Letter from the president

Greetings to all our Sullivan Foundation family and welcome to another issue of Engage. This issue, our sixth, marks three years since we started this venture, and while we’re proud of all we’ve managed to showcase thus far, we’re primarily focused on how to improve moving forward. We have plans to produce more original content, focus on schools we haven’t yet seen in these pages, and expand the scope of our media outreach with web-based content to supplement the stories we tell here.

The help of the entire Sullivan community is necessary if we wish to meet these goals, so continue to send us story ideas from every corner of our network. We want to feature you and your school to let the world know about all the great things you’re doing.

As I look through the pages of this new issue, I’m struck by just how wide the reach of our Foundation is. We’re promoting environmental sustainability as well as education in underserved communities. We’re fighting hunger here at home and illiteracy overseas. As the stories in this magazine will tell you—our people are making a difference. I believe the diversity of our membership drives the diversity of our impact, and I couldn’t be prouder of all the students, alumni, and schools we’ve chosen to showcase this time around. They are all different, and all worth applauding.

Thanks again for your continued support and for taking our mission out into the world in the unique way that only you can.

Stephan L. McDavid

Sullivan Flashback: Sullivan & Cromwell Law Firm

Algernon Sydney Sullivan in 1879, the year Sullivan & Cromwell was founded

After graduating from Miami University of Ohio in 1845, Algernon Sydney Sullivan immediately began the process of studying to become a lawyer under the tutelage of his father, Jeremiah. He took a break along the way to help win a campaign to bring public education to his home state of Indiana, but eventually finished his studies and entered the family trade.

Sullivan’s legal career was not always a smooth one—after setting up shop in Cincinnati, he famously ended up penniless and disgraced. Always eager to help his friends, he had cosigned on numerous bank transactions, and, when the economy suffered a crash in 1856, he was saddled with enormous debt.

Sullivan left Cincinnati for New York, embarrassed by his failure and determined to pay off what he owed his creditors. It was there that he ultimately redeemed himself and learned to bring his dedication to helping others into harmony with his professional ambition.

Sullivan chaired a committee to relocate the remains of former president James Monroe to his home state of Virginia. Despite holding a staunch anti-slavery stance, Sullivan advocated for the humane treatment of captured Confederate soldiers during the Civil War. Mary Mildred Sullivan served as a fundraiser and eventually joined the board of the Nursery and Child’s Hospital of New York. During this time, the Sullivans also welcomed and raised their son, George.

And, for Sullivan, true professional success came when, in 1878, he founded the law firm of Sullivan and Cromwell, a partnership with 25-year-old William Nelson Cromwell, in whom Sullivan had seen early promise and arranged for his enrollment in Columbia Law School.

The new enterprise did well, and played a hand in some of America’s most significant developments such as the formation of the Edison General Electric Company in 1882. Sullivan and Cromwell, in fact, still flourishes today, and has grown into a top global firm with offices in Europe, Asia, and Australia. In 2015, its lawyers contributed more than 64,000 hours of pro bono work to individuals, charities, and other organizations.

Sullivan, of course, was gone too soon to see much of the success he’d finally earned—he died in 1887. Still, his dual legacy—embodied in the foundation and firm that each bear his name—demonstrates that the drive to excel individually and the compassion to serve humanity need not be mutually exclusive.

The modern headquarters of the firm in New York City

Alumnus Letter: James Oppenheim

James Oppenheim, a 1968 graduate of Rollins College and a Sullivan Award recipient, took the time to send a letter to the Sullivan Foundation after many years without contact. Even after all those years, Mr. Oppenheim was generous enough to send the Foundation a gift for the betterment of future generations, along with his remembrances and best wishes.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Dear President McDavid,

I received the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award in 1968 at Rollins College, Winter Park, FL. The award came as a complete surprise. It was not a reward to which you could apply or receive for accomplishing some outstanding achievement. The award was given with little fanfare, but I do recall that the few that were recognized were most appreciative and proud to be honored in such a way.

I was both a student and athlete, maybe better than average, but not unusual. However, I have always tried to live my life by the

“Golden Rule” as I was taught by my parents. I think that is the essence of what the Sullivan Foundation represents.

The campus of Rollins College, where James Oppenheim attended and received a Sullivan Award

It has been many years since 1968. I just turned 70. In the past year it has now come as another surprise that the Foundation has found me again and has begun sending ENGAGE.

Forty-eight years ago I gave my stipend to my parents for giving me the opportunity to attend Rollins. I have always felt indebted to the Foundation for allowing me that privilege so long ago. Please use the enclosed gift to help allow another student that wonderful honor.

My sincere thanks for recognizing me in 1968 and still remembering me in 2016.


James K. Oppenheim

Did you know?

Sullivan’s newest school is also, in a way, its oldest

The first chapter in the story of the Sullivan Foundation really begins in southern Indiana, in the town of Madison. It was there that Algernon Sydney Sullivan was born and spent his formative years.

In fact, even today, at the corner of 2nd and Poplar Streets, sits a beautiful and beautifully restored brick house originally built in 1818 by Jeremiah Sullivan, just four years prior to Algernon’s birth.

Hanover College students participate in the Community Stewardship Initiative’s Spring Service Day

Now, nearly two centuries after Sullivan’s birth, the latest news from the foundation that bears his name comes from just around the corner. Hanover College, in the town of Hanover only a few miles away, is where he began his college career (ultimately graduating from Miami University of Ohio). It is also one of two new members of the Sullivan Foundation family.

The historical connection between Hanover and Sullivan is not the only reason the two institutions are coming together, of course. Hanover has a proven commitment to service and has, in recent years, doubled down on that commitment.

A standout among Hanover’s service offerings is the recently established Community Stewardship Initiative (CSI). The organization takes aim at integrating students into the larger community by partnering with local service organizations.

“Each student assigns themselves to an organization in the Jefferson County area,” says David Harden, Hanover’s Director of Experiential Learning. “They get to know them, they spend time with them. They get to know what some of their needs are. Then they bring those needs back to our organization and we find out what we can do as a college.”

Students take part in a poverty simulation exercise

That emphasis on true engagement is the cornerstone of the initiative. Harden and others at Hanover want to build face-to-face connections, both to better serve the organizations and to break down the invisible walls that often exist between academic institutions and the communities that surround them.

That type of division is particularly common for schools like Hanover, an elite liberal arts college in a county of less than 40,000 where more than half of all families receive some kind of public assistance. CSI promotes service not for the purpose of scoring points on a CV, but for creating a dialogue between the college and the community.

“We don’t decide what they need,” says Harden, “we listen to what they need. And then we go serve.”

The focus of CSI is broad. Student groups have worked with the United Way, Habitat for Humanity, and a local food pantry called House of Hope, among many others.

At Madison Consolidated High School, for example, Hanover students have helped high schoolers with their community garden, even making sure it’s maintained during summer vacation and assisting in the distribution of the food it produces.

Since the founding of CSI, the pivot toward experiential service learning at Hanover has only increased. The 2015 arrival of the college’s new president, Dr. Lake Lambert III, brought with it a challenge: to complete 1,827 hours of service work (commemorating Hanover’s 1827 founding) before his inauguration as president.

“That was from the first of September when he arrived here until the first of October,” says Harden, “and we were able to do that, which was really cool.”

Hanover promotes the future of the area as well, through collaboration like the one it has with Envision Jefferson County, a community development organization. Envision’s chairperson, coincidentally, is Valicia Crisafulli, a Sullivan Award recipient. One of those collaborations promises to create an online portal and database to track Hanover students’ service work all over the county to better understand the impact their efforts are having.

Efforts to help students understand the kind of conditions less fortunate Jefferson Countians must face every day can also happen at the theoretical level, but there is always a hands-on component. Many students recently participated in a poverty simulation in which they “live” for a month facing daily responsibilities. Each week was represented by a 15-minute period, during which they had to go to work for seven minutes, pay bills, take care of their children, all on whatever small budget they were earning.

Hanover student Audrey Masterson found the simulation changed her view significantly.

“I thought I already had an idea of how hard living in poverty is, but it turns out I had no clue at all,” says Masterson. “No matter how hard I worked to get money, there was no way to get out of poverty. It made me think about the stories people have outside their jobs. It was a wakeup call.”

Whether in the classroom or in the field, experiential learning is not just a buzzword at Hanover. The more ties made to the world outside the campus, the better for Jefferson County, the college, and the students, whose educations are as much a benefit to them as their work is to the community.

Hanover’s exemplary efforts to keep improving on its service record make it a valuable addition to the Foundation’s network. That they will be bestowing Sullivan Awards at Algernon Sydney Sullivan’s alma mater and just a few miles from where he was raised makes for a nice historical symmetry.

The Jeremiah Sullivan House, as the home is known today, is now a museum open to the public. It ought to make the perfect place for future Hanover Sullivan Award honorees to visit after they receive their medallions on graduation day.

Volunteer internationale

Sullivan alum Nolan Moore still carrying the torch of volunteerism two years on

Nolan Moore’s service projects have taken him
to places as far afield as Sri Lanka, Guatemala,
and Kenya to help children learn and grow

In 2014, when Nolan Moore was graduating from The Citadel with a major in history, he’d already amassed quite a service resume. His efforts included travels to Sri Lanka and Guatemala, where he worked on English language learning and youth engagement. Those efforts were recognized with a Sullivan Award (and a spotlight in the second issue of Engage).

In the two years since, Moore has served in the Army—he’s currently conducting training at Fort Polk in preparation for an upcoming deployment as a member of the 101st Airborne Division.

Moore’s volunteering projects aren’t always globetrotting affairs—he’s also worked with children in his home state of South Carolina. Through the Greater Tee First Charleston program, he’s helped young people learn life lessons and build character using golf as a launching pad.

For Moore, the experience of helping others is just as rewarding as it is challenging.

“What motivates me to volunteer is being able to know that I am able to affect families, dreams and future generations,” he says. “I want to be an example and mentor that people are able to look up to. The feeling of knowing that I made someone’s day just by teaching them something new or making them laugh for a moment is extremely amazing.”

A lot of the travel Moore has undertaken has been through the International Volunteer HQ (IVHQ), an organization that strives to make travel affordable for people who wish to volunteer overseas. The IVHQ also gives out a volunteer award each year. Out of twelve finalists from the USA, Canada, and New Zealand, Moore was voted the 2016 IVHQ Volunteer of the Year.

In addition to the honor, IVHQ will also provide Moore with yet another chance to serve—in the form of a travel voucher to help him get to his next project. IVHQ helped him get to Kenya to teach English back in 2012, where he developed a passion for sharing the language with students. He plans to use the voucher to return to Africa and continue that work.

Moore’s devotion to serving others made him a shining example of what it means to become a Sullivan Award recipient. Now, with his continued commitment, he’s become a shining example of what it means to be a Sullivan Award alum.

A transformational experience

Coker College’s Jubilee Smith earns a Sullivan Award through determination and compassion

Coker College wasn’t originally a part of Jubilee Smith’s life plan. The Greenwood, South Carolina native envisioned herself going somewhere far from home—not the 150 miles to Hartsville, where Coker is located. However, it turned out to be a move that would lead to academic success, a lifelong commitment to serving others, and, finally, a Sullivan Award—she was one of two from Coker for 2016.

Her dedication easily caught the eyes of campus faculty and administrators.

“Jubilee is a conscientious young woman who cares deeply about the quality of life in this community and beyond,” says Tracy Parkinson, Provost and Dean of the college. “Her commitment to service has always been unquestionable as she has sought opportunities to make a difference in the lives of others.”

While Smith didn’t see her life taking the path it has so far, she certainly recognizes the depth of the transformation she’s undergone.

“Never in a million years did I think Coker would change my life the way it did,” she says.

Discovering her best self

Coker College has a unique academic and social curriculum for its students: the Trans4mations program, which guides students through a personalized sequence of experiences designed to help them discover their best selves.

Smith is truly a Trans4mations success story—just reading her list of involvements and accomplishments can be overwhelming. She was named a Sparrow Scholar, recognizing her for making life-changing differences by immersing herself in the community and focusing energy where it’s needed most.

“Jubilee has been an outstanding student leader as a Sparrow Scholar and president of the student organization F.A.N.G.S. Freely and Nobly Giving Service (Coker’s mascot is the Cobras),” says Darlene Small, Assistant Dean and director of Trans4mations at Coker College. “She has sought out experiences and helped to develop programs that have had a tremendous impact on the community. She is truly the epitome of service above self.”

Coker College’s Jubilee Smith works for
a chapter of the Food Recovery Network
she started at her school. The network
gets leftover food, which would otherwise
wind up in the trash, to those in need

Starting big by taking on hunger

Smith’s first Sparrow Scholar project focused on eliminating campus waste by feeding Hartsville’s hungry. She started a Hartsville chapter of the Food Recovery Network (FRN), which donates leftover food from the college’s dining hall to the local soup kitchen.

The FRN is the largest student movement against food waste and hunger in America. In the fall of 2015, the organization recovered its one-millionth pound of food, a milestone that Coker College got to celebrate along with 160 other participating schools across the country.

“I was in the dining hall one day when lunch was ending, and there was this pan of chicken that had not even been touched,” Smith recalls. “I was thinking, ‘There are hungry people in Hartsville who could be eating this food.’”

There was a lot of red tape to get through before FRN could become a reality.

“It literally took a whole semester for me to get everything down so that we could actually start,” Smith says. “I almost gave up, but after a lot of tugging and pulling, I got a lot of yesses and it finally happened.”

Four times a week, Smith and a small handful of dedicated volunteers transport the leftover food from the dining hall to the soup kitchen. They weigh the food and refrigerate it for the soup kitchen to use as the next day’s meal.

Persistent service

But despite the success of her first project, Smith didn’t stop there. For her second project, she created the Lunch Buddy Program, which teaches vital life and language skills to elementary school children. The project operates with six dedicated volunteers spending lunchtime on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays with students at four area elementary schools: Thornwell School for the Arts, Washington Street Elementary, West Hartsville Elementary, and Southside Early Childhood Center.

“It’s developed to help students improve and develop their social skills,” says Smith, “whether it’s how they communicate with adults or how they communicate with each other.”

To create Lunch Buddy, Smith collaborated with the TEACH Foundation, a local education nonprofit.

“Smith’s Lunch Buddy project is a perfect fit for the Hartsville elementary schools in the TEACH Foundation’s PULSE initiative,” says Sharman Poplava, Executive Director of the TEACH Foundation. “Her project focuses on child development using the ‘social’ and ‘language’ pathways of the Comer School Development Program. She reached out into the community to create a partnership that will have a lasting impact.”

After her December graduation, Smith is hoping to participate in Teach for America while, at the same time, working toward her master’s degree in human service and counseling. She wants to be a Supreme Court justice.

A humble farewell

Smith attributes much of her success over the last four years to her alma mater.

“I tell people all the time that the things I’ve done at Coker, I would never have gotten those opportunities at any other school,” says Smith.

Her story is certainly a testament to the quality of her school, but, like at all Sullivan schools, quality students like Smith are ultimately what sustains and strengthens an institution’s commitment to service. As she moves on in life as a college graduate and a Sullivan alumna, she hopes to offer the things she’s learned at Coker to others who may need to hear her story.

“Circumstance is your best teacher,” says Smith. “When I work with kids, I let them know that you do not have to be defined by your circumstances. Life has been my biggest teacher and my biggest encourager. Success with no struggle is no success at all.”


This article is adapted from an article by Elizabeth Coxe Hubbard, Media Relations Coordinator, Coker College.

Alumni Spotlight: Julie Malloy Copeland

Julie Malloy Copeland joined the Sullivan Foundation family back in 1998, when she graduated from Wofford College with a Mary Mildred Sullivan Award. Since then, her professional life has taken off—she’s now Vice President of Talent Management & Development at HRD Strategies, Inc., a human capital management consulting firm.

A look at her resume might lead you to believe that her job is just a side project, however—it reads as though her real title should be ‘professional volunteer.’

Copeland’s engagement with her community—Greensboro, North Carolina—is simply amazing. Just last year, she was named a recipient of a 2015 North Carolina Governor’s Volunteer Service Award, given each year to 20 people whose remarkable volunteer work has done the most to enrich North Carolina cities.

Copeland sees her outreach as simply part of a benevolent cycle.

“Each of us can look back upon someone who made a great difference in our lives; henceforth, making a difference has always been a very important charge to me,” she says. “Volunteerism has given me a profound sense of personal purpose, and has gifted me with fulfillment beyond measure.”

A great deal of Copeland’s work is through the Junior League of Greensboro, a women’s organization focused on building a better community through civic engagement and volunteerism.

One of Copeland’s most visible projects has been a partnership with Cone Elementary School in Guilford County, a Title I school that consistently performed low on testing and had 98% of its student population requiring free or reduced lunch. Copeland personally helped to train over 100 volunteers to dedicate their time there and generated funding for projects at the school for 3 consecutive years.

Copeland also served a term as president of the Junior League, and led it through a major step in realizing its mission of developing women leaders. The league’s Women’s Leadership Summit began to draw national-level speakers and participants during her tenure.

“The Junior League of Greensboro is so fortunate to have Julie Malloy Copeland serve as not only a volunteer but as a leader in our organization,” says Paige Butler, who succeeded Copeland as league president in 2014. “Her dedication to our mission is visible in all that she does and we are so proud of her.”

Copeland is always on the lookout for other ways to serve. She recently joined the Greensboro Historical Museum’s Board of Trustees and is an active volunteer with Junior Achievement of Central North Carolina, which pairs entrepreneurs and businesspeople with schools to prepare students to be active citizens and members of the workforce. She’s also a Director with the National League of Junior Cotillions.

As a Sullivan alum, Copeland has fully lived into the spirit of the Award, proving that no matter how full one’s life may be, there is always time to serve others.

“Giving back is both a great privilege and honor,” she says. “It’s an opportunity to share one’s time, talent, and treasure for the benefit of others and for the betterment of the community. In return, countless unexpected blessings often abound.”

Educating face-to-face

North Carolina Wesleyan’s Afterschool Tutoring Initiative is a big win for education majors and for local school children

Wesleyan student Lauren Gosselin carefully checks over a student’s assignment with him

The idea that service is an integral part of any solid education is at the core of the Sullivan Foundation’s mission. The Education Department at North Carolina Wesleyan shares that idea, looking for ways to put their future teachers into the classroom long before they graduate.

Of course, student teaching and other forms of in-classroom training are standard for any education major. At Wesleyan, however, associate professor Patricia Brewer identified an opportunity for a new kind of on-the-job training that would fortify her students’ educations while having a tremendous impact on an exceptional group of younger students.

These children had been identified by their school teachers as needing an Individualized Education Plan (IEP)—an indication that some form of learning deficit was hindering their academic progress. Their problems might range from attention deficit disorder to some degree of autism or a combination of disabilities.

When these students enter the Education Department on Wesleyan’s stately campus, they have something in store for them that they may have never associated with education before—excitement.

The forging of a partnership

Robin Todd works closely with a young boy in the program

For the last two years, children have been coming to Wesleyan to take part in a tutorial program created as a joint effort between the Education Department and a local United Way agency—the Association for the Learning Disabled and Handicapped (ALDH).

Working together, Wesleyan and ALDH created the Afterschool Tutorial Initiative for students in grades K-12. Students and a parent or guardian meet at Wesleyan one night a week from 6:00 to 7:30 for 10 weeks during the college’s fall and spring semesters.

The collaboration came about as the result of ALDH’s outcry for additional and intensive after-school services for children in grades K-12. The need for tutors sparked the imagination of Brewer, who is the department’s coordinator of special education. Brewer and Rosemary Holliday, executive director of ALDH, along with its board members, came up with a plan: Why not let Wesleyan students who are studying to become teachers gain practical experience by working one-on-one with children in the ALDH program?

So as part of a course called “Introduction to Exceptional Children” that Brewer teaches, Wesleyan students began putting their knowledge into practice by working with some of the ALDH students. Some of the Wesleyan students in other education classes also volunteered to help with tutoring in order to gain practical experience for their future careers.

“The teacher education students are finding that the tutoring program is a tremendous asset in extending the classroom experience, because they actually work with a student one-on-one,” Brewer says. “Even though they get an opportunity in their field placement (student teaching), they’re in a classroom with other students. The Afterschool Tutorial Initiative provides an opportunity to work one-on-one to be able to see the needs of the children, read their IEPs, and begin to work on their needs.”

Matthew May, an education major, said his experience with ALDH children has confirmed his decision to become a mathematics teacher.

“At first, I didn’t know what I wanted to do and I wasn’t completely sure I wanted to be a teacher,” May says. “This program has reassured me that I do enjoy teaching, and it gave me experience, too. I’ve worked with fourth through tenth graders… Sometimes just hearing something in a different way makes a difference in how a student understands.”

A program for parents, too

While children in the program scoot their chairs up to low tables and pull in close to their tutors, Brewer meets downstairs with parents. They sit around a conference table as Brewer leads them in a discussion of strategies for helping their special needs children.

“I love meeting with the parents,” Brewer says, “and they are so happy, they are so receptive. It hasn’t always been like that for them. Then all of a sudden they’re here in an environment where their kids come in and we’re greeting them—‘Hey, we’re glad you’re here!’ That makes you feel special. You like going there.”

Brewer said that the children coming to Wesleyan—coming to “college”—has made a huge difference for them.

“You can imagine what it does for the young students,” Brewer says. “The Wesleyan students are greeting them, telling them ‘Hello, welcome to Wesleyan.’ It’s just amazing, and their parents feel good, because they know that all the students working with these kids are education majors, and a great number are special education majors.”

The attention for their children—hard to come by in school—is a value the parents recognize right away.

“The parents know if they were paying for this they wouldn’t get any more for their money,” Brewer says. “The hour and a half these kids get one-on-one is probably more time than they get in a whole week with their regular teacher, because she has a classroom full of students. Here, the children are captivated by just one person, and the kids thoroughly enjoy it.”

The program celebrated achievements with a fall awards ceremony, handing out certificates to K-12 participants and thier instructors

A tutoring triumph

Parents tell success stories of children who were failing their grades or failing certain classes, but who were re-tested and promoted to the next school grade after they took part in the Afterschool Tutorial Initiative.

“It’s hard for people to understand kids with special needs,” says the parent of a young girl with attention deficit disorder. “People don’t have the patience. But since my child has been coming to Wesleyan, her self-esteem has increased, and her teacher can see a difference in class. It also has helped me to understand, and I don’t have to cry so much and wonder why people don’t understand.”

Brewer describes the Afterschool Tutoring Initiative as a win-win situation.

“Wesleyan students are getting so much out of it,” she says. “And the kids are getting so much out of it. We all are benefitting. And the parents. No one goes away not being happy. It’s a well-invested project where everybody is getting dividends.”


This article was adapted from an article that originally appeared in the North Carolina Wesleyan College Magazine.

Sustainable service

Catawba College’s Center for the Environment has put students to work for the earth for 20 years

Joel Schlaudt (right) leads Catawba students using bikes from Catawba’s Share-a-Bike program

Catawba College, like all schools in the Sullivan Foundation network, sees service not just an accompaniment to education but a vital part of it. Those roots run deep in this Salisbury, North Carolina liberal arts haven, and a sharp focus on environmental issues has long been a hallmark of Catawba’s particular brand of service.

The centerpiece of the college’s environmental service programs is its Center for the Environment, which has put students on the front lines of environmental outreach in the Piedmont region of North Carolina now for two full decades. Structuring itself as a model of environmental stewardship and sustainability, the center’s influence in the region can be found in everything from helping to establish the Salisbury Greenway to fostering land conservation, from promoting clean air to advancing solar power.

“The vision that drives this program is that service and commitment to environmental stewardship are vital to the complete education of our future leaders,” says Dr. John Wear, executive director of the center. “The program fosters the skills our students will need to create positive change in their present and future communities.”

Building stewards of the earth

Environmental Steward Seth Stephens helps National Environmental Summit high school students set up a turtle trap in Lake Baranski on campus

The center’s impact on students is often profound in how it challenges them not just to learn, but to take action. Those experiences, in turn, shape students into better leaders and environmental citizens. The Environmental Stewards Program, for example, offers eligible students the chance to become involved in campus sustainability projects.

Dan Couchenour, a 2014 Catawba graduate, describes his participation in the program as “life-changing.” He initiated a project to conserve water in the residence halls in order to save money to purchase bicycles for the campus, which students check out much like they check out a library book.

Joel Schlaudt, a Catawba junior, assumed the leadership for the water conservation/Share-a-Bike program in 2015.  Deeply committed to environmental projects, he also started a beekeeping program in the campus’s own Stanback Ecological Preserve and currently co-leads a campus educational effort on recycling.

Schlaudt notes that his skills in leadership, communication, and collaboration have improved significantly as a result of the Environmental Stewards Program.

“I have learned especially how to communicate my ideas and how to get a project to fruition,” he says. “When you get more people involved, more ideas come out of it and there’s a higher possibility of things getting accomplished,” he says.

Preparing future generations

John Wear speaks to National Environmental Summit students

The Center for the Environment doesn’t limit its efforts to Catawba students. It also reaches students in elementary through high school.

Its National Environmental Summit brings motivated students from across the country to the Catawba campus each July to explore the skills and knowledge they will need to become environmental leaders in their schools and their communities.

Wear got the idea for the summit several years ago when he noticed a pattern among students.

“I had more and more students walking into my office who were interested in environmental stewardship but didn’t necessarily want it as a career,” he says.

That prompted him to join forces with Rocky Mountain Institute in Colorado and eventually with Environmental Working Group of Washington, D.C., to establish the summit, which helps students hone their leadership and collaboration skills as well as challenging them to design and implement a project that addresses an environmental concern.

Makayla Utt of North Stokes High School in Danbury, North Carolina found in the summit a great learning experience.

“It was seriously one of the greatest things I’ve done thus far in my life,” she says. “I’m more conscious now about the decisions my family makes, and I’m trying to get my family to start recycling and things like this. The summit just showed me that it’s important to care about the earth.”

Madison Lemoine, a two-year attendee from Tequesta, Florida, felt that environmental stewardship was important for years, but the summit sparked something new in her.  “I’ve always tried to help,” she said, “but the summit started a passion in me.”

No time to sit and be idle

MacKenzie Kuhns of China Grove Middle School documents the number of minutes parents idle their cars when picking up their children. The No Idling program was designed by Center for the Environment staff

The center’s Campaign for Clean Air designed a six-week program that put a sharp focus on a problem young students could attempt to solve. China Grove Middle School’s “No Idling” pilot program offered them an opportunity to learn about the hazards of air pollution as well as the chance to do something about it.

Students monitored the length of time parents idled their vehicles when they dropped off their children in the mornings and picked them up in the afternoons. Rowan County, North Carolina, where the school is located, already has poor air quality. The students made an effort to educate their own parents on the environmental dangers of idling.

Michaela Teeter, an eighth grader, noticed that educating others can really make an impact.

“We made such a big difference,” she says.

After the students’ media blitz, only two cars idled more than four minutes during the entire measurement period, and nearly all the rest were well under two minutes. “That is a huge reduction from the multiple ones idling 28, 30, even 42 minutes that we saw before,” says Shelia Armstrong, air quality outreach coordinator for the Center for the Environment.

Ryan Turney, another eighth grader at China Grove, was honored to be part of the project.

“It was so cool how we could really make a difference in our community,” he says.

Turning schools green

The NC Green Schools program is the center’s latest effort to reach out to the community. It promotes sustainability in the state’s schools from pre-kindergarten through 12th grade.

The program helps teachers connect and share ideas, offers resources and tools to help them start green initiatives and recognizes schools that meet specified goals. Wear calls the program “a good fit” for the Center.

“It’s a need we can fill, “he says, “and it’s also a value-added educational opportunity for our students. They can work as interns and engage in the program in other ways, helping to influence younger children to become good stewards of the environment.”

Service to last a lifetime

Nearly every endeavor the Center for the Environment undertakes has the potential to involve students in service projects.

“Whether we are helping the campus community or the community at large,” Wear says, “we are creating opportunities for our students.”

“Mentoring students—giving them opportunities to work on environmental issues, to increase their knowledge and refine their leadership skills—is incredibly important,” he adds.  “It establishes a pattern of service they will carry with them for the rest of their lives.”

Catawba College and its Center for the Environment couldn’t be better representatives of the Sullivan ideal of service before self, and their efforts on behalf of the environment will continue to reap rewards for generations as students continue to grow and develop.


This article was adapted from an article by Juanita Teschner, director of communications for Catawba College’s Center for the Environment.