community partners award individuals

Community Partner Awards

At the end of the academic year, we host a luncheon recognizing extraordinary accomplishments that community partners, students, faculty and staff have done throughout the year.

Our award categories change every year depending on the accomplishments of out community. Some previous award categories have been Community Partner of the Year, Extraordinary Act of Service Award (Program/Student), Volunteer of the Year (Student), Excellence in Community-Engaged Learning (Faculty) and Giving Tree Award (Staff).

Sweet Spot Awards logo

2022-2023 Award Recipients

The Community Partner of the Year award is given to a community partner agency that has collaborated with Stetson University to provide significant opportunities for student learning through community impact during the academic year.

African American Museum of the Arts

This partner has had quite a year, and we are thankful that our students and faculty have been able to be a part of their many successes. Almost a year ago today, a mural began taking form at the Noble Thin Man Watts Amphitheater. The idea for this mural came from the team at the African American Museum of the Arts, notably its long-time CEO, Mary Allen, with support from her steadfast Board of Directors. As the saying goes: if you want to go fast, go alone, but if you want to go far, go together. Mary Allen and her team understand that all too well, and spent considerable time gathering input from community members to ensure the mural would be resonant with the community. But, how do you take an idea like that and make it a reality? You need some really talented artists, and that’s where Stetson’s Creative Arts department comes in. Mary Allen began working with Luca Molnar, Stetson’s Assistant Professor of Studio Art, and a group of students and faculty called Stetson’s Creative Arts Department Anti-Racism Committee for Equity, whose mission is to advance equity for and inclusion of historically underrepresented ethnicities and races in the arts. Together, they brought in Seattle-based artist Moses Sun to lead the design of the mural and brought in dozens of local residents and students from Professor Molnar’s advanced painting class to assist Moses in painting the mural. And, what is the result of this outstanding collaboration? A mural that is a pure expression of Black joy. A mural that, just from looking at it, makes you want to dance and sing and smile. A mural that will build relationships and pride and community for generations to come.

But, for as great an accomplishment as the mural and restoration of the amphitheater was for the African American Museum of the Arts, it was only the beginning of a milestone year. In December, it was announced that the Museum would be receiving a $474,000 grant from the Florida Department of State’s African American Cultural and Historic Grants program, which funds construction projects at facilities in Florida that highlight the contributions, culture, or history of Black communities. If that wasn’t enough, these funds were matched by a $498,000 grant from Volusia County’s ECHO program just last month. Together, these will allow for a nearly $1m expansion of the museum’s facilities so they can better meet their critical mission of educating our community about African American cultures, arts, and local history.

On top of all of that, we’re grateful for Mary Allen and the museum’s efforts to bring Stetson students on for internships during this exciting time in the museum’s history, and for the museum’s contributions to the recent launch of the DeLand Black Heritage TrailMary Allen, our community is a better place because of you and your team at the African American Museum of the Arts. Congratulations on being named our Community Partner of the Year.

The New Community Partner of the Year award is given to a community partner agency that has begun a relationship with Stetson University for the first time during the academic year.

DeLand Pride

 This partner’s mission is to attract LGBTQIA members and their allies to our local community through nurturing professional and personal relationships that provide an active and positive force here in Volusia County and beyond, and wow have they done that! This organization officially opened its first physical office space for meetings and support groups such as the new parent and caregiver support groups, along with youth socials that provide workshops regarding sexual and mental health. They established two new sister organizations in Lake Helen and Daytona and began the development of TransPride Volusia, a transgender resource directory and peer case management program. 

This community partner has also successfully co-created and is now the office manager of the Volusia Resource Directory, a directory that provides local community organizations with a comprehensive list of all nonprofit/ service-oriented agencies here in Volusia County, helping eliminate knowledge and access barriers for all in need of services. This directory has almost one hundred copies in circulation and is still continuously requested by those living and working in our community.  

Finally, this community partner has raised over 3,000 dollars in funding through donations, fundraisers, and grants to provide undergarments for those currently unhoused, school supplies for local elementary and middle schools, established and awarded trade school scholarships, and supported local artists through many different awareness initiatives. This organization truly embodies the saying small but mighty, and their impact on this community will live on forever. 

Congratulations to DeLand Pride, 2022-2023 New Partner of the Year! 

The Community Engaged Learning Project of the Year is awarded to one faculty instructor, a community partner agency, and students who collaborated together on a project and/or research within a community-engaged learning course during the academic year. 

Hispanic Health Initiatives (HHI) 

Capacity-building projects help our community partners meet their mission more efficiently and effectively. In the Center for Community Engagement, we seek to have deep, reciprocal, and trusting relationships with partners that lead to meaningful community engagement experiences. We hope that with appropriate training, education, and support, our students can help meet the capacity-building needs of our partners.   

Our capacity-building project of the year recognizes a partner and students who worked together to tackle food insecurity in our community through intentional programming, outreach, and fundraising efforts that increased the partner’s capacity. In recent presentations emphasizing the need for this project, the student team shared that Volusia County has a food insecurity rate of 13%. With this knowledge in mind, the Right to Nutrition project seeks to offer direct access to free and nutritious food through a series of food pantries, provide bilingual comprehensive health coaching, and disseminate culturally competent informative handouts. This project received funding from United Way Generation Impact Social Innovation grant funding and the scope of the project is expanding to include a coding aspect that collects and aggregates grocery price lists.  

By now, you know that I’m talking about the hard work and vision of Hosanna Folmsbee, Lidia Galeas-Giron, and Peter Willems of Hispanic Health Initiatives. The hard work of this team shows that with supportive supervisors, engaged students, and community trust, you can build partner capacity and move the needle on solving pressing challenges facing our community. With that, let’s have a round of applause to recognize Hosanna, Lidia, and Peter with the Right to Nutrition project as our 2022-2023 Capacity Building Project of the Year!  

The Student Program/Organization of the Year award is given to a student-led organization or program on Stetson’s campus that has made a significant impact on at least one community issue through a specific project or sustained initiatives throughout the academic year. 

Kappa Alpha Theta Sorority 

These winners of this award have been an absolute powerhouse for volunteerism and community-engaged work throughout the semester, working with over 5 different community partners throughout this year to meet any and all needs of our community. These students put on their hard hats and worked in the hot Florida sun to help build houses for low-income families here in Volusia County; they became scientists and helped judge a local elementary school’s science fair; and they worked to become the best youth entertainers in the city, by providing youth entertainment that supports other local higher education institutions and to support a large number of our community partners at the Black Heritage Trail Launch. 

These students have shown true dedication to the community under the leadership of their president and vice president of education, who both continue to impress me with their consistency and loyalty to this work. This organization sets the standard for what dedication, and long-lasting community engagement looks like for on-campus student organizations. Our community and our school are truly blessed to have you. 

Congratulations to the 2022-2023 Student Program/Organization of the Year, the Kappa Alpha Theta Sorority!