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Stetson’s Duguay named a 2016 Newman Civic Fellow

Stetson junior Taylor Duguay named a 2016 Newman Civic Fellow.

Stetson junior Taylor Duguay named a 2016 Newman Civic Fellow.

Taylor Duguay, a junior political science and communications studies double-major at Stetson University, is the recipient of the 2016 Newman Civic Fellows Award. As a Newman Civic Fellow, Duguay is one of 218 students recognized as the next generation of public problem solvers and civic leaders. Through service, research, and advocacy, Newman Civic Fellows are making the most of their college experiences to better understand themselves, the root causes of social issues, and effective mechanisms for creating lasting change.

Recognizing that many individuals and families experience significant financial hardship due to reasons often outside of their control, Duguay came to Stetson and committed herself to working directly with persons who are homeless.

“Prior to entering college, I had grand plans to change the world someday,” said Duguay in her personal statement. “Although I tried my best to become educated about social justice issues, all of my college entry essays still included misappropriated quotes from Gandhi about being the change.”

Through Stetson’s Bonner Program, Duguay began by volunteering 10 hours a week at The Neighborhood Center of West Volusia, a local homeless shelter and food pantry, where she welcomed clients, and helped organize and distribute food. Over her three years as a volunteer, her responsibilities have increased as she has learned more about the organization’s assets and needs: she is now trained and certified to use the Homeless Management Information System (HMIS), which gives her the ability to take on additional staff-level responsibilities for the organization; she trains and supervises other volunteers, including a team of five other Stetson students; and she assists staff with research and grant writing projects. Through all of these, Duguay has increased the capacity of this non-profit to provide more of its valuable services to our local low/no-income families who struggle with homelessness.

Through that experience, Duguay found that she was able to make a difference through her volunteer work, but there was much more need than there was organizational capacity to meet that need. She identified that this need could be filled if more students would engage in long-term, sustained partnerships with organizations like The Neighborhood Center through undergraduate research and internships – particularly those opportunities that are embedded in faculty-led courses. So, Duguay began working with the Center for Community Engagement to recruit additional faculty to teach community-engaged learning courses that align students’ academic learning outcomes with meaningful needs that exist in our community. Duguay has helped faculty identify or create 27 courses with community-engaged learning components across 13 majors, which has led to over 300 students being connected with opportunities for high-impact community engagement work with the local non-profit community partners.

“When I came to college, I realized that my passion for change in the lives of low-income families could be applied to my local community on a small scale,” Duguay said, “that though I may not be able to immediately change the whole world, I could make a significant change in my community.”

Beyond her work at The Neighborhood Center and in the Center for Community Engagement, Duguay has taken significant leadership roles with Stetson’s Bonner Program – opportunities that allow her to mentor 60 other student civic leaders, train them to develop additional professional and leadership skills and find ways to integrate their academic and career goals with meaningful needs in the community.

After she graduates, Duguay intends to pursue a career in public interest law, from which she can effect change through legal policies that impact impoverished persons – continuing her work as an advocate committed to breaking the cycle of poverty through institutional support and the law.

The Newman Civic Fellows Awards are made possible through the generous support of the KPMG Foundation and Newman’s Own Foundation.

For a full list of the 2016 Newman Civic Fellows, please visit http://www.compact.org/initiatives/awards-programs/the-frank-newman-leadership-award.