Summer Plans

Funding from Jon Ben Snow Foundation helps CCE students advance their Action Plans during the months between the semesters.

By Renée Gearhart Levy

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Jessica Vinciguerra in Syracuse’s North Side, not two blocks from where she was raised. Via her CCE Action Plan, she hopes to convert an abandoned lot there into recreational space.

Growing up on Syracuse’s lower North Side, Jessica Vinciguerra played competitive soccer. The only problem was there wasn’t really anywhere in her neighborhood to practice. “There was one side yard we used all the time,” she recalls, “but everything else was pretty much concrete.”

Vinciguerra wants to change that. The Maxwell senior is working to convert a vacant lot in her old neighborhood into community green space that can be used for fitness, recreation, and community building. She spent her summer meeting with citizens to assess wants and needs, and working with community organizations to cut through red tape.

"We try to give students as many opportunities as possible to go out in the community."
CCE coordinator Amy Schmidt

This project is part of the Action Plan required of her major in citizenship and civic engagement. (She’s also majoring in policy studies.) CCE is focused on community-based, experiential learning. The Action Plan is a project in which seniors research a community problem and develop a proposal to address it.

That she spent her summer on the project — rather than her usual summer gig, as a barista — is thanks to a grant from the Jon Ben Snow Foundation, supporting student projects in CCE. Vinciguerra was one of nine CCE students who benefitted from a Snow grant this summer.

“Part of what CCE is all about is getting students out into the community and bringing their studies to life,” says Amy Schmidt ’14 MPA, CCE program coordinator. “We try to give students as many opportunities as possible to go out in the community and do engagement, whether that’s here, at home, or abroad.”

Previously, the program offered stipends to students from its budget. “With the help of the Jon Ben Snow Foundation, we were able to support more students and give them bigger stipends,” says Schmidt.

Yara Osman, a senior also majoring in international relations, spent her summer at a Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon, tutoring English and facilitating arts activities. “I have cultivated a deep passion for learning about migration and advocating for refugee rights over my college career,” says the native of Sudan who grew up in Syracuse, “and am incredibly thankful to have such an opportunity.”

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Yara Osman (center) with refugee youth in Syracuse, for whom she is designing an arts therapy program

Osman’s Action Plan, which builds on that of previous student Adriana Curto ’16 BA (IR/CCE), aims to establish an arts therapy program for refugee youth in the Syracuse community. “The benefits of art therapy could be one of the most effective in healing trauma and facilitating a healthier reintegration process,” says Osman.

Mia Guy, who graduates this December with majors in CCE, African American studies, and women’s and gender studies, used her grant to help offset the costs of a study abroad program focused on the African diaspora in Paris. Guy is creating a database of resources related to human trafficking. In Paris, she interviewed feminist activists and studied French care models.

“I was attracted to CCE because of the opportunity to give something back to the community,” she says. “I’m not just going to leave with my education. I’m going to contribute something that hopefully will make a difference in people’s lives.”

According to program chair Anne Mosher, CCE students are not content to simply come up with a plan. “They want to do it now,” she says.

Vinciguerra, for example, hatched her project idea as a sophomore, chose her community placement with a business development nonprofit, researched parcel redevelopment and community-based planning in her MAX Course last year, and is now pursuing funding to get the vacant lot converted. “Her work this summer,” Mosher says, “gave her a leg-up on writing grants to make her vision a reality.”

Vinciguerra hopes to have funding by early spring and the green space installation complete by June. “Making an impact in my home neighborhood will be extremely meaningful,” she says, “and just a small way I can give back to the community that gave me so much.”

This article appeared in the winter 2019 print edition of Maxwell Perspective © Maxwell School of Syracuse University. To request a copy, e-mail dlcooke@maxwell.syr.edu.