UMES sophomore Axel Bayingana is among an elite group of peers from colleges across the country identified by a Boston-based non-profit organization as “public problem solvers.”
Campus Compact, a coalition of more than 1,000 institutions that advances the public purposes of higher education, named Bayingana and 272 other students Newman Civic Fellows, a year-long program “dedicated … (to) building community engagement into campus and academic life.”
Bayingana, a mechanical engineering major who calls Milford Mill near Randallstown home, is a member of the Richard A. Henson Honors Program. The dean's list student wasted little time assimilating into campus life two years ago, according to Clif Harcum, Director of UMES' Office of University Engagement & Lifelong Learning.
“Axel has shown himself to be a leader and civic-minded individual,” Harcum said. “He has completed well over 100 hours of community service, joined the UMES Rotaract Club and has won awards for his service to the community all while maintaining an exceptional grade point average.”
Being named a Newman Civic Fellow “means a lot to me,” Bayingana said. “I like helping people in my community. If I can do it on a national level, it will be even more amazing.”
As a 2017 Newman Civic Fellow, Bayingana will be a part of the first group to benefit from a re-designed fellowship. Named for Campus Compact co-founder Frank Newman, the fellowship is a one-year experience emphasizing personal, professional and civic growth.
Campus Compact provides a variety of learning and networking opportunities, including a national conference in partnership with the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate. The program also provides Newman Civic Fellows with access to exclusive scholarship and post-graduate opportunities.
“The cultivation of community-committed leaders has never been more crucial,” said Campus Compact president Andrew Seligsohn. “We rebuilt the Newman Civic Fellowship experience because our country needs more people who know how to bring communities together for positive change.”
During spring break for undergraduates in mid-March, Bayingana and a group of other UMES students did community service, including a sweep of refuse on the beach at Assateague Island National Seashore and clearing walking paths at the Hazel Outdoor Discovery Center not far from campus. In the past year, Bayingana and fellow volunteers have helped build eight handicap access ramps at private homes in the community.
“The University of Maryland Eastern Shore does a great job in providing us with opportunities to engage in community service,” Bayingana said. “It is a great feeling to be able to make someone else's life easier and better or make a difference.”
In the nomination package submitted to the Campus Compact, UMES President Juliette B. Bell wrote: “Axel Bayingana is an actively engaged student leader who epitomizes a rare breed of outstanding scholarship and virtuous maturity."
“Mr. Bayingana's commitment to undertaking progressively responsible leadership roles on campus and beyond, have clearly revealed to him the reality of the current social and economic environment of this region,” she said.
Bayingana, who was born in Rwanda, said, “my family instilled in me the values of helping others at a young age, so I am passionate about helping others.”
Compact spokeswoman Kirsten Lyons said, Newman Civic Fellows receive training and access to resources that “will nurture their assets and passions to help them develop strategies to achieve social change.”
Campus Compact, she said, provides participants learning opportunities focused on the skills to serve as change agents addressing public problems and building equitable communities.
“Axel is an amazing young man,” Harcum said. “I am proud of his achievements and know without a doubt that he will represent himself as a worthy recipient of the 2017 Newman Civic engagement award.”
Bayingana's peers agree:
As long as I can remember, Axel has always been passionate about community service and loves to have fun," senior Kahleo Smith said. "His energetic personality has always made him awesome to be around and he is always eager to learn new things. He's also an up incoming chess player. Overall, I'm glad that we have met and I can't wait to see what he will do in the years to come!
Bayingana said “if more people gave their time to help others or the community, we would have better communities.”
The Newman Civic Fellowship is supported by the KPMG Foundation and Newman's Own Foundation.