With the support of generous and passionate donors, programs like the Center for Public Service’s Summer Fellowship build on the knowledge and enduring skills students gain in the classroom through transformational opportunities that help them gain greater insight into themselves, their passions, and their aspirations to leave the world better than they found it.
For nearly two decades, this fellowship has allowed students to advance their problem solving and intercultural fluency skills while serving the needs of many non-profit organizations across the world, including Gettysburg, Arizona, Nepal, and Nicaragua. Prior to departure for their summer fellowship, students spend the spring semester working with Gettysburg faculty and staff to develop the necessary skills—such as problem solving, creativity, and intercultural fluency—to carry out their responsibilities.
“Knowing that some of the challenges they face may be because of cultural differences, we work on cross-cultural communication to build their intercultural fluency,” said CPS director Jeff Rioux. “Our partners are constantly responding to changes in funding streams or new policies that affect their work, so we also prepare our students to be creative and flexible in facing new challenges.”
In recent years, the CPS fellows’ efforts have been focused in the United States. In Gettysburg, they lend a hand at Campus Kitchen, Casa de la Cultura, Adams County Farmers Market, South Central Community Action Programs, Vida Charter School, Migrant Education Program (MEP), and the Painted Turtle Farm.
When Michael Hannum ’11 volunteered for MEP following his first year of college, he provided supplemental education for children of migrant and formerly migrant agricultural workers.
“I learned so much that summer about human migration, refugees, the agricultural industry, labor, the public education system, and the communities all around me in Adams County,” said Hannum, who declared a Spanish major after his fellowship experience. “It was quite eye-opening for a young college student. While working for MEP, I discovered that there were many hidden worlds all around me, and I found an appreciation for uncovering them and experiencing them.”
“I would not be where I am today were it not for CPS and the Summer Fellowship. That summer set the stage for the rest of my life, and I am so grateful that it did.”
– Michael Hannum ’11
Current students may also head to Tucson, Arizona, to work with Casa Alitas, a nonprofit organization that serves migrant families who have left their home countries to escape violence and poverty.
“One of my main responsibilities was translating important documents, ensuring that guests had access to crucial information and resources,” said sociology and international and global studies double major Sofia Leyba ’26. “My first language is Spanish but I also speak Portuguese. I also made travel plans for those transitioning to new locations, helping them navigate the logistics and ensuring a smooth journey. But perhaps the most rewarding aspect of my role was the opportunity to help reconnect families. Every day was an opportunity to make a positive impact.”
With 200 to 500 immigrants arriving at Casa Alitas every day, the volunteers and students providing aid have to be ready to tackle any situation. It is a fast-paced and demanding environment that requires quick critical thinking and problem-solving skills.
“We were running around and jumping from one department to another to meet the needs of the moment,” noted women, gender, and sexuality studies major Thanh Vo ’25. “We needed to come up with solutions for various issues, such as how to efficiently distribute coffee with the current capacity of coffee makers and how to respond to some guests’ complaints of not being able to get more clothes or food.”
Summers in Tucson and Gettysburg prove to be life-changing and career-altering for many of the fellows. Often, they come back with a renewed confidence in their skills and how to apply them to their academic and professional goals.
“Most of my friends and family have commented about how I am a different person since I completed my fellowship because I am now more confident,” said Dylann Eck ’26, who changed majors to public policy and Latin American, Caribbean, and Latino studies after spending the summer in Arizona. “This fellowship showed me how much I am capable of, which makes me feel very good about my future. Professionally, I gained a lot of experience working in food service, customer service, working across cultural and language lines, and the ability to adapt to whatever situation may arise.”
The fellowship program is made possible through ongoing support of Trustee Emeriti James Heston ’70. A business administration major at Gettysburg, Heston didn’t have an organization like CPS on campus when he was an undergraduate, but he remained active and involved with community service through his fraternity, Alpha Chi Rho. He also helped a local couple manage the hotel that has since been remodeled into Lahm Hall on campus. With these foundational experiences supplementing his liberal arts and sciences education, Heston landed a job at MetLife after meeting a recruiter on campus. He remained with MetLife for 39 years before retiring as Executive Vice President of Human Resources in 2009.
“If there had been a CPS when I was at Gettysburg, that's something I probably would have gotten involved in,” said Heston, who served on the Board of Trustees from 2011 to 2023. “It’s a fabulous model because the students run most of the programs themselves. They’re project leaders and I think that builds many skills. The service experiences that the students have impact them for the rest of their lives.”
For Hannum, his time with the CPS Summer Fellowship program coalesced into a journey of discovery that included declaring a major, studying abroad in Argentina and Spain, accepting a Fulbright fellowship to teach English in Brazil, and returning to the Gettysburg area to work full-time at the MEP. His passion for helping immigrant families then led to law school, graduating this past May from Temple University’s James E. Beasley School of Law and passing the Pennsylvania Bar exam over the summer. He has since begun a two-year postgraduate fellowship as an immigration attorney for Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS) Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, working with unaccompanied children on their immigration matters.
“I would not be where I am today were it not for CPS and the Summer Fellowship,” Hannum said. “That summer set the stage for the rest of my life, and I am so grateful that it did.”
By Corey Jewart
Photos provided by the Center for Public Service