Profiles in Civic Engagement: Melanie Rivkin

Year: Senior
Major: Judaic Studies, Theatre Minor
  • Binghamton University Food Cooperative Coordinator (2010-2012)
  • Vice President of the Binghamton University Food Cooperative (2011-2012)
  • COO of the Many Hands Food Cooperative Project for downtown Binghamton (2011-2012)
  • CoFED (Cooperative Food Empowerment Directive) Fellow (2011-2012)
  • Alternative Winter Break Community Service Trip participant with Hillel 2009, 2012
  • Secretary, SUNY VINES in 2011
  • Wrote an Emergency Action Plan for the Broome County Council of Churches in 2010
  • Volunteer, Food Not Bombs in 2010
  • Transfer Student Mentor for College in the Woods Community in 2009

How did you first get involved in community service at Binghamton?                                            
I first became involved in community service at Binghamton when I was trying to continue the work I had done on my Bat Mitzvah project. For my Bat Mitzvah (transition into Jewish adulthood) I created an organization called Rather Lather Hygiene Clean, an organization that donates toiletries to those in low-income and crisis situations. In my attempt to start the project at Binghamton University, I got in touch with the Student Volunteer Center, who seemed to be doing a lot of volunteer work in the Binghamton area. Although the project never got started, it put me in touch with a community service outlet on campus.

What kinds of volunteer experiences have you had here, and what organizations have you worked with?
When I was trying to pull Rather Lather Hygiene Clean together on campus, I decided to take a class called Issues in Non-Profit Organizations. It was a service-learning course and required students to work on projects through different non-profit organizations in Binghamton. I worked with a team of undergraduate and graduate students at the Broome County Council of Churches to develop an emergency action plan for future disasters in the Binghamton area. After the course, I started volunteering for SUNY VINES, the campus’s urban gardening project, as well as the Binghamton University Food Co-operative. Junior year, I also worked on a project connecting student groups with community non-profit organizations in order to create a list of sustainable organizations locally.

What experiences have you had with the CCE?
When my teammates and I were working on our project for Sustainability and Social Movements (another service-learning course), we talked with the CCE to find out about student groups on campus and their connections to non-profits in the area. They were very helpful in giving us information on a number of non-profit organizations in Binghamton and what they do for the area.

Why do you think it is important for students to become civically engaged?
I think it is important for students to become civically engaged, but first and foremost to have an understanding for what it is they really love. For me it has been food justice and taking a stance on ethical food systems, but I also have a passion for performance art and hope to find more ways to do community service work in the field.  I don’t think that students should just jump into any service experience before doing research and matching the service with their interests, because otherwise they won’t necessarily enjoy what they are doing. Civic engagement and community service should be fun and easily can be!

Interested in being featured in our next "Profiles in Civic Engagement" or know someone doing great things in our community? Nominate someone by submitting his or her name and e-mail address here. Self-nominations are accepted and encouraged.

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