B.N. Dukes Make Summer Time for Service

While many classmates are at high-paying jobs or lounging around backyard pools, a dozen Duke University students are putting in long hours this summer with community service projects in two coastal Carolinas cities.

"I can't tell you how good it makes us feel some days," said sophomore Louise Oliver, 19, of her 10-week internship with the HIV Care Management Program at Roper Hospital in Charleston, S.C. "We can go home satisfied that we've actually accomplished something."

The internships in Charleston and Wilmington, N.C., are an integral part of the Benjamin N. Duke Memorial Scholarship program's newly instituted service-learning component, explained Robert Korstad, program director since July 2000 and an assistant professor of public policy studies. This year, for the first time, 12 of those scholars are at work in the two communities through July 27.

Established in 1986, the B.N. Duke Scholarship recognizes top high school students in the Carolinas for their academic achievements and leadership talents. Approximately 10 applicants to Duke are selected for the scholarship each year, which covers full tuition for four years and provides opportunities to develop leadership abilities through collaborative study.

Korstad, who had overseen a service-learning program as director of the Sanford Institute for Public Policy's Hart Leadership Program, thought a similar program could strengthen the scholarship program. "These students are highly talented academically," he said. "But they have also displayed some real leadership talents in high school. We hope to develop that."

B.N. Duke scholars now will spend two summers in service-learning assignments - one in North or South Carolina after their freshman year and a second, self-designed program (preferably abroad) after completing their sophomore year.

"It's a great opportunity and a great way to apply what we're learning in the classroom to the real world," said sophomore William Feldman, 18, who is working with the Brigade Boys and Girls Club in Wilmington and doing community research for the Durham office of a national foundation. "I think that we tend to get too caught up in what we're reading or writing for class. Here we've had to actually use that knowledge."

Bringing the B.N. Duke scholars together for the summer to live collectively and work in pairs is building cohesion among the students, said Feldman, who is from Charleston. "It's definitely been a way for us to become closer," he said.

Instead of drawing a salary, the students receive a stipend intended to cover living expenses. Those checks and their apartments' rents are paid through a grant by The Duke Endowment, a philanthropic foundation based in Charlotte, N.C, which also funds their tuition.

The new internships should increase interest in the B.N. Duke Scholars program among students in the Carolinas, Feldman said. "It's made the scholarship even more appealing," he said. "We were all thrilled to get the money to come to Duke. But with the service-learning component, it's pretty hard to turn down."

The summertime work by two of these Duke students is paying off for the HIV care management program run by CareAlliance Health Services in Charleston, said program director Bengie Hair. "They've been absolutely wonderful," he said. "I don't know if I want to let them go."

Oliver, a biomedical engineering major from Hilton Head, S.C., and Elizabeth Hinshaw, 19, a sophomore from Charlotte majoring in public policy studies, have done everything from interview patients and gather baseline health data to attend regional health care conferences and prepare budget reports for the year-old HIV program.

"I think it has been an extremely valuable opportunity," Hinshaw said. "I've gotten on-the-job, hands-on experience. A student can't really know that much about working in a community health organization until they've actually done it. Now, I've done it."

Rather than focusing on AIDS research, as she had originally planned to spend her internship, Oliver said her work at Roper Hospital had given her a wider and more rewarding outlook on health care management.

"I've gotten to see the people who are being treated. I've gotten to see what goes into policy decisions," she said. "Those are things I wouldn't have seen in a lab. That's been very valuable."

Feldman and Mary Adkins, a sophomore from Greenville, S.C., have also left their mark, said Derrell Clark, executive director of the non-profit Brigade Boys and Girls Club. The club offers low-cost meals and summertime activities to more than 250 children each day.

"They have committed a lot of time, working one-on-one with the children. You'd think they were regular staff members," Clark said. "The bottom line is these students have made a difference in our program."

Feldman has started a chess club, teaching the basics to beginners and finer points to more experienced players. Adkins has started two dance classes - one for teen-agers, the other for children between the ages of 5 and 12 - and a program for the older girls to discuss teen-age issues.

In addition to daily work at the boys and girls club, Feldman and Adkins are conducting interviews and gathering research for the Industrial Areas Foundation's Durham office. And last month, the duo ran a two-day leadership conference for about 20 students attending a Wilmington high school.

"It hasn't always been what we expected, but it's definitely been worthwhile. We've had to adapt our ideas and make transitions," Feldman said of the experience. "Still, we've had a good time. And, hopefully, we've made an impact."

Other B.N. Duke scholars at work in service-learning projects this summer are:

In Wilmington:

Adam Hollowell, of Charlotte, Community Boys & Girls Club.

Ashley Joyce, of Lewisville, N.C., Community Boys & Girls Club.

Taineisha Sledge, of Mauldin, S.C., New Hanover Regional Medical Services' HIV/AIDS

Services Program.

Kalita Marsh, of Wilson, N.C., Cure AIDS of Wilmington.

In Charleston:

Ana Panduro, of Spartanburg, S.C., Alzheimer's Association.

Jonas Swartz, of Durham, Lutheran Social Services of Greater Charleston.

Kyle Mayes, of Waxhaw, N.C., Lutheran Social Services of Greater Charleston.

Jenny Marron, of Hickory, N.C., Carolina Youth Development Center.