers that have dedicated their careers to helping those suffering from poverty. The VLP provides a wonderful service, and my experience with the organization has been invaluable."

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Alisha Turak

Alisha Turak '12 (Government and Legal Studies & Economics) worked with the Maine Center for Economic Policy (MECEP), a non-profit organization that promotes public policies that help Mainers prosper in a strong, fair, and sustainable economy. During her ten weeks at MECEP, Alisha helped compile and analyze data for several large projects, including an eight-year retrospective on Maine’s spending patterns and a report on the conditions of Maine’s working poor families. She also created a system for logging MECEP’s media presence, wrote several blog posts, and hosted MECEP’s weekly TV show, “State of the State.”

"Working at MECEP has been an engaging and rewarding experience. By working directly with data on Maine’s economy, the state’s spending patterns, and working families in poverty, I’ve come to understand both Maine and economic policy in new ways. Applying the economic principles I’ve learned in class to the real world and real issues has invaluably furthered my education, and I look forward to applying what I’ve learned this summer to my coursework for the next two years."

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Rachel Turkel

Rachel Turkel '11 (Philosophy/Math) worked at Oasis Health Network, a non-profit organization that provides free medical and dental clinics to the uninsured, and helps Mainers receive their prescription medications for low or no cost. Rachel worked with the Community Prescription Assistance Program (CPAP), interviewing patients and applying to pharmaceutical companies on their behalf in order to purchase medications that they could not afford. Rachel also collaborated with Mid Coast Hospital to develop fundraising material for CPAP. Further, she met with local town offices to build partnerships, and spread the word about Oasis’ services.

"I have learned more working at Oasis this summer than I ever thought possible. From interacting with patients, to meeting with town offices, to trying to navigate our complex healthcare system, I have gained a much wider perspective on the struggles of uninsured and low-income Mainers. It is heartbreaking to hear from people who are forced to choose between buying food for their family and purchasing their prescription medicines. Fortunately, Oasis is here to help our community, and I am so proud to be a part of that work."