Communities In Schools Honored by GU’s Center for Community Engagement

Left to Right: Communities In School staff members Alyssa Gonzalez and Randi Lithgow; Sarah Marr with GU’s Center for Community Engagement.
Left to Right: Communities In School staff members Alyssa Gonzalez and Randi Lithgow; Sarah Marr with GU’s Center for Community Engagement.
July 25, 2023
Center for Community Engagement

End-of-the-term award season was a time of accolades and gratitude for the extraordinary work of community partners, students and others involved with Opportunity Northeast.

Community Partner of the Year - Communities In Schools

Communities In Schools was recognized for its significant contribution to the community and to GU’s Community Engaged Learning Program. Two CIS staff members – Alyssa Gonzalez, CCLC program manager, and Randi Lithgow, site coordinator at Logan Elementary, were credited with foundational work necessary to get the Walking School Bus program up and operational following its suspension during the COVID-19 pandemic. Joe Johnston, associate professor and chair of Sociology & Criminology nominated the duo for this award. They were selected by the CEL Advisory Board, having contributed significant time and energy in support of CEL courses.

Undaunted by the significant logistical arrangements that required weekly meetings, Gonzalez spent time practice-walking routes, creating packets for youth to enroll, complying with regulations regarding the hiring of route-leaders, and developing and co-leading training for GU students. Once the program was up and running again, Lithgow was brought onboard to continue organizing meetings, keeping everyone on track, coordinating with students and families, engaging with the School District, and helping train GU students in their work.

“These phenomenal staff members are dedicated to surrounding students with a community of support, with attention to detail and enthusiasm for their work that is truly inspiring,” said Sarah Marr, Assistant Director for Community Engaged Learning. “We are extremely grateful for their engagement and partnership in supporting both Logan and GU students in opportunities for achievement, mentorship, and community involvement.”

President’s Awards for Civic Engagement – Avery Kain and Tia Moua

Avery Kain

Avery Kain, a senior majoring in Sociology, has served as a volunteer and student leader contributing to the creation of educational pathways for local youth through the Campus Kids and Sparks programs.

In her role as a Summer Fellow at GU, Avery continued to support high school students in Northeast Spokane through critical educational transitions, encouraging them to think about their future educational and career aspirations, modeling what it means to set goals and go after them.

Avery has helped strengthen the neighborhood relationships between GU and the Logan neighborhood, showing an exemplary commitment to accompanying and supporting youth. She has also participated in numerous reflection activities and leader trainings to develop her skills, and then share what she’s learned with other volunteers.

Tia Moua headshot

Tia Moua, a senior majoring in Communications and Sociology, is distinguished for her efforts to create positive change through activism and social entrepreneurship. She led the creation of the Asian American Activist group on campus and organized events and communications that drew strong engagement of local Asian residents in the 2020 Census. She also led efforts that engage more than 700 residents to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

Tia conducted research on the rise of anti-Asian hate and racism and its impact on the members of the Asian community in Spokane. She then led efforts to increase awareness of this injustice. Tia also was honored with the Governor’s Student Civic Leadership Award.

Community Engaged Learning Student of the Year – Abby Cota

From left: Sarah Marr, Abby Cota
From left: Sarah Marr, Abby Cota

First-year student Abby Cota earned recognition for her leadership and service. As an education major, she enrolled in three community-engaged learning courses, and also signed up to volunteer at Campus Kids, GU’s signature after-school program. Distinguished by her skills at organizing age-appropriate activities for youth, and her joyful approach that makes others feel seen and appreciated, Abby demonstrated an impressive depth of understanding of the course materials. She experienced personal growth as a result of her community engaged learning experiences.

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