DukeEngage empowers students to address critical human needs through immersive service, in the process transforming students, advancing the University’s educational mission, and providing meaningful assistance to communities in the U.S. and abroad.
Eric Mlyn, Peter Lange Executive Director of DukeEngage
2018 was an exciting year for DukeEngage. We saw an increase in the number of applications to our US programs, including more than 40 applicants each to New Orleans, New York, and Washington, DC. This upsurge not only reflects a strategic goal of DukeEngage to increase service in the states, but also the realization by Duke students that many of the issues they care about deeply—from homelessness to conservation to inequities in education and healthcare—can be found in their own backyard. Ultimately, 401 students were selected to participate in DukeEngage for summer 2018.
As usual, we kicked off our summer with the annual Fortin Foundation DukeEngage Academy, a mandatory two-day training program for DukeEngage participants and the largest civic engagement conference of its kind. President Vincent Price carried on the tradition established by Richard Brodhead in 2009 of sharing words of wisdom and advice with our departing DukeEngagers. He also visited our Durham and DC programs.
The summer was filled with opportunities for students to explore their passions, from participating in a rare turtle release in Thailand to teaching STEM classes in Orange County, California. DukeEngagers tackled projects that helped advance the mission of their community partners, from building a pedestrian footbridge in Bolivia to creating a digital database for a foster care agency in Seattle. They immersed themselves in their communities by living in home stays, celebrating local holidays, and visiting historic and educational sites. Mostly importantly, DukeEngage students took time to reflect on their experiences with their partners and peers, particularly around challenging issues of racism, poverty, and privilege.
“South Africa has allowed me to immerse myself in its locale, culture, and language in a way I didn't think was possible. The thing I am most grateful for, as an aspiring civil rights lawyer, is this program's ability to allow me to understand human rights and race from a different perspective and one that isn't only from the American viewpoint.” – Maryam Asenuga ’20
Asenuga and Chiara Settineri ’21 interned at Sonke Gender Justice, a nonprofit that works across Africa to promote gender equality, prevent domestic and sexual violence, and reduce the spread and impact of HIV and AIDS. One of their primary projects was creating a sexual harassment training presentation for Community Action Team members, who are point-persons within the townships and areas surrounding Cape Town.
“During my first weeks at Community School of the Arts (CSA), I realized once again the importance of art in fostering one’s identity, creativity, and life story. I attended meetings that showcased how detailed and efficient CSA has to be and the dedication required to create and manage a great nonprofit organization. I have enjoyed my discussions with my two supervisors about the influence art has had on their lives and the lives of others through their work. I researched how CSA can better serve communities of people that suffer from developmental disabilities, which correlates directly to my academic/career aspirations!” – Idalis French ’19
During their eight weeks in Charlotte, six DukeEngage participants worked to address issues of summer learning loss, homelessness, and educational equity.
"I never thought of myself as a ‘research’ person, but after our forest integrity rapid assessment, I’m eager to start conducting my own mini research projects back at Duke and attending conferences, symposiums, and lectures…It’s been a heck of a trip, and I’m incredibly grateful for it." – Christina Holloway ’21
DukeEngage-Costa Rica participants spent eight weeks in the Bellbird Biological Corridor, working with the Monteverde Institute in all facets of tropical reforestation—from seedling collection to planting. They also conducted research on germination methods, seedling survivorship, and growth rates. By the end of the project, DukeEngage students had planted 4,496 trees on abandoned pastures and delivered almost 8,000 additional trees to landowners wanting to reforest land.
“I managed to combine my media work with my passion for health and the environment—something that, at first glance, didn't seem to quite overlap. However, they came together beautifully when I chose to document the environmental measures that the school I was assigned had taken in order to show its students how they could be more ‘green’ in the future, and how important these measures would be to the future sustainability of Rwanda. It was absolutely fascinating.” – Maddie Braksick ’20
DukeEngage-Rwanda participants worked with four community-based organizations to document daily life in and around the capital city of Kigali. The students used photographs, audio, and video recordings to explore issues related to the work of each organization, including infant mortality, youth education, land reform, women’s rights, and urban renewal.
“I may have only been here for 8 weeks, but I hope to take what I’ve learned about meaningful interactions in the classroom and about the complexities of homelessness beyond this summer and back to Duke and Durham. We often think deeply about the systems at play around the world, but it seems like many students, including myself, don’t know much about the immediate community we live in.” – Luis Colon Rios ’21
Through DukeEngage-San Francisco, eight students worked at Larkin Street Youth Services, an internationally recognized model that successfully integrates housing, education, employment, and health services to get homeless and at-risk young people off the streets. Two students interned with At The Crossroads, which reaches out to homeless youth and young adults at their point of need and works with them to build healthy and fulfilling lives.
“The opportunities I have had through my internship are the reason I applied for this DukeEngage program. I have learned so much, but most importantly I have learned the significance of alliances. Real change happens when passionate people come together and form inclusive, equitable, and innovative solutions.” – Kelby Welsh ’20
Welsh was one of two DukeEngage students placed at the Washington Environmental Council. During their eight weeks in Seattle, they canvassed for the 1631 initiative, a carbon fee that aims to reduce pollution and promote clean air, water, and energy investments in the state. The 13 other DukeEngage students also worked at organizations that are addressing the sustainability challenges facing Seattle, from food insecurity to urban planning.
“During my time here, I have formed bonds with children on the mountain, solely through nonverbal communication. The joy that can be found connecting with people from different cultures through dance and songs needs no lingual connection, only an appreciation of each other.” – Angela Zhao ’21
DukeEngage-Togo students worked with Actions Sociales and AHED-Togo on a microfinance initiative. Because of the successful management of the program by the organization’s director, Cyril Atchadé, DukeEngage students were able to finance a record 53 of 65 applicants this year. Students also taught English, photography, and drawing to teens in Farendé; led computer and writing classes at the Presbyterian Youth Center, where two Duke students installed a cyber café in summer 2012; and evaluated a health insurance system created by a Duke student in 2009.
“Zhuhai allowed me to see a whole other part of the world that I had little knowledge of prior to this summer. It taught me patience during hardship and pain; it taught me the importance of adaptability and creativity on the spot; and it reignited a confidence in me that hasn’t seen the light of day in a long time. I DANCED, me—a girl who can barely wiggle to the right beat—I DANCED ON A STAGE!” – Mahnoor Nazeer ’19
DukeEngage-Zhuhai participants teach Chinese middle school students the importance of leadership, self-confidence, and self-expression. They also plan and execute an end-of-program performance that includes both Duke students and No. 9 students dancing, singing, and doing stand-up comedy.