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Grad student wins national community service award

Bethany Welch says she plans to pursue a career “seeking social change through advocacy and policy intervention.” Photo by Kathy F. Atkinson

1:45 p.m., July 25, 2006--Bethany Welch, a UD doctoral student from Rochester, N.Y., received the 2006 Spirit of Service Award from the Corporation for National and Community Service in June.

Welch, a research assistant in the College of Human Services, Education and Public Policy's Center for Community Research and Service, was one of only 16 individuals nationwide to receive a Spirit of Service Award.

Welch won the award for her work through AmeriCorps' VISTA program at the Cardinal Bevilacqua Community Center of Catholic Social Services in Philadelphia, where she recruited more than 230 volunteers, developed program curriculum, wrote and received grants to support the center's programs, initiated a new marketing system and managed beautification, cultural and educational projects.

She began her VISTA year before the community center opened, working with residents, community leaders, volunteers and the center's staff on ways the center could bring the community together.

“Soon we had a children's after-school program, then a youth service-learning program, basketball leagues, a computer lab, adult education, a mentoring initiative, a community garden, special community service events and an adult multicultural club,” Welch said.

Welch credits her passion for community service to a family that taught her the meaning of civic responsibility, a “life-changing” internship at a hunger relief agency and the opportunity to make a difference cooperatively with the residents of the Kensington community through her VISTA experience.

Welch (seated, second from left) and neighborhood youth at the Cardinal Bevilacqua Community Center in Kensington

“Some of my earliest family memories consist of shivering along a picket line in the dead of winter and coloring at my mother's feet while she sat in yet another planning meeting to pioneer educational reform,” Welch said. “While other children were loaded into the family van for sports activities, my brothers and I traveled to meetings, hearings and protests. We had the chance to observe adults practicing civic responsibility and learned the language of public discourse. This influence shaped my vision of a civil society that is grounded in citizen participation. We can accomplish more cooperatively than alone.”

Welch said she plans to pursue a career “seeking social change through advocacy and policy intervention.”

Since coming to UD in fall of 2004, Welch has been putting her knowledge and experience in the areas of service learning and community organizing to work as a research assistant with the Center for Community Research and Service, and she continues to volunteer at Cardinal Bevilacqua Community Center. “This experience remains and informs every dimension of my research,” she said.

The Corporation for National and Community Service is a federal program operating in partnership with USA Freedom Corps to provide grants, training and technical assistance for developing and expanding volunteer organizations primarily through Senior Corps, AmeriCorps and Learn and Serve America programs.

For more information about UD's AmeriCorps VISTA program, visit [www.udel.edu/dmcvista].

Article by Barbara Garrison

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