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Elie Karma, Our DukeEngage Togo Partner, Remembered and Admired

  • 02.09.16
  • Posted By: Liz Corrao

     The DukeEngage community is saddened to hear of the passing of long-time community partner and friend, Elie Karma. Elie worked closely with DukeEngage students and faculty in Farendé, a north-eastern village of Togo, on community welfare projects. Under his leadership, students helped develop a cyber café by installing solar panels, batteries, and laptops in a building Elie had built with the help of his church. Participants in the DukeEngage Togo program were then able to teach computer and Internet skills to the school children of Farendé. He also led the creation of a latrine sanitation system, which aims to produce biogas, protein-rich spirulina, and algae, ultimately providing a source of electricity, nutrition, and income for his village. The range of Elie’s community projects reached far beyond his collaboration with DukeEngage. He also built and ran a kindergarten for children in his village, and aided the reforestation process by maintaining a large tree nursery.

     According to DukeEngage faculty, staff and students, Elie constantly expressed the ambitious dreams he had for Farendé. “He was a visionary – he had big dreams and plans for developing his home village – and spent much of his life trying to bring those into being, despite limited resources,” says Professor Charlie Piot, leader of the Duke in Togo program. Piot also recounted that while attending the Community Partner Conference at Duke last year, Elie shared these aspirations, marveling at his Duke surroundings and proclaiming that Farendé could one day look the same. Elie inspired DukeEngage participants and leaders as he faced the challenges in his life courageously and with unwavering optimism.

     Uzo Ayogu, a Duke student who worked and built a strong relationship with Elie during DukeEngage Togo 2014 noted that he “had a rare lust for life, that energy and fearlessness to dream and envision beyond what [his] reality showed.” Ayogu spoke of his own desire to follow in the footsteps of his dear friend, and someday touch and tangibly impact communities the way that Elie did. Despite struggling with sickle cell anemia, Elie persisted in working towards making Farendé a better place for its citizens, and encouraged those around him to do the same. Elie was not only deeply dedicated to his village but also to his wife, Simone, and their three children. We send our condolences to his family and community, and hope that new endeavors through DukeEngage Togo will continue his legacy of improving lives within Farendé.




    • Elie and Family
    • Elie and Uzo

Zhuhai Middle School Students Enjoy Visit with DukeEngage Family

  • 02.01.16
  • Posted By: Liz Corrao
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    • Zhuhai Students
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    • K-ville
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     During the final week of January, Duke University students were fortunate to receive a visit from 36 Chinese students from Zhuhai No. 9 Middle School. Each summer, Zhuhai becomes the home and workplace of a group of DukeEngage students; however this winter, the Duke community reciprocated by bringing its Zhuhai family to campus. After spending the week at area middle schools engaging in American culture, Zhuhai No. 9 Middle School students joined DukeEngage Zhuhai alumni at Duke for a day packed with activities.

     This cultural exchange had its roots in both a global education initiative from New Garden Friends School, and the DukeEngage in Zhuhai program, which has fostered a strong relationship with the Chinese school over the past six years. This DukeEngage program encourages personal and creative growth by providing arts education and English lessons to middle school students. The visit granted Zhuhai No. 9 students and the DukeEngage alumni a chance to reunite with the friends they had made in China over the eight-week program duration.

     Passionate alumni of the program worked to plan a fun day for the visiting students, including a trip to Cameron Indoor Stadium, a visit to the Nasher Museum, and a variety of artistic performances. Deja Blue, one of Duke’s a capella groups, sang for the students in the Duke Gardens before lunch at the Bryan Center.

     Afterwards, at the Arts Annex, Zhuhai students enjoyed a dance showcase from various dance group members, as well as a Chinese Yo-yo performance by Felix Kung, and a contemporary dance solo from Riley Reardon. Each of the performances were led by DukeEngage Zhuhai alumni and enabled the middle school students to experience as much as the University as the day would allow.

     Prof. Hsiao-Mei Ku, leader of the DukeEngage in Zhuhai program, later hosted more than 90 Duke and Zhuhai No. 9 students for Chinese food at her apartment on East Campus. She recounted how amazing it was to see the huge Zhuhai family come together to learn from and laugh with each other once again.

     After transportation conflicts due to snow, Sagar Patel (DE Zhuhai 2015) took initiative to quickly plan a rescheduled visit. Patel recalled his 2015 summer in Zhuhai and stated that his love for the Chinese school, his host family, and his students motivated his leadership in preparing the visit. He hoped to provide his friends and students with an enriching American experience similar to the one he received in Zhuhai.

     The Duke community agrees that Patel, Ku, and the rest of the DukeEngage in Zhuhai community succeeded in this goal, ensuring that Zhuhai No. 9 Middle School students had a chance to reconnect with their DukeEngage brothers and sisters before returning to China.

     Read another article about the visit at DukeToday. 

DukeEngage Alum Selected for Data and Policy Fellowship

  • 01.25.16
  • Posted By: Liz Corrao

Emily Hadley, a 2014 DukeEngage participant and 2015 Duke graduate, was recently selected for the 2016 Data and Policy Fellowship by College Advising Corps. The organization provides underrepresented high school students with full-time college advisers in order to enable low-income and first-generation college students to expand on their educational opportunities after high school. Ms. Hadley is one of 16 Data and Policy Fellows who will develop their skills as researchers through professional development sessions and completion of a data evaluation project over the course of one year.

Hadley spent her DukeEngage experience in Washington D.C. promoting academic achievement among students of all ages with a focus on closing gaps for low-income students. Hadley’s independent project included research components aimed at discovering success and opportunities for improvement within the education system, and presentation of these findings to community leaders and educators. Her experience involved working frequently with data, leading to the discovery of the importance of statistics in the evaluation of education policy.

Hadley’s DukeEngage trip revealed the strong link between data and policy, and inspired her to apply for the fellowship. The program allows her to explore the ways in which data can communicate the challenges that college advisers encounter on a daily basis with a broader audience. She is excited to help inspire policy changes through her work as a Data and Policy Fellow. 

WISER Awarded GlobalGiving UK Community Development Grant

  • 11.16.15
  • Posted By: Liz Corrao
     Fellow Durham civic engagement organization and DukeEngage partner, WISER, was recently awarded a GlobalGiving UK Community Development Grant. The Women’s Institute of Secondary Education and Research, or WISER, focuses on providing education and health opportunities to underprivileged girls in underdeveloped communities of Kenya. The DukeEngage in Kenya program is organized in part by WISER, and allows Duke students to help solve gender-related issues in health and education while learning about NGO management.

      GlobalGiving UK annually rewards worthy grassroots organizations for demonstrating an effective influence in Eastern and Central Africa. The $11,000 grant awarded to WISER International will allow three WISER Girls to begin secondary school with complete funding for all necessary academic, health, and safety provisions. Thanks to WISER and its supporters, girls in Muhuru Bay have only recently began to qualify for university. The grant will allow the three girls to join this growing group of success stories.

       The impact of WISER in improving the lives of underprivileged women is only expanding thanks to recognition from organizations such as GlobalGiving. DukeEngage students will continue to contribute to this influence as more and more girls in Kenya are directed on a path towards health, safety, and academic achievement. For more information about the organization and the award, click here.

Sarah Du Receives Community Impact Student Award After DukeEngage Experience

  • 11.11.15
  • Posted By: Liz Corrao

Duke University senior and DukeEngage alum Sarah Du recently received the 2015 Community Impact Student Award from North Carolina Campus Compact, a network of N.C. educational institutions devoted to encouraging civic engagement. The award allows each of the organization’s member schools to select one student who demonstrates exceptional commitment to partnership and leadership within their campus and community. The winners will be honored at the annual Citizenship, Service, Networking, and Partnership (CSNAP) conference hosted by the Compact on November 7th 2015.

Sarah Du’s commitment to service is evident through her work as a DukeEngage participant, and her dedication to the program in years following. Du spent eight weeks of her 2013 summer in Bennettsville, South Carolina, working with the Children’s Defense Fund and Freedom Schools along with six of her peers. After her return, Du served as a DukeEngage Academy Leader to help prepare students to have valuable experiences similar to her own. As a result of her unwavering commitment to civic engagement, Du was also chosen to speak at the DukeEngage “Thanks a Million” event in September 2015, celebrating the program’s one millionth hour of service.

Du is among the 21 students selected for this year’s Community Impact Student Award. The CSNAP conference will gather students and faculty from more than 20 North Carolina colleges and universities, and will feature training programs on engagement, leadership, and cultural competency. Du is currently majoring in Public Policy, and is working as a research assistant at the Sanford School. She accredits her interest in education policy to her DukeEngage experience and is continuing to explore service opportunities within the field in her home state of Washington. 

    • Sarah Du

Layne Walker Accepts Policy Associate Position at Council for Children's Rights

  • 11.04.15
  • Posted By: Liz Corrao
    • Layne

Layne Walker recently accepted a policy associate position at the Council for Children’s Rights after being connected to the opportunity through DukeEngage’s Charlotte program. The CFCR is a nonprofit organization that advocates for children’s rights to adequate health, safety, and education. Walker’s academic year internship included projects serving two purposes: informing the organization’s individual casework and informing their policy advocacy.

In recounting her first day at the CFCR, Walker described the emotional experience of shadowing defense attorneys at children’s detention hearings. “What moved me most was watching their devastated faces when the judge told them they couldn’t get out that week because their parents or grandparents didn’t show up to take them home and accept responsibility for them.” Walker also helped to compile data on the state of juvenile justice in Mecklenburg County and to track the “raise the age” bill in the NC General Assembly.

Walker’s work on these projects will continue through the end of the school year. Walker also appreciated the warm office environment, and the fun activities she was able to be a part of, including field trips and discussions, “I even looked forward to Monday mornings.” Layne praises the CFCR on their well-planned internship program, which fulfils the internship requirement for her Public Policy major.


Raising a Reader Massachusetts Spotlights DukeEngage Summer Interns

  • 10.22.15
  • Posted By: Liz Corrao

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 

    • RAR MA Summer Interns

DukeEngage Alumni Attend Global Grand Challenges Summit

  • 10.22.15
  • Posted By: Liz Corrao

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. 

Connor Guest Documents "Bridges to Prosperity" Inauguration Day

  • 10.21.15
  • Posted By: Liz Corrao

Kristin Wright Joins DukeEngage Staff

  • 10.06.15
  • Posted By: Cathy S

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.

Read all of this summer's student-written blogs. 

    • DukeEngage Cairo