Two Bates seniors among six statewide recognized for community service
Two of the many Bates College students who routinely put into practice the college’s ideals of service through direct engagement, seniors Erik Barth and Jake Kaplove have been recognized statewide for their contributions to the Lewiston-Auburn community.
Maine Campus Compact, a statewide consortium of higher educational institutions, honored Barth, Kaplove and four other Maine students with the Heart and Soul Award in an April 20 ceremony at Bates.
Now in its 11th year, the award celebrates students who have achieved significant results, shown leadership and made innovative use of campus-based resources to address local needs.
Barth of Hanover, N.H., is the founding president of Bates Builds, the Bates chapter of Habitat for Humanity.
Kaplove of Novato, Calif., has been deeply involved with the Somali immigrant population both as the director of Refugee Volunteers, a student group that promotes cross-cultural exchange at the family level, and as a participant in a local branch of Project SHIFA (Supporting the Health of Immigrant Families and Adolescents), a national initiative promoting the mental health of immigrant students.
Barth, an environmental studies major, is also involved with the social service nonprofits Rebuilding Together, which repairs the homes of people unable to do so for themselves; the Trinity Jubilee Center soup kitchen; and Tree Street Youth, an organization founded by a Bates alumna that supports local youth through academics, arts and athletics.
His dedication to community service crystallized in founding Bates Builds in 2009. Since then, the chapter has grown from a few members to more than 15 regular members and many more volunteers. Fundraising events and frequent work trips have fostered an on-campus commitment to the Habitat mission, as well as mustering resources for specific projects.
“The vision and purpose of Bates closely align with the vision of our club,” Barth says. “We exist to make a difference in the lives of community members, just as Bates prepares us to become upstanding citizens with the means and inspiration to make a difference in the world.
“We provide a way for Bates students to do this that is tangible, practical and locally relevant.”
Barth expects to continue community service after Bates. “I am grateful to have been able to create a bridge for Bates students to become involved in building service projects. I’d like to continue to make and create things to benefit others.”
Kaplove, a psychology major who came to Bates because of the school’s commitment to social justice, has been heavily involved in community engagement, especially through Refugee Volunteers.
“I was curious to learn about Somali culture, I wanted to see firsthand the challenges they face and I wanted to form lasting connections with adults and children alike,” Kaplove says. “Refugee Volunteers allowed me to do all that. To this day, I still work in the same household — I feel as though they are a part of my extended family.”
Started in 2009 by Bates alumna and former Heart and Soul recipient Sarah Davis, the program helps immigrant families adapt to U.S. culture through home-based tutoring, mutually beneficial cultural exchange and fostering immigrant leadership.
“Because of this emphasis on home-based and reciprocal exchange, we have been able to bridge the divides — linguistic, cultural, educational, religious, socioeconomic — in an effort to make both groups recognize their common humanity,” explains Kaplove.
Director of Refugee Volunteers since 2010, Kaplove has expanded the organization’s membership and impact. He has worked with Bates professors to incorporate service-learning students into the program. And he has encouraged Somali community members to take important leadership roles in the project.
Kaplove is also involved with a research project to assess the effectiveness of Project SHIFA, an in-school program designed to promote the mental health of young Somali refugees; and is a Bonner Leader, member of a program that develops leadership skills for community organizers.
“I feel incredibly lucky to have spent these past four years in such a rich and vibrant community and to have learned such a great deal about myself in the process,” Kaplove says. One of several Fulbright Fellowship recipients at Bates this spring, after graduation Kaplove will travel to Argentina on the Fulbright to teach English and organize events that encourage cross-cultural learning.
The other 2012 Heart and Soul winners are Katelyn Brown of Saint Joseph’s College of Maine; Mariya Ilyas, Bowdoin College; Casey O’Malley, University of Maine at Farmington; and Dana Roberts, Colby College.
Maine Campus Compact is a coalition of 18 member campuses whose purpose is to catalyze and lead a movement to reinvigorate the public purposes and civic mission of higher education. Learn more.