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Seattle University


Celebrating Community

Written by Annie Beckmann
May 7, 2013

The rhythmic and spirited beat of the Garfield High School Drumline opened the Spirit of Community Celebration at Campion Ballroom April 30.

The ninth annual event sponsored by Seattle University's Center for Service and Community Engagement drew 200 community leaders and partners, neighborhood youth, SU faculty, staff, students and donors. The festivities feature awards that honor the connections between campus and community and the collective commitment to community support.

Serving as a mentor for young men of color, helping with enrichment programs at Garfield High School and coaching football and basketball at Yesler Terrace are among the reasons Alvin Sturdivant, assistant vice president for Student Development, received the 2013 staff award.

"It is my responsibility as a black man with power and opportunity to assist them in finding direction, definition and destiny," Sturdivant said, "and to help find their voice and to launch them feverishly in the direction of their hopes and dreams. It was done for me and it is my responsibility to pay it forward."

  Pictured here, left to right, are Spirit of Community award recipients Claire Garoutte, Emily Wolfkiel, Amy Tower, Joyce Keeley, Alvin Sturdivant and Susan Huntley.

Claire Garoutte, associate professor in SU's Fine Arts department, accepted the faculty award for leading efforts to bring students into deeper engagement with the community. Last summer her students worked alongside teens and volunteers in documenting the rich history of Yesler Terrace through photos and video.  Garoutte said more than 25 community partners opened doors for the project, which she hopes to continue until the Yesler Terrace redevelopment is complete.

As volunteer coordinator at Washington Middle School, Susan Huntley enriches the shared experiences of Seattle University and middle school students. For excelling at fostering this partnership, Huntley received the community partner award

In the words of one of her nominators, "Susan gives her best and makes you fall in love with middle school again … or for the first time."

SU President Stephen Sundborg, S.J., described how the Seattle University Youth Initiative is at the heart of efforts to educate students both in the classroom and throughout the city. The Youth Initiative-which engages the university with local organizations and families to offer a pipeline of support to neighborhood children from cradle through college-is the true legacy of SU, he said.

Keynote speakers Senait Gebregiorgis, an SU senior completing a bachelor's degree in economics, and Phillip Angelo Bruan, a senior political science major, both grew up within the neighborhood encompassed by the Youth Initiative and are now emerging leaders for social change.

"It's not how far you have to go, but how far you have come," Bruan said.

Added Gebregiorgis, "You are only as weak as your thoughts."

Joyce Keeley, a junior international studies major, spent a year in Tanzania and Zanzibar learning Swahili before she returned to put her language skills to use at the Refugee Women's Alliance and OneAmerica, where she has helped refugees and immigrants navigate complex government systems.

"Going abroad and returning helped in pushing me on issues of justice and diversity," said Keeley, who was honored with a student award.

Amy Tower, a senior philosophy major, was described as a community engagement superstar. She said service is what helps ground her. "Service and the people of service have taught me that engaging ethically is working actively for justice and against oppression," said Tower, also a recipient of a student award.

Through research and practice, Emily Wolfkiel, a graduate student in the Student Development Administration Program, aims to uncover issues of privilege and power in schools. She was named the graduate student award winner.

Kent Koth, who directs both the Center for Service and Community Engagement and the Youth Initiative, brought the Garfield Drumline back for a finale and closed the event with a fitting quote from Martin Luther King, Jr.:

"Yes, if you want to say that I was a drum major, say that I was a drum major for justice; say that I was a drum major for peace; I was a drum major for righteousness. And all of the other shallow things will not matter. I won't have any money to leave behind. I won't have the fine and luxurious things of life to leave behind. But I just want to leave a committed life behind."

Koth added: "Let us all be drum majors for justice, peace and righteousness."