Hillel at Geneseo was one of 100 college Hillel groups that received a $1,250 Serve the Moment grant to implement service, civic engagement, and social justice programming during the Spring 2021 semester from Hillel International and Repair the World.
Hillel at Geneseo was recognized as a national leader among small Hillel programs with its Fall 2020 participation in MitzVote, a non-partisan campaign that utilized Jewish wisdom to empower and enable students to engage in the presidential election.
“A lot of the Jewish students at Geneseo identify with their Judaism through service, and I think that speaks to their generation as a whole,” says Laura Matthews, director of Jewish Student Life. “Our students are committed to putting ideas into practice now, not just after they graduate.”
The grant included support for a Serve the Moment intern who helped lead and participate in service activities throughout the semester. Jordyn Costello ’21, from Nanuet, NY, who has served as a Hillel at Geneseo engagement intern, filled the role.
“I knew it was going to be a lot of work, but I was excited because I wanted to make a meaningful difference,” Costello, an English major minoring in American studies, says.
After speaking with Garth Freeman, director of the Office of Student Volunteerism and Community Engagement, to discuss where the grant could have the most significant effect, Costello decided to combat food insecurity.
She’s helped connect Geneseo students with online resources such as GetFoodUSA; presented “How Does Race Relate to Food Insecurity?” at the 2021 Geneseo Diversity Summit; partnered with Geneseo Food Security Advocates (FSA) and Greek Life to organize a food drive for local elementary schools that collected over 2,000 donations; assisted the FSA Food Delivery Program to distribute donations from the Geneseo/Groveland Emergency Food Pantry to Geneseo students; and worked with Dan DeZarn, director of the Office of Sustainability, to create free vegetable plant kits for students to grow fresh produce.
“It’s been incredible to see the positive impact I can still make, even during COVID,” Costello says. “You can see how grateful and appreciative people are.”
Costello also collaborated virtually with eight other Serve the Moment interns from across the country who worked on food insecurity. The group collected statistics from each campus and discussed them in a “This Passover, Don’t Pass Over Food Insecurity” presentation.
“It connected Passover to the value of service and why food insecurity is such an important topic at colleges,” Costello says. “Seeing that universities across the nation all had students dealing with food insecurity spoke volumes to how prevalent the issue is.”
After Costello graduates this semester, she hopes to attend law school and continue her civic engagement.
“The Serve the Moment internship connected to my career goal of being able to help and serve others,” she says.
Matthews says that given the success of the program, Hillel at Geneseo will reapply for the grant for the Fall 2021 semester.