Spotlight on: Samyuktha Natarajan '15

Samyuktha came to Bryn Mawr expecting she would be too busy to do a lot of service-minded work. "When I graduated high school and was transitioning to college, I was sure that a big part of my life--social justice work and community engagement--would have to sit on the back burner, while academics and 'real world stuff' kicked in," Samyuktha says. "What I've realized through working at the CEO and particularly at Parkway West High School, however, is that community engagement and outreach have actually become an even larger part of my life in college, through the integration of practice and theory offered in Praxis courses."

As Student Coordinator of the Civic Engagement Office's program at Parkway West High School, Samyuktha has developed and sustained a meaningful partnership focused around issues related to education and environmental justice. Her first project focused on engaging and empowering the students to consider issues of food access, nutrition and community development in their neighborhoods, and included the creation of a community garden. The second gave English Language Learners an opportunity to explore issues of identity and culture and develop skills in self-expression through writing. Most recently, Samyuktha has been supervising both the Culture/Identity Club (in its fourth semester) and a new Multimedia/Tech Workshop (in its second semester), both of which have become Praxis placements for Education courses. "I am also working on engaging community organizations to provide students at Parkway with community service opportunities," she says. "Our most recent service event was a combined Saturday of Service with Bryn Mawr students at the Urban Tree Connection, where we built raised beds, cleaned up trash, and prepared the garden for planting."

Since she has benefitted so greatly from her own Praxis classes, Samyuktha was given the opportunity to shape the experiences of students to come by serving as a student representative on the Praxis Steering Committee. Her service work even got noticed by Campus Contact, who awarded her the Newman Civic Fellows Award in 2013, honoring her as an inspiring college student leader who has demonstrated her investment in finding solutions to the challenges that face our communities throughout the country.

Samyuktha will be entering her final year at Bryn Mawr in Fall 2014, but she knows her service work won't end when she graduates. "Since work at the CEO and Praxis have both helped me recognize my passion for education and social justice, I am now determined to find a space in the real world post-graduation that will allow me to dedicate my life to connecting, teaching, and learning with people."