This spring, Tufts’ Honos Civicus Society embraced 90 new members, growing this network of engaged Jumbos to 350 alumni. Now in its fourth year, Honos Civicus annually welcomes graduating seniors from the School of Arts and Sciences and School of Engineering who have excelled in growing their active citizenship capabilities through courses and co-curricular activities during their time at Tufts.
“As I look out at all of you, I can’t decide which is more satisfying – looking out and recognizing so many of you, or looking out and not recognizing so many others!” Nancy Wilson, Tisch College dean ad interim, noted as she welcomed the crowd. “The very idea behind Honos Civicus is that many Tufts students whom we never meet directly are also following the call to become engaged.”
The students broke into small groups, reflecting on how far they had come. New members introduced one another, and recognized their achievements both in and out of the classroom. Amid the flash of pictures, graduates enjoyed fruit and cheese, and talk turned to the passions of the last four years, humility towards the future, and relationships forged.
Among the newest Honos Civicus members are Lacarnly Creech, Christina Devia, and Scott McArthur. Their work and accomplishments are just a sample of the many achievements of Tufts students this year. For a full list of the 2012 Honos Civicus members, please visit the Honos Civicus page.
Lacarnly Creech, A12
Major: Child Development
Co-Curriculars: Jumpstart, New Orleans Service Trip
“I knew I wanted to be a part of Tisch College before I even got to campus,” said Lacarnly Creech, A12.
Having studied educational inequalities in a high school class, Creech arrived at Tufts eager to jump into Jumpstart. A national organization focused on childhood literacy, Jumpstart at Tufts is housed by Tisch College and annually engages over 60 undergraduates as Corps Members.
In his first year, Creech worked one-on-one with preschoolers at the Community Action Agency of Somerville (CAAS). He returned the following year as a Team Leader, responsible for training and managing a group of his Jumpstart peers.
“Working for Jumpstart didn’t feel like work,” said Creech. “It was the highlight of my week.”
Following the advice of then Jumpstart site manager, Tufts alumna Beth Bauer, A07, Creech began taking courses in child development. “I really liked the teaching style of the professors,” he said. “I mean, it makes sense that they would be so great in the classroom.”
His coursework led to a growing interest in policy and to a field placement with the Boston Public Schools. There, Creech helped achieve accreditation in the Quality Ratings and Improvement System – part of a $50 million Early Learning challenge grant from Race for the Top.
Assisting in teacher trainings gave Creech a new perspective on the day-to-day realities of the classroom. “Seeing how much was dictated to teachers from the outside, I knew I would have to have classroom experience myself if I ever wanted to bridge the gap between policy and practice.”
A spring break service trip to New Orleans, organized jointly by Tisch College and the Eliot Person Department of Child Development, gave Creech the classroom exposure he was looking for. Participating in the trip his junior year, Creech had his first experience with students beyond pre-school. Working with sixth- and seventh-graders at the Langston Hughes Academy, Creech tutored in a range of subjects and talked up the value of college. He returned this spring as a peer leader on the service trip.
The experience went a long way in bolstering his self-confidence as a classroom teacher – “After that, I knew I wouldn’t be terrible at it,” he said with a smile. In the fall, Creech will join Teach for America and begin teaching English and Social Studies at the Amani Public Charter in Mt. Vernon, New York, not far from where he grew up. For him, graduating with civic honors is also coming home with hope.
For Christina Devia, A12, global citizenship isn’t an idea or an aspiration, it’s her life. Born in Colombia, Devia lived in Bogotá until she was eleven, when her parents moved the family to Maryland to escape the civil war. Feeling like a part of both worlds, Devia is most comfortable moving between them.
“A big part of what attracted me to Tufts is the commitment to service and active citizenship,” she said. As a freshman, Devia worked with pre-schoolers in Somerville through Jumpstart. She also joined the Tisch Scholars program, where, as a sophomore she shifted her focus to adults.
“Like a lot of immigrant kids, I often acted as a translator for my parents. I thought I could help by working with adults directly to practice their English.”
A part of AmeriCorps’ Student Leaders in Service program, Devia partnered with Centro Latino, a multi-service, community-based, human-services organization in Cambridge, providing assistance in ESL classrooms, and doing one-on-one tutoring.
After a junior year abroad in Paris, Devia returned eager to take on her Tisch Scholar’s project, the College Access Mentorship Initiative (CAMI). Targeting eighth- and ninth-graders, CAMI provides on-going mentorship to make college accessible, including visits to the Tufts campus.
“We try to show the kids not only the academic side, but the social side as well,” said Devia. “For a lot of them, when they think of college they think it’s four more years inside a classroom. We show them the dorms and dining halls, the quad, the whole experience.”
A ten day capstone service learning trip in rural Jamaica with other senior Tisch Scholars gave Devia a new perspective on community development.
“Active citizenship is marketed to us at Tufts,” she said. “They make it easy. In Jamaica it’s all self-initiative, they’re taking it on themselves to create change.”
Working at the Galleon Fish Sanctuary, Devia shadowed rangers to learn what their day-to-day experience is like.
“What struck me was that they don’t just want to protect, they also have a passion for educating everyone about why and how.”
To aid in that effort, Devia helped create lessons for students in three schools in the region, including crafting rhyming chants that became a big hit.
“Protect the sea, protect the land, to save the fish for the fisherman!” she demonstrated, laughing. “We keep the trash out of our waters, to save the fish for our sons and daughters! It was so much fun to see the kids all shouting them.”
A double major in economics and French, Devia sees a direct relationship between her academic pursuits and her active citizenship.
“From economics I get a focus on deliverables and measuring objectives, but studying French literature feeds my need for creative process, and understanding the complexities of interpretations.”
Devia is ready to take both passions into the world with Honos Civicus.
Scott McArthur, E12, knows firsthand the importance of taking the long view of community development and education. He first visited Mbale, in eastern Uganda, to build school dormitories as part of a church group working with the Foundation for the Development of Needy Communities. This summer he will return for the third time, helping to evaluate a water improvement project that has spanned his time at Tufts.
A chemical engineering major, McArthur has been an active member of Engineers without Borders (EWB) since coming to campus, serving most recently as president. In the summer of 2010 he led a group of five on a three week assessment trip to Mbale, focusing on access to water and building relationships with the community.
“It’s not enough to know in the abstract what an area’s water needs are,” he said. “You have to know who is using it and how they think about it.”
On their return to Tufts, EWB continued their dialogue with the community while designing a water storage system with a modified pump to boost the flow rate. An implementation team went out the next summer and successfully installed the system. However, after unforeseen usability issues developed, it was taken off-line just a few months later.
McArthur remains undaunted. Confident a modified design can be successful, he’ll be back in Uganda this summer for a two and a half week information exchange, finding better solutions, and strengthening ties between the community and EWB.
Originally published May 2012