In a time where the COVID-19 pandemic, elections, climate crises and the ongoing reckoning with racial injustice all competed for headlines, Alex Upton ’21 and Dr. Amy Levad, associate professor of theology, were honored for their volunteer work addressing many of these challenges.
The two Tommies were announced April 13 as 2021 Campus Compact Presidents’ Award winners, representing St. Thomas. Campus Compact is a national coalition of colleges and universities, and its annual awards recognize and celebrate exemplary civic responsibility and community building.
Committed to closing the education opportunity gap, Upton earned recognition for his work with the Tutor-Mentor program and his leadership and volunteerism as student president of the Tommies Together Volunteer Center.
Since he was a first-year student, Upton has volunteered as a tutor-mentor, getting to know local middle schoolers one-on-one while supporting and cheering their academic success. As co-student-director of the Tutor-Mentor his sophomore and junior years, Upton helped increase the program’s mission-driven impact, growing from 44 volunteers to 211 volunteers.
Levad is recognized for her efforts to advance social and racial justice in the aftermath of the police killing of George Floyd. Harnessing the power of social media, Levad initiated a campaign to help people in neighborhoods affected by the unrest with supplies and necessities. Raising more than $12K, Levad partnered with a church in the heart of the 38th and Chicago neighborhood to help distribute goods according to community needs.
Levad subsequently helped develop the anti-racist educational series “Becoming Human: Dismantling Racism” for the College of Arts and Sciences. She was also part of a team of scholars who created a website Breakdown Whiteness, which provides resources for breaking down white supremacy.
The Center for Common Good leads the partnership with Campus Compact. Dr. Theresa Ricke-Kiely, executive director of the Center for the Common Good, said “the Campus Compact Presidents’ Awards allow us to celebrate people at our university who embody what it means to work hard to advance the common good beyond the grounds of our campuses.”
Ricke-Kiely said the awards capture just a snapshot of the community advocacy and activism Levad, Upton and many others do on and off campus.“We have excellent nominations every year, and this year our committee – made up of faculty, staff and students from across the university – felt immense gratitude reading through all that our St. Thomas community had done to get involved during troubling and uncertain times.”
Also, an award winner representing St. Thomas is Keystone Community Services. Keystone Community Services is an integral partner in St. Thomas’ fight against
food insecurity on its St. Paul campus. Through use of their mobile food shelf, Keystone brings groceries to St. Thomas students as well as community members across Ramsey county. In addition to their food programs, Keystone conducts youth development programs, senior enrichment programs, and continues to build community through innovation.