Abby Wagner - 2012 Outstanding Co-op Award
Abby graduated in 2012 with a Human Services and International Affairs combined degree from the College Social Sciences and Humanities. She completed three co-ops and earned an Outstanding Co-op Award.
The following is an excerpt from her nomination paper drafted by Lisa Worsh, Co-op Faculty:
Abby successfully completed three co-ops (and will be working for Teach For America for after graduation).
Abby is an inspiration. She works, volunteers, and attends classes concurrently.
Abby sought out (and successfully landed) challenging experiences for her co-ops and has received glowing reviews from her supervisors. Most impressively, she has demonstrated great determination and a willingness to gain valuable experience, even if her ideal opportunities are unpaid or far from Boston. Her first co-op was a bit of a surprise. Abby had numerous excellent offers, but the one from ABC – the View, stood out. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity. So she took it and learned so much from it, “I performed every task I was given to the best of my abilities and never complained about what I was given. I learned that no matter what you have to do on a given day you can always learn something new or improve at something you already do well.”
After her co-op, ABC even offered Abby a job after graduation. It is hard to please Barbara Walters, but Abby sure did. This job wouldn’t normally be considered a “helping profession” job; however Abby took care of everyone and their needs; offered a seamless experience to the staff, crew, stars, or guests of the show. She learned to “serve with a smile”, do her job, and not expect a thank you for everything she did. That was excellent because, then as she said, “when you someone did thank you …it was that much more sincere.”
For her second co-op, Abby focused on helping immigrants and refugees at the IRC in San Diego. Her main project was to plan and construct the children's outside play area. What was plot of dirt, turned into a grassy area with tricycles and play mats for the little ones. Her biggest accomplishment in this project was getting everything donated; the sod, the gardening products and a few toys. She also taught ESL to newly arrived adult refugees. It was an unpaid job, and very far from Boston and her home (in Minnesota), but the mission of the organization “spoke to her”. So she went.
Her employer had never really trusted interns before, but Abby changed her mind, “Abby was undoubtedly the best intern that I have had over the past 10 years of supervising the educational programs at the IRC in San Diego. She works very hard, is flexible, persistent, and self-directed. She has exceptional communication skills, gets along well with everyone, and works well on teams. Prior to Abby's internship, I had been hesitant to accept student interns … Abby has helped create a paradigm shift in how I view interns and how my department will utilize them in the future. I was truly amazed how much Abby was able to accomplish with the IRC. She implemented changes which will have a long-term positive impact on our program.” (- Colleen Krause, IRC)
The experience changed Abby too! She has always been a giving, helpful person, (student teaching in mission hill since 2007, an RA since 2008, and more), but this experience changed her,
“My experience with the refugees was the most rewarding for me. On my last day, one of my [adult] students, Pae Pae, handed me a bag. She had sewed me an authentic shirt, which the translator said was in honor of my fun English lesson on clothing. I couldn’t help but smile and I started to cry…Pae Pae truly made an impact on my life. She stood no taller than 4’9’’ but had so much energy and love for life. At 48 years old, she had seen, and been in the middle of, more than a young woman like me could even fathom. After living in a Thailand refugee camp for 28 years she was cleared by the U.S. Government and brought to San Diego. I met Pae Pae two months after her arrival and will remember her forever. She would grab me and hug me every time I walked in the classroom, letting me know how thankful she was for my time.”
I did not know if we would ever be able to top Abby’s experience in her first two co-ops, but luckily, her professors from the India Dialogue were going again (she was a student the previous spring) and needed a Teacher’s Assistant...it had to be Abby! Next thing you know Abby was assisting with all aspects of the semester long dialogue to India. Lori Gardinier, Director of the Human Services program said this in her performance evaluation, “This coop was a very difficult placement. She was hand-picked to participate in this role because she has exceptional leadership qualities and flexibility. These qualities were critical to her success in this role. Abby was required to communicate with students about several aspects of the program, this was a very challenging tasks as it was a large group. Abby was able to help students with their needs and help us manage our program. Additionally, in this role she worked with our service-learning partners to assure successful placements and communication.”
Abby agreed about the level of difficulty in the role. Supervising your peers, in another country, for six months, would not be easy! “(India was) by far the most difficult job I have accepted. I was a freshman resident assistant my first three years of school, a teacher’s helper in a second grade classroom, intern at one of the highest rated daytime television shows in the country, and nothing compares to the up’s and down’s I experienced traveling halfway around the world to be the bridge between professor and student. Challenging, absolutely, but it was also one of the best opportunities I have ever had and I learned more about myself in this position than I have in any other prior placement.” Abby willingness to see every hardship as a chance for growth is what makes her amazing and so helpful to the people she serves. Her reflection paper to me was very analytical. She acknowledged that many times the students would ignore and dismiss her efforts due to their closeness in age. (This is very hard when the job is so demanding and 24/7).. it did upset Abby, but instead of getting bitter, she and her co-leader came up with a plan, solved the issues, created more social events to build community, stuck to her guns, learned to supervise, and earned respect of students on the dialogue.
In addition to her co-ops, Abby offers her energy and time to many different causes. She has been a volunteer “student teacher” at The Mission Hill school for five years! She is always striving to do more. So this year, she has been collaborating with EPHAS (Every Person Has A Story.org) to institute a photography based educational curriculum- with the K/1 classes and has organized camera drives for this organization as well.
Abby also took advantage of all NU has to offer. She was awarded the very competitive La Comunidad Latino en Accíon (LaCLA) scholarship for providing service within the Latino community in her second year (through graduation). Through this opportunity, she also gave back 200 hours of volunteer services a year and tutored on campus. She participated (as a student) in 3 dialogues (Mexico, India, and Spain), numerous service-learning classes, and was an RA from 2008-2010. Two of her dialogues were very service-oriented. For the Mexico dialogue (2008), she worked in an orphanage called Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos. In the Fall of 2009, she enrolled in the India dialogue (as a student). While there, she worked with the Akshara Foundation and taught the Peace Games curriculum at several schools both public and private. She also helped develop an English Language curriculum and manual for preschools in village slums. When Abby returned to India (as a Teacher’s Assistant for co-op), she was able to improve upon the work she started as a student there. She organized several service-learning sites and site-visits for the students. She learned to excel at working in another cross-cultural environment and how to communicate well with both English and non-English speakers.
Abby has also contributed to the NU Human Services Program as well. She participated with the Human Services student Organization, has presented in my co-op prep class and has spoken to incoming freshman at Orientations and Welcomes. Abby completely embodies a commitment to community and serving her fellow human beings. She is professional and ethical beyond her years. She has completed such amazing work in her co-ops that she will likely have numerous job offers. I am not sure if I have ever met another student with her combination of dedication, drive, and professionalism. I cannot think of a better recipient an Outstanding Co-op award.
Abby was also recognized as one of the 100 most Influential Seniors in 2012 and was a recipient of the 2012 Compass Award from the NU Alumni Office! These awards are presented to one student from each college of the University. The students must have demonstrated a commitment to Leadership Skill, Volunteerism, Academic Integrity and Commitment to Northeastern.
Here is Abby's page from the 2012 Outstanding Co-op Awards booklet