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Duke students Emily Cohen and Kyle Peterson spent their DukeEngage summer interning at Raising a Reader Massachusetts. RAR MA is a nonprofit organization aimed at combatting low literacy in children by encouraging families to read together, and increasing families’ access to books.
The mission and strategies used by Raising a Reader to achieve this goal stems from years of research conducted to understand the relationship between early childhood reading with parents/caregivers and academic success. Cohen and Peterson split their time with RAR between providing administrative assistance within the organization’s central office and providing hands-on service within the community.
Cohen focused primarily on development of marketing tools. In an interview with the organization, Cohen stated that her initial attraction to RAR came from the scientifically supported, innovate approach to preventing destructive behavior in youth.
Peterson worked on the creation a text messaging program for parents to use. He noted his enjoyment of work outside of the office, which allowed him to connect the administrative tasks he performed and the real-life impact they contributed to.
Both spoke highly of the organization’s enthusiasm and confidence in the mission. Cohen commended her co-workers on their commitment to the program, “everyone cares about the mission – it’s not just a job to them.”
Below: Emily Cohen and Kyle Peterson engage in hands-on work with Raising a Reader Massachusetts. Credit: Raising a Reader MA
Last month, four Duke Engage alumni placed third in the Global Grand Challenges Summit in Beijing. Bianca Bracht, Christine Schindler, Melina Smith, and “Dutch” Taylor Waanders worked with two other Duke students (current and former) to create Girls Engineering Change, a nonprofit organization that aims to educate young girls about engineering in order to close the gender gap in STEM fields.
The summit, sponsored by the National Academy of Engineering, included a start-up pitch competition, during which team members presented the organization’s mission. During the pitch, the group focused on how Girls Engineering Change helps grant middle school and high school girls the tools necessary to combat certain challenges, including some of the 14 Grand Challenges addressed during the summit’s conference portion.
In the summer of 2013, Bracht, Smith, and Schindler traveled to Tanzania through DukeEngage to tackle health issues surrounding progression in medical technology and proper staff training for equipment. Dutch Waanders participated in a 2012 trip to Mombasa, where he worked as a Pratt Fellow in the medical center. The DukeEngage alumni all graduated last spring, and have since dedicated a significant amount of time to engineering education outreach through Girls Engineering Change.
The team’s third-place finish in the competition yielded a $5,000 prize to be used towards growth of the organization. They were also able to enjoy a number of speeches from professionals also working to confront Grand Challenges on a global scale. Some of the most prevalent topics included climate change and health care. The group noted the value of connecting with students and professionals from all over the world, including the United States, the United Kingdom, and China.
Girls Engineering Change has seen major expansion since its beginning at Duke University. So far, GEC has encouraged over 300 girls to explore the engineering field. The organization has allowed them to construct tangible products intended to benefit developing nations, such as the ones these group members encountered during their DukeEngage experiences.
We are delighted to announce that after a national search, beginning October 5th, 2015, Kristin Wright joined the DukeEngage staff as an Assistant Director for Programs. Kristin is well-known to many of you in her role as the Assistant Director of Duke Service-Learning.
We are so excited that she will bring this extensive experience in civic engagement and service-learning, higher education administration, and collaboration with faculty, staff, students, and community partners to our work at DukeEngage. In her new role, Kristin will work closely with DukeEngage faculty-led programs, student outreach and advising, connecting DukeEngage programs with the curriculum, and developing our training and professional development for students in U.S.-based programs.
Kristin is also a former teacher, avid gardener and local foodie, and a committed Durham resident and volunteer.