Look down at your two hands. Your two hands have the power to help someone and change the world. "Stevenson has taught me that we can each use our two hands to make a difference in our local and national communities."
"When I decided to come to Stevenson, I knew I wanted to hit the ground running, and since then, I have not stopped," says Lauren Novsak. The business communication major, who will graduate in May 2019, has taken advantage of several community-based service opportunities to create her exceptional experience.
She joined '47 House, the Integrated Marketing Communication club, almost immediately. Currently, she is of Director of Public Relations and Alumni Outreach for the Student Government Association, President of Mission: I’m Home, Stevenson's alternative spring break program that helps communities affected by natural disasters, and a Student Assistant in the Office of Student Engagement.
"Every organization that I am involved in relates to service in some way, whether it is serving the student body here on campus or in communities other than my own," she says. "I try to keep service at the center of everything that I do in life, on campus and off, because I believe that it makes life more meaningful and enjoyable."
Lauren got the chance to further explore this philosophy when her SGA advisor, Dan Schwartz, Director of Student Activities, suggested that she apply for the Maryland Public Service Scholar's Program at UMBC. The Public Service Scholars Program has four sub-programs: Governors Summer Internship Program, Sondheim Nonprofit Leadership Program, Maryland Department of Transportation, and Public Service Law. Lauren applied for the Sondheim program and was one of 19 fellows accepted this year.
"The intention of the program is to introduce fellows to different areas of public service, particularly nonprofit work," she explains. "During the 11-week program, we would meet each Wednesday as a cohort at UMBC for seminars on nonprofit leadership and management while working in groups to develop possible solutions for socio-economic issues affecting the greater Baltimore area. The other four days of the week, each of us was at our internship site."
Lauren's placement was with Living Classrooms Foundation at their Park House, located in the Patterson Park area of the city, and she says that the group’s tagline of "learning by doing" did not disappoint. She worked with her mentor and members of the Southeast Youth Collaborative to develop meaningful professional development and career-preparedness experiences for Baltimore YouthWorkers.
When not working on communication, she spent time with 5th through 8th grade students from Southeast Baltimore. "From chaperoning field trips, assisting with cooking club, playing cards, monitoring reading groups, and teaching kids to swim, play tennis, and the importance of service, you name it, I probably did it. Being so hands-on was not what I was expecting but the experience somehow exceeded my expectations. Middle school can be a rough age and there is a stigma that comes with any student who grows up in Baltimore City. But my internship changed any preconceived notion I might have had about them -- these children are smart, talented, driven, funny, and have the world ahead of them. I learned more from them in 11 weeks than I probably could teach them in a lifetime."
Lauren is thankful for such opportunities and believes she may not have had them at another university. “Being part of a small supportive community has put me in a unique position to advance my career because I have numerous individuals in my support system who are consistently seeking out opportunities for me to advance. I do not think I would have been able to participate in my fellowship without the experiences that Stevenson University has given me to grow both personally and professionally.”
In fact, she says, her time at Stevenson, specifically her work with Mission: I’m Home, has impacted her worldview. "Being able to spend my breaks from school rebuilding homes affected by natural disasters has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. Mission: I’m Home has shown me that anyone can make a difference, no matter how small. Ms. Elaine, a homeowner we helped, says it best: ‘Look down at your two hands. Your two hands have the power to help someone and change the world.’ Stevenson has taught me that we can each use our two hands to make a difference in our local and national communities."