Reaching Stellar: Stories of The Public Good
Alexus Venegas-Rodriguez | Habitat for Humanity
A Guest Post by UIS Student Alexus Venegas-Rodriguez
“Volunteering for Habitat for Humanity is one of the most memorable experiences I have had at UIS. Five of us signed up together. When we entered the van, we barely knew each other. That was not the case at the end of the day. We had the job of organizing newly donated furniture and supplies. The five of us worked together and learned how to efficiently comply with the needs of the organization and this community. We were not just organizing furniture. We were helping the other workers who spend every day helping people in need. It was a great opportunity to meet fantastic people from widely different backgrounds. Without volunteers, this wonderful organization would not have expanded to its current size. I gained some great friends through this experience while helping my community become its best.”
Each year, UIS students contribute thousands of hours of volunteer service to Springfield and the surrounding communities.
Because we are all on this journey together.
Illinois Innocence Project | Wrongful Conviction Day
UIS students interning and volunteering with the Illinois Innocence Project have created a flag display to celebrate the 2018 Wrongful Conviction Day. The display recognizes the 2,271 innocent men and women who were convicted of crimes they did not commit and have been exonerated since 1989. “UIS blue” flags in the display represent 237 Illinois exonerees. The Illinois Innocence Project has contributed to 11 of those exonerations. Jayde Schlesinger, master’s student in Public Administration and volunteer with the Project, said, “I am excited to go in to the Project every single day. It’s such a long process from someone first writing the Project to possibly being exonerated, but every day is a step closer to the outcome that we all want.” Learn more about the Illinois Innocence Project here.
Ben Paoletti | Leadership for Life Service Program
At UIS, new students can choose to live on the Leadership for Life Service Wing, or L4L. As part of this service and leadership community, students take a class together and commit to 40 hours of service each semester.
Ben Paoletti is one such student. A sophomore political science and philosophy major, Ben says, “My experience at UIS has really sparked my passion for volunteerism and civic engagement.” This year Ben is a resident assistant on the Leadership for Life Service Wing. He’s looking forward to helping students get involved on campus, with community events, as well promote school spirit and civic engagement.
Michelle Norris | Fighting Against Human Trafficking
A class assignment led Michelle Norris to Grounds of Grace, a Springfield organization that helps victims of human trafficking involved in forced labor, sexual slavery or commercial exploitation. This is a practice that happens throughout the country, not just in big cities. Soon after getting involved, Michelle heard about a task force on human trafficking. She thought she might sit in on the meetings just to learn more, but once there, she began taking on more and more tasks. Now she is leading meetings, recruiting members and handling other administrative duties. “UIS pushed me to want to make a difference in my community,” she says. “I am deeply grateful to everyone who has invested in my education.”
Michelle plans to become a victim specialist after earning a Master’s Degree in Social Work from UIS.
Meet Hannah Warden
Meet Hannah Warden, Business Administration major. She is the force behind the 2018 UIS Dance Marathon that raised more than $10,000 for the Children’s Miracle Network. Hannah and her team of volunteers spent the year raising awareness and funds for the HSHS St. John’s Children’s Hospital, culminating in the Marathon where students got a chance to meet some of the patients treated at St. John’s and their families. She volunteers at the hospital most weeks. “There are some of the kids who have spent days, weeks and years in the hospital,” Hannah said, “so anything I can do to give back to them is amazing and it brings me a lot of joy.” Hannah was honored with the UIS Star Student Award at the Springfield’s 2018 Good as Gold Ceremony.
Illinois Issues Forum
This year, NPR continues to tour the state, featuring an expert panel and seeking solutions to the continuing fiscal problems in Illinois and discussing prominent issues 2018 election. Stay tuned to learn about the next Illinois Issues Forum. The Illinois Issues Forum is produced and hosted by NPR Illinois with support provided by AARP Illinois. Because we are all part of this journey together.
Scott Reimers | An Unselfish Public Servant
Scott Reimers earned a Master’s in Public Administration from UIS in 1995. He currently serves the Public Good as Assistant Vice President for State Legislative Affairs for the Illinois State Medical Society. On May 10, 2018, Scott received the prestigious Rail Splitter Public Service Award from the local chapter of the American Society for Public Administration. The Rail Splitter award honors a public servant who exhibits the highest standard of excellence, dedication and accomplishment. Upon receiving the award, he challenged those in attendance to choose a student to mentor and make it their business to assist that student as he or she moves from academics into a public affairs profession.
Katie Brethorst | Dana Thomas House Volunteer
Katie Brethorst, a history major from Carlyle, Illinois, loves telling stories. That love, coupled with her love of history, has led to a deeply satisfying role at the Dana Thomas House in Springfield. Katie first toured the house with her UIS Capital Scholars Honors class. She enjoyed the tour so much that she returned with her mother and boyfriend, which is when she discovered she could serve at the facility as a tour guide. She now volunteers three times a week, perfectly blending her love of storytelling and history: “I fell in love with the history and the house immediately.” Like so many UIS students and alumni, Katie is serving the Public Good: Engagement. Collaboration. Impact. Because we are all part of this journey together.
PNC Foundation | Helping Springfield-Area Kids Grow Up Great
For the past seven years, approximately 600 local Head Start children have attended two shows at Sangamon Auditorium thanks to a grant from the PNC Foundation “Grow Up Great” initiative. Prior to the performance, Auditorium staff go to all 36 Springfield-area Head Start facilities to prepare children for the performance and leave a book of the play being performed. The program also provides training in the arts for Head Start teachers, and brings Head Start families for an evening performance at the Auditorium. Teachers appreciate the program, as do the families, who have had responses like this to the evening performance: “The kids were full of excitement and wonderment.” “My grand-daughter loved it all.” “Thank you for the opportunity to bring my family.”