Students participate in College of Saint Benedict Marie and Robert Jackson Fellows program

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July 16, 2014

The 2014-15 Jackson Fellows pose for a group picture at the Children's Museum of South Dakota — where one of the fellows (Kaileigh Nicklas) is serving this summer.

Over the summer, 10 students from the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John's University got to pick community service or public policy jobs.

Sound too good to be true? But that's exactly what the students did courtesy of the CSB Marie and Robert Jackson Fellows program, which runs from early June to mid-August.

The students choose an opportunity based on their own interests, relationship to their major and future goals for their careers once they have been selected to the competitive program.

Program co-directors Marah Jacobson-Schulte, director of Experiential Learning and Community Engagement at CSB and SJU, and Matt Lindstrom, Edward L. Henry Professor of Political Science at CSB and SJU, review all site proposals. Approved sites must provide opportunities for high level engagement in and with community, contribution to the common good and addressing issues with a social justice approach. They also look for key mentorship opportunities for students when reviewing sites.

"The whole site selection is really driven by the students searching, networking, applying and soliciting a summer internship," Lindstrom said.

The Jackson Fellows strive to improve community life or the common good through political or nonpolitical activities. They also attend bi-monthly seminars, which include a discussion of the fellowships, leadership training, guest lecturers and study tours.

The Jackson Fellows will continue their commitment through the 2014-15 academic year, with the expectation of strengthening their leadership skills and conducting service work on and off campus throughout the year. They will develop and create a final project that aligns with the mission of the Jackson Fellows program.

Jackson Fellows from CSB:

Ellen Black, a rising senior biochemistry major from Litchfield, Minnesota, serves at Children's Dental Services, a nonprofit organization that seeks to improve the dental health of children from families with low incomes in the Twin Cities area, with an emphasis on care for immigrant families. Black gains experience in the clinic through office organization and charting and is helping to create a program for high school students to seek interest in dental care as well as other public outreach events.

Sarah Evans, a rising senior environmental studies major from Osceola, Wisconsin, serves at the Will Steger Foundation and Homestead, a nonprofit organization that works with college and high school students to support student leadership in climate change solutions. Evans works with social media, provides logistical and development support with specific projects and revises current curriculum to align with education standards.

Mary Gilbertson, a rising senior global business leadership major from Maplewood, Minnesota, serves at the office of Minnesota Sen. Al Franken. Gilbertson assists constituents and field staff with casework and related tasks, works with the outreach staff to perform research and plan events and attends meetings with field and outreach staff.

Mariya Lawinger, a rising senior communication major from Sauk Centre, Minnesota, serves at the Children's Theatre Company in Minneapolis, which creates extraordinary theatre experiences that educate, challenge and inspire young people and their communities. Lawinger helps develop social media strategies for the theater; collects and compiles press and media contacts; organizes and digitizes past press materials; and assists with the development and creation of promotional and marketing materials.

Kaileigh Nicklas, a rising senior Asian studies major from Buena Vista, Colorado, serves at the Children's Museum of South Dakota, a private, nonprofit organization which promotes the education of individuals of all ages through interactive displays and demonstrations. Nicklas assists with museum maintenance, guest services and summer classes and other special events.

Ashleigh Walter, a rising senior environmental studies major from Billings, Montana, serves at the West Side Community Organization, a nonprofit organization in St. Paul, Minnesota. It addresses a multitude of issues that relate to community development and social, environmental and economic sustainability through fostering dialogue and engagement among West Side residents. Walter conducts social media and in-person outreach campaigns and communicates with vendors regarding the West Side Farmers Market.

Chendan Yan, a rising senior environmental studies and philosophy double-major from Shanghai, China, serves for the Center for Earth, Energy and Democracy in Minneapolis, which seeks to affirm and revitalize principles of democracy and social justice in energy and environmental policy. Yan collects data for an environmental justice mapping tool and helps with community outreach.

Peggy Yang, a rising senior economics major from Minneapolis, serves at the Northwest Hennepin Human Services Council, which performs regional research, planning and coordination of human services to make a difference in the lives of area residents. Yang provides support, understanding, and critical information about early childhood for diverse families and reaches out to schools, churches and other resource providers to develop partnerships.

Jackson Fellows from SJU:

Austin Barkley, a rising senior Hispanic studies major from Sartell, Minnesota, serves at Anna Marie's Alliance, a private, nonprofit corporation dedicated to providing safe shelter, support and referral services for battered women and children in St. Cloud, Minnesota. Barkley acts as a positive role model for children and adolescents who have been exposed to violence and assists mothers with developing appropriate parenting skills.

Biruk Zekewos, a rising junior nursing major from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, serves at the United Living Community Child Development Center in Brookings, South Dakota, which offers a unique setting for care and learning through an intergenerational environment that brings together the children and seniors of United Living Community. Zekewos develops activities that promote intergenerational relationships, assists with event coordination and reviews and updates the children's files and health records.

Each fellow is granted $4,000 for the summer civic engagement project (plus a $1,000 stipend for living expenses). During the school year, they receive an additional $1,000 financial stipend in recognition of their yearlong involvement.

The program was established in 2008 when CSB received an anonymous gift. All majors are welcome to apply for the competitive program.