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AmeriCorps alumni ready for graduate school

The Stevenson Center’s newest Fellows are arriving. These students pursue master’s degrees in applied economics, political science, sociology, anthropology, or kinesiology and recreation with an emphasis on community and economic development. Applied Community and Economic Development (ACED) Fellows have served with AmeriCorps or other public sector organizations. While all Fellows share a strong commitment to service, their backgrounds and interests often vary. Two of the incoming ACED Fellows happen to share some common experiences and goals.

Joel McReynolds headshot

Joel McReynolds served as community outreach coordinator for the University of Wisconsin-Extension.

ACED Fellow Joel McReynolds graduated from the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse with a degree in public administration and a minor in ethnic and racial studies in 2014. Interested in making a difference, he served two full terms with AmeriCorps VISTA as a community outreach coordinator for the University of Wisconsin-Extension.

While he was an outreach coordinator, McReynolds assisted in integrating the local Somali refugee population in the community. He taught English and helped with preparing the Somali refugees for the citizenship test. McReynolds also organized a class to educate the non-Somali population on Somali culture. He developed a community garden as well.

“I chose the Stevenson Center specifically because of the history and long-term reputation of the program,” McReynolds said.

Related Article: Recognized Illinois State University named an AmeriSchool

Since his AmeriCorps service, McReynolds has worked as a freelance nonprofit specialist, contributing to multiple local nonprofit organizations.

“During this process, I’ve gained a lot of experience, but I’ve realized that I have a lot to learn when it comes to community development. I need more education and more experience if I truly want to help facilitate positive change in the world,” said McReynolds.

McReynolds hopes to be a force for good in the community with his peers at the Stevenson Center. He will be studying political science.

Ward Westray car headshot

Ward Westray will be pursuing a master’s degree as an Applied Community and Economic Development Fellow.

Ward Westray will also pursue a master’s degree in political science. He earned a bachelor’s in international relations from Drake University in 2015.

Westray served with AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps. With a team of 10, he worked on projects ranging from preventing homelessness to counseling at an outdoor camp. He then served a second term with a different AmeriCorps program at the International Institute of New England. Inspired by that work with refugees and immigrants, he took a position with the International Institute of Minnesota.

“I had heard about the Stevenson Center and was inspired by its focus on service, which is what motivates me. I’m determined to advance by education and emerge in a position ready to enact change,” Westray said.

Westray is looking forward to expanding his knowledge academically and learning useful skills like grant writing. He enjoys playing the violin, tennis, and Ultimate Frisbee.

The Stevenson Center offers a similar Fellows program for those who have served with Peace Corps, as well as a Peace Corps Prep program for undergraduate students.

Sarah Aten is the Stevenson Center’s public relations intern.