Center for Community Engagement

Annika Nygren ’16

Annika Nygren ’16 is a student-athlete from Sudbury, Massachusetts, a European Studies major, and the 2013-2014 ATEL for the women’s Field Hockey team. Below find some of her thoughts about everything from breakfast preferences to the importance of community engagement.

Annika Nygren ’16 with her field hockey team at Relay for Life

Annika Nygren ’16, front row on the far left, with her field hockey team at Relay for Life at the University of Massachusetts.

What is your favorite cereal?
Due to Val’s vast selection, it is tough to choose but I would have to say Golden Grahams. They are nice with a subtle amount of sweetness and taste good in combination with any of the other cereals.

What is your spirit animal?
The otter! Fun fact: they hold each other’s hands when they sleep so that they will not float away; I love that.

Where do you want to live when you grow up?
I would love to live in Colorado when I grow up … or somewhere in Europe.

Who/what caused you to become involved with community engagement?
I fell into community engagement by wanting to spend more time doing activities I loved with young children. Sports have been an integral part of my life and development and I wanted to share and help others get started with that experience as well.  I was often encouraged by coaches and teachers to share my knowledge of and enthusiasm for skiing and field hockey and through that I fell into various other engagement roles simply because I loved interacting with people.

Why do you think community engagement is important?
I feel community engagement is important, especially in the Amherst Community, because it allows students the opportunity to get outside of our college “bubble” and really see/experience the area we are living in.  Through engagement we are able to foster relationships with organizations and people in town and, in return, feel more connected to the area where we live and prosper.  In addition, I think it is really important for people to take time out of their lives to prioritize someone or something else besides themselves. This is healthy for the mind and helps people to gain perspective, especially when we are so lucky to be at a school that provides us with so much.

What would you say to someone who is “too busy” for community engagement?
I would say to that person to think about the feeling one gets when they help someone out or make someone smile. Everyone has time to do that. It helps to motivate you to get your own work done when you know that you made or can make someone else’s day a little brighter.

What is your favorite community engagement moment/project/activity?
My favorite engagement activity is an event I have participated in the last 5 years. Relay For Life has allowed me to meet, interact and bond with so many people over something almost everyone shares; we have all been touched by cancer in some way. Attending the event at UMass last year was a special way for me to see my teammates off campus and allow them to experience and participate in an event that is very, very close to my heart. After walking a lap to signify that I have been a caretaker to someone with cancer, it was so powerful to have my teammates embrace and join me on the following laps. Not being able to participate at the event back home was really hard and strange for me and it was very powerful to feel so incredibly supported by my teammates last spring.
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What have you learned about the Amherst community through your engagement projects?
I have learned that the Amherst community really appreciates and respects our campus, student body and public events. The community really enjoys when we reach out and allow them an “in” to our lives and time here at campus. In addition, I think many adults enjoy when we work with their children because so many kids look up to us a role models and feel that we have qualities and characteristics to be admired. The community wants to experience activities with us and are not looking for us to do things for them. There is a genuine interest in giving back to us as well, whether it be through watching our sporting events or just checking in with us to see how we are doing and/or how our work is going.

What have you learned about your teammates through community engagement projects?
 I have learned through engagement projects that my teammates and I share many interests outside of field hockey and the color purple. It is especially fun to work with teammates who I do not normally see outside of practice or around campus and work with each other in a new way. I have also learned a great deal about teammate’s personal connections to certain engagement activities and in turn more about their life and their personal passions.

What impact do you think community engagement has had on your life?
I think community engagement has made me learn a great deal about myself, my personality, my strengths and life interests. Engagement has provided me with a platform from which I can say I now know I want to spend the rest of my life helping people reach their best potential. It has also allowed me to interact with friends and teammates outside of a normal environment/context and, as a result, I have gotten to know them on a more personal and intimate level. This closeness has led to stronger friendships and team chemistry.

Camille Youngblood '15

Camille Youngblood '15 is a student-athlete from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, an LJST major, and the 2013-2014 ATEL for the women’s Field Hockey team. Below find some of her thoughts about everything from breakfast preferences to the importance of community engagement.

 Student-athlete Camille Youngblood ‘15 reads to a girl as part of the Athletes Loves to Read initiative
Student-athlete Camille Youngblood ‘15 reads to a young girl at the Maple Street Elementary School as part of the Athletes Love to Read initiative.

What is your favorite cereal?
Captain Crunch! It’s heavenly. Crunchatize me cap’n.

What is your spirit animal?
A bear.

Where do you want to live when you grow up?
Ideally, I’d live in Palos Verdes Estates, California. It’s a beautiful suburb in southern California overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Great views, great weather, and great people – can’t get much better than that.

Who/what caused you to become involved with community engagement?
I was privileged to attend a private school my whole life that emphasized the importance of community engagement. Aside from the mandatory community engagement hours, many students went above and beyond the minimum dedicating hundreds of hours at an organization of their choice. It was in this type of community in which I fostered the belief that community engagement is not an option, it’s the norm.

Why do you think community engagement is important?
Community engagement is important for self-growth and cultural understanding. Community engagement expands your horizons to new people, places, and ideas. Connecting with your community allows you to help others, but it also serves as a catalyst to self-learning. Gordon B. Hinckley, author of Standing for Something: 10 Neglected Virtues That Will Heal Our Hearts and Homes, once said “One of the great ironies of life is this: he or she who serves almost always benefits more than he or she who is served.”

What would you say to someone who is “too busy” for community engagement?
Everyone can make a difference and every little bit counts.

What is your favorite community engagement moment/project/activity?
I love working with kids! I grew up in a family of educators so the classroom is my second-home. Coming from Milwaukee, I’ve seen firsthand how important education is for the future of our children, especially in areas rampant with poverty and crime. Personally, I enjoy getting kids excited about the little things—finishing a homework problem, reading a difficult book, or volunteering at a local animal shelter. Ultimately, investing in a child’s education is the most effective means of reducing poverty. Community engagement in our schools fosters a better, safer, and happier life for many students and their families, which is why I love working with kids.

What have you learned about the Amherst community through your engagement projects?
Becoming involved in community engagement activities in the Amherst area has given me the opportunity to synthesize much of my academic coursework with real life experiences. For example, as an adamant supporter of anti-human trafficking initiatives, I was introduced to the Freedom Café, a local café that donates 100% of proceeds to charitable causes working to end human trafficking. The Amherst community has a plethora of ideas and opportunities to offer, you just have to dig a little to find what you’re passionate about.

What have you learned about your teammates through community engagement projects?
Community engagement gives people the opportunity to make a difference about something they care a lot about. One of the most exciting things I’ve learned about my teammates through community engagement projects are the various topics they are passionate about. The Varsity Field Hockey team has a wide range of interests, including (but not limited to): cancer-awareness, mental-health disabilities, education, mentorship, and anti-human trafficking.

What impact do you think community engagement has had on your life?
Community engagement has had a huge impact on my life. Not only have I gained more knowledge, skills, and friends, but I’ve gained a deeper appreciation for the opportunities I have. When working with kids, I’m reminded of all the family, friends, and mentors who have consistently kept me on the right track. When working in food or homeless shelters, I’m thankful for the simple things in life that sometimes we may take for granted. My community engagement experiences have been both helpful and humbling.

Meet an ATEL

The Athletics Team Engagement Leader (ATEL) Program is the result of the combined efforts of the Athletics Liaisons, the Center for Community Engagement, and the Athletics Department.  The ATEL Program seeks to increase passionate, sustainable community engagement in the Athletics department by training one young person on each team to focus on the interests of their respective teams. The ATELs are a vibrant group of enthusiastic student-athletes with a passion for community engagement.