David Janovsky '14 knew little about farming when he was selected to take part in UNH's President's Public Service Fellowship program in May.
But as an assistant market manager for CitySeed in New Haven this summer, he worked with farmers who sell their produce daily at farmer's markets throughout the city.
He helped organize delivery of farm shares, set up cooking demonstrations and assist people who received supplemental nutrition assistance to ensure they received additional vegetables and fruits as part of CitySeed's initiative to provide healthy foods to people on limited budgets.
These days, if folks want to know something about fruits and vegetables, Janovsky is the guy to ask. Always a healthy eater, he now figures vegetables even more prominently in his own diet. This summer he discovered kale and found it delicious.
Janovsky, a music major with a concentration in secondary education, was one of 15 students in the program who spent 11 weeks this summer working at nonprofit organizations and city agencies in West Haven and New Haven.
"I had so many new opportunities to learn and grow," he said. The staff at CitySeed was so pleased with his work that he is staying on as a work-study student this fall.
The fellows said their experiences stretched them, gave them valuable insights into possible careers and helped them to forge an indelible bond as a group. They will reflect on their experiences during a campus presentation at 9 a.m. on Monday, Aug. 12, in the Henry C. Lee Institute, room 301.
Angela Cortese, the President's Fellowship coordinator and coordinator of the Office of Community Service, said the students thrived in their placements. "Our sites ranged from refugee services to literacy, homelessness, child care and youth prevention services," she said. "We are a small group trying to tackle the big issues in New Haven and West Haven."
Some students, such as Amy Osborne '15, worked directly in the field they are studying. A double major in forensic science and chemistry, she was placed in the Forensics Services Unit of the West Haven Police Department. She learned how to dust for fingerprints and identify suspects. She went on calls with her supervisor to collect evidence for cases and helped with the documentation, examination and sealing of that evidence.
Originally, Osborne planned to go into lab work after graduate school. She had no interest in field work, but the fellowship has her thinking otherwise.
"One night we were dusting a recovered car for fingerprints," said Osborne. We had already found one or two partial prints when we found an entire hand print, palm and all five fingers on the car. The print had very little smudging, and we both just stared at it for a moment before we burst out laughing at our luck. We got a hit on the print too, so it was an all-around awesome night."
Nicole Zompa '15, a criminal justice major, spent her days caring for toddlers in the child-care center at the Connecticut Children's Museum. "My all-time favorite moment has to be the first time I saw one of the toddlers, Javi, playing out in the water," Zompa said. "He had the biggest smile on his face as he ran back and forth under the sprinkler. Each time he came my way, he gave me a big hug. Seeing the joy on his face made me so happy."
Zompa plans to work for the FBI one day, but "this has opened up the idea of working with juveniles as an option because I enjoy working with kids," she said.
Zani Imetovski '14, a political science major and president of the Undergraduate Student Government Association, also spent his summer working with children, ages 5 to 12, at the West Haven Community House. He found he had to summon up patience in ways he never had to before, as he did one afternoon when a six-year-old was acting out.
"I took a deep breath and took myself emotionally out of the situation," he said. "I found peace in myself, and then I could respond in the way a role model would." It was an approach he used again and again and a skill he said will be applicable at UNH, in law school and in whatever career he pursues.
He also saw the importance of giving back where he lives. "The West Haven Community House is right in my University's neighborhood – and I never knew it," he said. "You can have a world view and want to help the world, but you have to start locally. It was an honor to have this fellowship."