Shrewsbury native receives community award
Shrewsbury- Shrewsbury native and recent UMass- Amherst graduate Stephanie Millette was one of 13 individuals recognized at the college's Offic e o f Community Service's Awards for Community Service and Engagement held May 8. Millette received the Commonwealth Essay Award for her entry detailing her experience as a volunteer camp counselor and Head Start classroom aide. It's a recognition that she appreciates.
"It was out of the blue to receive any kind of reward," she said. "I had written an essay for the award, not expecting to win. It was just a reflection on my part. It really came from the heart and had a lot of instant reflection on things I'd been doing for the past month with kids in foster care whom I worked with every couple weeks."
Millette has been involved with community service for much of her life. She credits her family as an inspiration for how rewarding the involvement can be.
"My mom and my grandparents were always really active at St. Ann's Church in Shrewsbury and the elementary schools," she said. "I grew up watching my elders doing everything they could to help their community."
Millette first became interested in community service while in middle school volunteering as a tutor.
"There were kids who were in our classes every day that often didn't have the kind of social support that we had because of their condition or other things," she said. "Working with them ignited the spark that I could easily help in their day, so what more could I do?"
Since then, Millette has found the experience rewarding. It's her family support that's motivated her to help others.
"I've been blessed so much with everything I have," she said. "I have the two best parents ever. I live down the street from two grandparents who, growing up, were my second parents. I grew up really nurtured and cared for and loved. Whether I want to teach or someday be a counselor or camp director, I want to be able to provide that type of nurturing care that I was given as a child."
Millette is currently involved in the Teach for America program and is living in Houston, Tex. After completing the course, she will move to St. Louis, Mo., to continue her teaching.
"The reason I'll be placed where I will be is because I'll be in the class that statistically scores far below the average student on the state achievement test," she said. "My goal there, as is the goal with most other teachers in Teach for America, is to raise those scores and to start having the students believing in themselves – that they actually can meet the average [score] and surpass it."
What's her advice for others interested in community service?
"Stay inside your comfort zone, and then reach outward because the connections you make while you're inside your safety bubble will let you explore," she said. "Rather than force yourself to just do any sort of community service, do a type of service that is actually service learning [combining community service with a learning experience]."
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