BUCKHANNON, W.Va. – West Virginia Wesleyan’s Center for Community Engagement (CCE) WE LEAD (Wesleyan Engaging Leaders through Education, Awareness & Development) program continues to develop and foster skills for a lifetime of success. This fall, 20 students are actively engaged and involved in several teams: Animal Welfare & Sustainability, Appalachian Experience, Gender Equality, Human Rights, Invisible Illness, and Poverty Reduction.
Recently, WE LEAD partnered with the City of Buckhannon that involved over 225 Wesleyan students in CommUnity & Kindness Day. Other semester projects have included Get Up & Get Moving in local elementary schools, Trick-or-Treat for Canned Goods, the initiation of a mentoring program, volunteering at the annual Helvetia Fair, organizing a suicide prevention week, and coordinating 85 volunteers for the Upshur County Children’s Festival. All of the programs are planned, organized, and implemented by students with guidance and input from the Center for Community Engagement staff. Most importantly, all projects are student-initiated and student-led.
The mission of WE LEAD is to provide resources and opportunities for Wesleyan students to build leadership skills, engage in service, and become connected with community and global partners. WE LEAD aims to help students build awareness and understanding of societal issues in the spirit of education, growth, collaboration, and compassion for others. This is accomplished by student initiative within issue teams in cooperation with WE LEAD Coordinators, liaisons to other campus organizations, and CCE staff. Working within the goals of the Wesleyan and CCE mission statements, WE LEAD endeavors to create an atmosphere of leadership and service on campus.
Graduates of the WE LEAD program, who have found career success in education, law, medicine, and community research refer to the experiences of the program as life-changing.
“I credit the combination of scientific experiences and service-oriented leadership development to my current successes,” noted Zach Longeran ’14, who is a Ph.D. candidate at Vanderbilt University in the department of Pathology, Microbiology, and Immunology. “Scientific research is an incredibly dynamic and collaborative field that requires strong communication and interpersonal skills that I specifically honed through participating in WE LEAD. I have presented my research at international conferences where I use presentation strategies I developed in WE LEAD.”
“WE LEAD gave me the confidence to find my voice and pursue my passion,” added Angela Pittinger O’Meara ‘15, who will graduate next month from the Gonzaga University School of Law. ”WE LEAD forced me to step outside of my comfort zone, confront new issues, and always look and analyze any situation from multiple angles.”
“My experiences in WE LEAD and the Center for Community Engagement helped me gain the leadership skills necessary to succeed in law school and with my team now,” said Molly Full ’13, an immigration attorney at Catholic Charities, a nonprofit in New York City. She serves as a staff attorney for the team ActionNYC in Schools. “As part of the CCE, I was able to see how my life at Wesleyan tied into the greater world. The programs at the CCE continually reminded me that there is so much more we should be doing and caring about in our society. My experience also helped me become comfortable working in the community with vulnerable populations and explaining complicated concepts in terms that everyone can understand. I am so thankful for the experience I gained doing volunteer work in areas that encouraged motivating the individual.”
“I clarified my principles, found my passion, and gained the confidence to pursue goals I never thought possible,” noted Erin Hudnall ‘16, a third-year Ph.D. Program candidate in sociology with a concentration in community research at West Virginia University. “The WE LEAD program helped me to gain leadership and other skills to be an effective agent of change as well as a competitive graduate school applicant.”
“There are two things about my WE LEAD experience I feel are often underappreciated,” stated Mason Winkie ‘17, a Fulbright Scholarship recipient to the Czech Republic and medical school student at West Virginia University. “The first is the true acceptance of everyone who is willing to take part. People with different opinions expressed great tolerance and rational listening when discussing subjects and issues. It is not often one finds this. The second is what the experience does to educate you about the world around you. I learned to appreciate life much more as well as the pressing issues of the present world. I felt the program was like having an extra class in which you could share in being the teacher, student, or researcher.”
“I gained countless new skills and changed my entire worldview because of my involvement in WE LEAD, said Brittany Johnk ‘14, a data analyst at a charter school network in Nashville. “When I was earning my M.Ed. at Vanderbilt, I found a fellowship program at the elementary charter school. I have had the chance to use the analytic skills I learned in grad school as well as the “servant leader” mindset I adopted after my time at Wesleyan. My decision to attend graduate school was entirely rooted in my experiences within CCE.”
“The concept of community engagement is something I will never forget,” stated Jonathan “J.T.” Noland ‘15, a product specialist with Vertical Screen, an international background screening company. “I also spend time working with my wife as a co-director of our church youth group. I sit on a Youth Advisory Committee in our township and we have worked with the community to address drug issues and hold community discussions on mental health. Our current plans include a community forum on mental health issues and helping to facilitate mental health training for community leaders. My time in the CCE helped prepare me to serve on this committee and provided me with the knowledge on how to plan large events.”
Wesleyan’s Center for Community Engagement is led by Katie Loudin ’07, director, and Jessica Vincent ’12, assistant director. For more information about the WE LEAD Program and the Center for Community Engagement & Leadership Development, go to www.wvwc.edu/campus-life or call 304-473-8165.