Living up to the title: 2013 Difference Makers investing in the community

March 28, 2014

Jamilah Alhashidi knows a little school spirit can make a big difference.

That’s why she’s working with Burger School for Students with Autism to help recognize their student-athletes. She’s planning to organize an awards ceremony for basketball players and has recruited University of Michigan-Dearborn students to help coach and mentor students.

"Although my project may not change the world, I hope it makes a difference in the athletes' lives by encouraging them to continue playing sports to stay healthy and have fun," she said.

Now she’s getting a little help along the way in her mission to encourage a healthy lifestyle.

Alhashidi was one of six students and recent graduates to earn the Edward J. Bagale Difference Maker Scholarship. The scholarships, available to students previously selected as UM-Dearborn Difference Makers, support academics and student-led projects that impact the community.

This year, a pair of projects will tackle gardening and sustainability.

Tyson Gersh co-founded the Michigan Urban Farming Initiative (MUFI), an organization that engages the community in sustainable agriculture. Currently, he’s working to develop a property in the North End community of Detroit to house a community resource center, demonstration urban farm and community garden.

Mary Fastigi has a different kind of garden in mind. She plans to build a sensory butterfly garden near the Environmental Interpretive Center for students and the surrounding community.

Both Sherra Bennett and Suehaila Amen are working to help young people develop into leaders.

Bennett started the S.T.A.R.R. Movement—Standing Together Agreeing Representing Revolution, an organization dedicated to youth leadership development and local civic service engagement.  And Amen will partner with the Lebanese American Heritage Club to promote youth leadership through engagement in community issues.

On campus, Rob Vazquez organized TEDxUMDearborn. The daylong conference encouraged participants to translate their stories into an idea that could change the world.

The Edward J. Bagale Difference Maker Scholarship fund began with a gift from Alexander “Alan” Turfe, (’88, B.S.A.). The university awarded the first scholarships in 2012.

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