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Spirit of Community

Written by Genevieve Venable, Center for Service and Community Engagement
May 4, 2015

Charisse Cowan Pitre, associate professor in the College of Education, right, receives the faculty Spirit of Community Award, Thursday, May 14, when the Seattle University Center for Service and Community Engagement honors her for the many ways she treats others with fairness and faces challenges with care and commitment. 

In the words of her nominator, Cowan Pitre "believes in high quality education for all children and youth. She also believes that race and economic status should not determine a child's success." Cowan Pitre is the College of Education's liaison to Middle College High School on the campus, partnering with Seattle Public Schools and identifying campus resources to support the 40 students who attend the school. She has also mobilized Seattle U students to host college preview days for neighborhood youth who attend Garfield High School. As faculty in the Master in Teaching program, she connects her students to the Seattle University Youth Initiative for educational experiences that meet community needs. 

Starting at 3:30 p.m. in Campion Ballroom, community partners will showcase their organizations and offer information on how to become involved. The awards ceremony follows from 4 to 5:30 p.m. Keynote speaker is David Bley, director of the Pacific Northwest Initiative at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. There also will be refreshments and a special performance by the Bailey Gatzert Elementary choir. Learn more at Spirit of Community. 

Cowan Pitre is one of several Spirit of Community award winners whose community engagement efforts will be honored at this 11th annual event. 

Here's a look at the others:

Staff Award  

This goes to Kiana Parker, alternative media coordinator with Disabilities Services.  

Parker consistently goes beyond the scope of her work to create a climate of inclusiveness and accessibility on campus and in the larger Seattle community. Among her many efforts to promote inclusivity and accessibility around the city, she recently organized two disability walkthroughs of Pioneer Square to demonstrate the adversity that area has for those with mobility issues. Parker also coordinated a pair of panel discussions this spring, one on employment opportunities for those with disabilities and another where student panelists shared candid comments about their disabilities. 

Student Awards

Asha DuMonthier, '15, and  Khyree Smith, '17, win the undergraduate student awards.

DuMonthier, who graduates this year with an economics and women and gender studies double major, originally was drawn to Seattle U for its mission. Her service activities and contributions to the community reflect her personal commitment to social justice. She has volunteered as a student mentor, served food at St. James Cathedral kitchen, led the Hunger and Homelessness immersion for students and more. This year, as a Shinnyo-En Fellow for Community Leadership, Asha has supported Casa Latina's Workers' Defense Committee. 

Smith, a strategic communications major, focuses his volunteer work on youth tutoring and mentoring. He has worked in truancy prevention at his alma mater, Cleveland High School, and supported the transition of local youth from middle school to high school. Recently, he worked at Bailey Gatzert Elementary School where he created a fitness and nutrition curriculum for the after-school program, assisted in classrooms and taught fitness and dance classes. 

Community Partner Award

Sieng Douandala, Yesler Terrace Center supervisor for the Youth Tutoring Program, is recognized with this award.  

During her two years with the program, she has advised dozens of Seattle U student tutors, training and coaching them on how to work best with the children. She is widely respected by the volunteers, the children and the children's parents. Of Douandala's leadership, Kent Koth, Center for Service and Community Engagement director says, "Every community has a few people who are the connectors, able to bridge disparate groups and foster a shared vision for a better future for all. Sieng is one of these folks. She is a connector for the Yesler Terrace community and for Seattle University." 

Serve Local Project Award  

This award, won by Girls on the Run, is new this year.

Girls on the Run is an after-school program supporting girls age 8-10 by helping them develop skills for healthy living, integrating physical activity with health and wellness curriculum. Seattle U staff members brought the nationwide program to Bailey Gatzert Elementary in fall 2013 and the program has thrived ever since. Coaches this year come from all across campus: Annie Hout, Keisa Liu and Jennifer Sherrer from University Advancement, Valerie Stahl from Athletics and Mallory Togerson-Preuitt from Student Academic Services.