Penn State Brandywine junior Rebecca Berkowitz, of Chester Springs, was one of 181 student leaders from across the country named a 2013 Newman Civic Fellow by Campus Compact, a coalition of college and university presidents committed to fulfilling the civic purposes of higher education. Berkowitz is a dedicated volunteer committed to lending a helping hand whenever she is able.
Berkowitz is known across campus for having her hand in just about every charitable endeavor she can find. From passing out cupcakes to children from the Walden School during their Fair Trade Art show, to supporting the University's efforts to raise funds for sexual abuse prevention, she is constantly in search of volunteer opportunities.
"What can I do to give back with everything that is going on with Penn State?" Berkowitz found herself wondering. The answer: working with other students to bring the Blue Out movement to the Brandywine campus. She and other students from the group Penn State M.A.D.E (Making A Difference Everyday) coordinated bringing the University's official Blue Out t-shirts to campus to be worn on Friday, Sept. 21, 2012, the day before the official Blue Out football game at Beaver Stadium. "Being a small campus, we were able to put a hand out just a little bit to help people who have been sexually abused," she said of the day of awareness, which featured an information table, manned by Berkowitz and a representative from Delaware County Women Against Rape.
Berkowitz also helped with the campus' Paper Plate Advocacy Project for Philabundance last fall. In honor of Constitution Day, students wrote messages about hunger on paper plates, which were submitted to Philabundance, the region's largest food bank. For every plate submitted, the organization provided a meal to someone in need. The campus submitted nearly 300 plates.
She helped raise money for the MS Walk in Philadelphia, worked with Knittany Lion Needleworks to knit and donate scarves the Special Olympics and even distributed fair trade bananas to the community to help raise awareness about the fair trade movement.
A psychology major with a passion for helping children, Berkowitz hopes to pursue a law degree and eventually make a lasting difference in the lives of children in the juvenile system.
"I have a special interest in the legal system and being able to help people rebuild and reshape their lives," she said. "Being able to give back is the greatest feeling and I definitely want to continue to do that. I would love to get involved with kids who are struggling ? get involved with juvenile delinquents through criminal law."
She added, "I like hands-on helping in the community. If I can be with a group of people, talking to them and listening to what their needs are, I'd like to be there to help."
This goes for animals, too. "I would like to help with the SPCA or animal rescue," she said. "Over Thanksgiving my sister and I donated [essentials] to the local Chester County, SPCA ? crates, food, toys, old newspapers, paper towels. We wanted to donate to the local food banks, but they had everything they needed, so we found a list online of things needed at the SPCA and drove over to donate."
As if all that volunteering isn't enough to keep Berkowitz busy, she works part time as a clinical aid at a local treatment facility and conducted research about short-term study abroad programs alongside Assistant Professor of Psychology Dana Martin.
On being named a Newman Civic Fellow, Berkowitz said she's honored to be among such an inspirational group of students.
"It felt great to be nominated," she said. "It's an honor to be recognized for doing work in the community. There are tons of students on this campus who are also involved and it was an honor to be one of them who was selected. I was shocked. I think this campus contributes a lot to the community, too, so it was definitely nice to be nominated.