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Norton Fellows Kickoff Summer Community Engagement Projects

Eight sophomores and juniors selected for this year's Norton Fellowship Program will embark upon their summer community engagement projects when classes end this month.

Junior Sarah Gyurina will organize a four-week summer activity program for girls aged 9–12 years old in her hometown of Melrose, Mass. Her idea is to provide enrichment for underserved girls, especially in the areas of leadership and empowerment, through fun and creative activities.

Junior Louisa Gao will expand on a project she started a year ago working with senior citizens who live in care homes in her hometown of Beijing, China. While at home during school breaks last year, Louisa helped several senior residents to create photographic "memory books," which stimulated their memories and were a source of enjoyment for everyone involved in the project. Louisa plans to include more senior citizens this summer and to enlist the involvement of students from her previous school. She also plans to improve her photography skills by shadowing a professional photographer.

Juniors Sarah Olender of Ellington, Conn. and Hayley Stewart of Bloomfield, Conn., were inspired to apply for a fellowship by their shared concern for children ensnared in human and drug trafficking rings. While on an international education trip to South Africa organized by Loomis' Alvord Center for Global & Environmental Studies, the two students learned about human trafficking in that country. When they returned to the United States, they learned through further exploration that human trafficking is an international problem and exists in towns and cities across Connecticut. Both residents of Connecticut, Sarah and Hayley plan to meet with local individuals and organizations knowledgeable about child trafficking in the state, and educate themselves about the scope of the problem as well as possibilities for aiding people that it affects. Sarah and Hayley will chronicle their findings in a documentary video and plan to form a student-run organization to support at-risk Connecticut youth.

Junior Julia Rubeck's church in Hatfield, Mass., regularly provides aid to families in need during the holidays. However, families sometimes have to pick up and move at a moment's notice for any number of reasons, including seeking refuge from domestic violence. Working with a church volunteer, Julia plans to help establish a retail "store" that will stock household items needed to set up a home on short notice and provide these items at no charge to needy families. Julia also plans to organize a fundraising, grand-opening event.

Sophomore Molly Forrester will study the effects of music on the minds of people with dementia and work with a professional at the memory care unit of Seabury Retirement Community in Bloomfield, Conn., to offer individuals with dementia musical interludes they might enjoy. As part of the project, Molly plans to provide residents with iPods and headsets loaded with music with which they are thought to have had connections. Molly was inspired to pursue the project by time spent with her late grandmother, who had dementia.

The fellows met on Wednesday in the Norton Family Center for the Common Good to provide overviews of their projects and share their goals with each other.

Norton Family Center Director Eric LaForest instructed the fellows about managing their time, staying connected to the Norton Center faculty, and dealing with budget and finances. He wished them success and said he hoped the experience will inform how they may continue to engage in their communities.

"We are excited that you will walk away from this project not just having helped others, but with a set of skills that will carry you forward," Norton Center Associate Director Molly Pond said.

Both directors said they were impressed with the proposals this year and are excited to learn about the fellows' discoveries and experiences throughout the four- to six-week projects.

Connect to the Norton Family Center page of the Loomis Chaffee School website to learn more about the Norton Fellows Program.

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