2023 Kentucky Newman Civic Fellows

Student at Berea College
Pursuing majors in Peace & Social Justice Studies and Women, Gender, & Sexuality Studies
Class of 2025

Halle Gensler

Personal statement:

Building a community based on understanding and compassion has been the foundation of my work as an advocate and supervisor. Before Berea, I was taught the importance of team building through understanding personal hardships in Operation Snowball and AmeriCorps VISTA. Both organizations centered on supporting people with mental health struggles from minor to severe experiences. Regardless of the intensity of mental hardship, I realized the vitality to have open conversations to create a sustainable, caring community. The development of social movements since COVID-19 emphasizes that underserved populations navigate unjust, prejudiced processes in significant margins. However, I believe communities can overcome certain polarizations based on mutual understanding and affirmation. To engage in all areas of civic engagement, we need to create and maintain compassionate relationships in a community. As a student coordinator for the First-Year Bonner Scholars, I intentionally instill empathetic values and space for open dialogues, which is why I continue to choose leadership positions highlighting peer mentorship and capacity building. The process is gradual; however, rebuilding meaningful connections for future advocates is foundational for larger-scale change-making. I chose my majors to understand unjust institutionalization and create action to abolish systemic issues, to invoke the change we wish to see.”

Statement from Lyle Roelofs, President of Berea:

Halle Gensler, a Berea College sophomore double majoring in Peace and Social Justice Studies and Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, is an excellent representative of Berea’s model of “Learning, Labor, and Service.” Halle is a Bonner Scholar who is committed to advocacy and action, to mentoring individuals and building supportive organizations, and to speaking up for human rights and amplifying cultural expressions. She holds a work-study (labor) position that focuses on peer mentorship and empowerment of fellow students who are also engaged with community service and civic engagement. She focuses her co-curricular time on activities that amplify the arts, Appalachian cultures, and advocacy for human rights. Halle demonstrates commitment to building supportive professional relationships and positive work environments, with the goal of increasing individuals’ capacity for thriving while collaborating and serving. Her focus on human rights like health care, mental health resources, reproductive rights, and supportive work environments illustrates that through individual and community development, we can also enhance individuals’ and organizations’ capacities for implementing positive social change.”

Student at Bellarmine University
Pursuing majors in History and Political Science
Class of 2024

Phoenix Hanratty

Personal statement:

Growing up in and out of shelters and living off of government programs throughout my childhood, I learned early on the importance of government in Americans’ lives, and sought to educate myself and engage in politics and civics. During my college career, despite the unappealing backdrop of an increasingly polarized political environment, I participated happily in several political campaigns and served as the Chairman of my university’s College Republicans chapter. I fell in love with foreign policy and international issues, especially untaught and polarizing fields, and sought to create a community on campus dedicated to analyzing, appreciating, and teaching foreign policy by holding events and hosting speakers based around the subject. I am currently working with several similarly-interested friends and colleagues to organize a college-recognized group dedicated to a non-partisan education of foreign policy on campus. My love of foreign politics has also led me to spend a semester abroad in Poland, studying her language, history, and foreign relations at the University of Wroclaw.”

Statement from Susan Donovan, President of Bellarmine:

Phoenix Hanratty is a History and Political Science double major who is passionate about civic engagement and foreign policy. As a rising senior, Phoenix has actively participated in intentional political initiatives during his time at Bellarmine. He is the former chairman of the College Republicans of Bellarmine and an active member in Students for Life and Libertarian Club. Phoenix stays informed and engaged in politics by inviting speakers to campus, along with volunteering for local and state campaigns. Currently, Phoenix is studying abroad in Poland to expand his history and political science training to the international community. As the Newman Civic Fellow, Phoenix intends to build a new registered student organization that focuses on foreign affairs and aims to sponsor activities that supplement Bellarmine’s civic, political, and international curricula with student and outside expert-led teaching and simulation to build a community dedicated to non-polarized appreciation, analysis, and discourse on international relations. Phoenix will leave a legacy at Bellarmine that promotes the importance of civic education and involvement among youth in our nation.”

Student at Centre College
Pursuing a major in Environmental Studies
Class of 2024

Lucy Swenson

Personal statement:

As a student, I learn about environmental and international studies from global to local scales, and as an activist, I channel my passion for environmental sustainability into developing holistic solutions. Through my leadership in a campus environmental club, service on the Centre College Sustainability Committee, and work at CentreWorks, a Centre College nonprofit, I advocate for circular resource systems, empathetic problem-solving, and community social justice opportunities. I participate in a collaborative research and design project that examines access to fresh food by sourcing our research and solutions directly from the community. I’ve nurtured my passion for food security working at the Kentucky School for the Deaf and Centre College farm, where I developed an organic food safety plan, cultivated organic produce, and innovated equitable food distribution. At Josephine Sculpture Park, I engaged in conservation and accessibility work, environmental education through art, and local environmental justice. My experiences have shaped my conviction that human and natural systems thrive when they are diverse, empathetic, and reciprocal. I believe that acknowledging and cultivating community agency can change the world, and I am empowered to use empathetic communication, entrepreneurship, fresh food access, sustainable agriculture, and human-nature relationships to do just that.”

Statement from Milton Moreland, President at Centre:

Lucy Swenson, a junior Environmental Studies major at Centre College, is highly engaged in numerous campus organizations and programs. She serves on the leadership team for the Centre Environmental Association, as an intern with CentreWorks, as a member of the Centre College Sustainability Committee, and works with the Centre Office of Sustainability and the Environment. In the community she has helped to develop the new Kentucky School for the Deaf and Centre College farm. Additionally, Lucy served as the Conservation & Outreach Intern at the Josephine Sculpture Park in Frankfort where she engaged in environmental education.Throughout her work, Lucy focuses on trust, empathy, empowerment, support, and community identified needs. She balances multiple commitments with enthusiasm and her passion for environmental justice and building a sustainable future. Her actions and her ability to communicate inspires and empowers others. She displays outstanding character and leadership qualities, modeling true civic engagement. Lucy’s work on Centre’s campus and in the Danville community will have a deep and lasting impact.”

Student at Lindsey Wilson College
Pursuing a major in Nursing

Kayla Young

Personal statement:

My passion for being a mentor to middle and high school aged students began before I graduated high school myself. At the early age of 13, I began volunteering in the children’s ministry at my church. Teaching elementary kids about the love of Jesus fueled my servant’s heart and motivated me to volunteer beyond the church. Most recently, and where I feel like I have seen my passion grow the most, is with the E.D.G.E. mentoring program that started last year in my hometown school system. With E.D.G.E. I have been able to directly mentor students ages 5th to 12th grade. While with students we discuss progress in school and evaluate weekly goals and self-care practices. We focus on future plans, whether that be preparing for college or preparing to work right after high school. I have created many bonds with the students and have become someone they trust and can confide in. My goal is to make sure each student, no matter their background, knows that they’re capable of following and achieving any goals they have set for themselves and helping provide the means for them to get there in whatever ways I can!”

Statement from William Luckey, President of Lindsey Wilson:

Kayla Young is a committed and dedicated student at Lindsey Wilson College working in the local community to ensure that students have access to mentorship. She combines her knowledge in public health as a nursing student with her advocacy and engagement work in the Bonner Scholar Program to develop EDGE Mentoring. Over the past two years, Kayla has been working with leadership at Campbellsville Schools to establish the mentoring program with the goal that all children at Campbellsville Schools have access to mentorship regardless of their background. In her final year, she will formalize processes and leave a legacy for volunteers that come after her to continue impacting lives for generations to come.”