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The Park Scholar Award: The Opportunity of a Lifetime

Written by Meghan Swope
12/4/2010

Meghan Rindfleisch '12 as an intern at the Winter Olympics in Vancouver in 2010.

 

Imagine that, in your first year of college, you’ll be able to do all of the following: make fourteen new friends from day one; take classes from professors with years of experience in the communications industry; volunteer and make a difference in your new community; and chat with CNN anchor Christiane Amanpour. Next up: year two. This time around, you’ll become the leader of that community service project. You’ll also likely study abroad in London, Australia, or somewhere in between. You’ll intern with the Times of London, Fleishman-Hillard, NBC, or for theater marketing company AKA UK in London’s West End. Now here comes the twist – imagine doing all of that for free. 

Each year, for approximately 15 fortunate (and grateful!) incoming freshmen in the Roy H. Park School of Communications, that dream I just described becomes reality. As recipients of the prestigious, merit-based Park Scholar Award, these students receive a full cost-of-attendance scholarship renewable for each of their four years at Ithaca College. The scholarship covers tuition, room and board, books, a living stipend, and a one-time laptop computer purchase. Funded through the generosity of the Park Foundation, the Park Scholar Award represents a tremendous opportunity for students with a commitment to the field of communications and dedication to community service. As a Park Scholar myself, I can attest to the fact that this opportunity is much more than a financial one – the Park Scholar Program truly is a unique learning community. Scholars come together through academics, community service, professional development, and more.

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Kirsty Ewing '11 kayaks through Halong Bay in Vietnam.

 

First-year Scholars arrive to campus a week early to participate in Park Scholar Orientation. “Being able to come a week early helped me build a personal connection with the other first-year  Park Scholars,” states freshman Park Scholar Lindsey Smith. However, it’s not just the freshmen that benefit from PS Orientation. As PS Orientation Leader Karla Berberich ’11 puts it, “Being a Park Scholar Orientation Leader is an incredibly rewarding experience. Continuing the tradition of a community of Scholars who are able to rely on each other as a resource is really important, so it’s great to meet the younger Scholars and foster that sense of community from day one.”

First-year Scholars also participate in Community Plunge, a Jumpstart Program focused on community service. “I didn't know what to expect from Community Plunge, but it was really fun and it was great to meet other freshmen who I share similar interests with,” recalls Sarah Parker ‘14.

Additionally, first-years live in the H.O.M.E program, a residential learning community on campus that explores multicultural issues. Freshman Megan Devlin enjoys living with her fellow Park Scholars, MLK Scholars, and other H.O.M.E residents. “We have had such a great living experience with almost all of us being on the same floor -- but also hanging out with the MLKs,” she says. “We've even had a few ‘T3 outings’ that have hallmarked our group experience thus far.” First-year Park Scholars also participate in the first-year Park Scholar seminar, a class that explores critical issues of communications, globalization, and the media.

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Park Scholars and MLK Scholars participate in a team building exercise during Park Scholar orientation weekend.

 

Sophomore year is a time when many students take advantage of the opportunity to study abroad. While I was busy learning to surf and taking classes about Australian theatre and film in Sydney, my peers were traveling throughout Europe, studying in Singapore, and visiting historical sites in Ireland. “Both of my grandmothers were born in Ireland so the financial freedom that being a Park Scholar comes with allowed me to spend the whole semester there,” says Meg Malone ’11 of her sophomore study abroad experience. “I learned so much about my family's history and experienced a new culture. These were truly some of the greatest months of my life.”

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Meg Malone '11 and Karla Berberich '11 celebrated St. Patrick's Day with Al Roker while studying abroad in Ireland

 

Juniors in the Park Scholar Program usually begin to turn their focus toward the future. Each year over fall break, junior Scholars travel to New York City on a job-shadowing trip. As a junior, I shadowed Park Scholar alumna Morgan Steele ’05. Morgan is a NYC event planner for Fourth Wall Events, and I helped her with day-of tasks for a “Streets of New York” event at the Hilton that had a custom Broadway performance created especially for the event! I also shadowed IC alum Sheryl Victor-Levy ’92, founder of the social media and marketing firm Savvy Strategy. Some other juniors took advantage of shadowing opportunities at ESPN, Sesame Street, and Nick Jr.!

Park Scholar seniors are some of the most prominent leaders both for the Park Scholar community and on campus. Libby Sile ’11 is the Editor-in-Chief of The Ithacan, and Amanda Roselli ’11 is the Vice Executive Chair of Marketing for IC After Dark. Fellow seniors Karla Berberich and Maura Gladys volunteer as coaches for the Ithaca Youth Bureau Rotary Soccer Program. Every two years, many of the Program’s seniors are among the Ithaca College students to be chosen for the prestigious NBC Olympics Internship program. Frieda Becker ’11 was chosen as a recipient of the Reginald Simmons Memorial Award, which sent her to Togo, Africa to volunteer with Operation Crossroads Africa.

The seniors are also able to reflect on their four years in the program, and many of them acknowledge the difference that the Park Scholar community has made in their lives. “As a Park Scholar, I have been continuously inspired to reach for higher levels of involvement and commitment to my activities and school work because of what I have seen other Park Scholars accomplish,” Becker states. “This program really fosters a place where we can work and learn together, striving to be better Ithaca College community members and future leaders in the world afterward.”

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Eric Keto '11 working on a documentary film in Montana.

 

Fellow senior Mykal Urbina, who co-founded the Stone Soup Philanthropy Corps on campus, agrees. “During the past four years, Park Scholar connections and programming have helped me to develop strong relationships with both the campus and greater Ithaca communities,” recalls Urbina. “Looking back on my multiple internships, volunteer activities, and experiences at both the Ithaca College London and Los Angeles Centers, the Park Scholar Program has been an integral, defining aspect of my collegiate career.”

Seniors also have the opportunity to participate in the Park Scholar New Orleans Service Trip, where Scholars spend a week of their winter break volunteering through a local organization to help rebuild the vibrant city of New Orleans.

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Mary Michalow '10 volunteering in New Orleans.

 

Scholars from across each of the four years participate in a Saturday Seminar each semester. These seminars use a combination of readings, film screenings, and group exercises to spark discussion on a variety of social, cultural, and technological issues that are relevant to the field of communications.

Scholars are also given a front-row seat to each year’s Park Distinguished Visitor lecture, and are often invited to attend a reception before or after the program with the distinguished guest. Previous guests have included CNN’s Christiane Amanpour, Arianna Huffington of The Huffington Post, author Tom Wolfe, and this year’s guest -- James Carville.

Current Park Scholars are given the opportunity to network and catch up with Park Scholar Alumni each fall, when the Alumni return to campus and present workshops on everything from how to market yourself as a freelancer to how to use your communications degree in a non-traditional way.

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Park Scholars (L to R) Jacquelyn Simone '11, Mykal Urbina '11, Corinne Colgan '11, Eric Keto '11, Maura Gladys '11, Brian Ropp '11, and Zachary Tomanelli '11 at Stonehange.

 

So whether you are volunteering in a distant country or gaining first-hand experience here at home, the Park Scholar Program is a valuable resource. What’s even better is that the Park Scholar community is itself a part of the larger Ithaca College community. “In my time here I've played football, worked on television shows, served as a student senator for SGA, volunteered at South Hill Elementary, worked on a documentary in South Africa, worked for a professional production company, helped organize Relay for Life, and done a ton of other things as well,” former Scholar Kyle Kelley '10 said upon graduation. “If you have a passion, it's easy to find an outlet for it.”



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