William & Mary Names Recipient of Prestigious Civic Leadership Prize

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Hallie Westlund is the 2016 recipient of the James Monroe Prize for Civic Engagement. (Courtesy College of William & Mary)
Hallie Westlund is the 2016 recipient of the James Monroe Prize for Civic Leadership. (Courtesy College of William & Mary)

A College of William & Mary senior is receiving one of the school’s top awards for service work at the 2016 Charter Day ceremony next week.

Hallie Westlund will receive the James Monroe Prize for her service work with the Lafayette Kids program.

The James Monroe Prize in Civic Leadership is presented annually to one student who has “demonstrated sustained leadership of an unusual quality, leadership combined with initiative, character and an unfailing commitment to leveraging the assets of the William & Mary community to address the needs of our society,” according to a recent news release from the college.

Westlund, a double major in government and human rights and social justice, began her work with Lafayette Kids – a William & Mary-based tutoring and mentoring program centered around the Lafayette Village neighborhood in Williamsburg – four years ago after being introduced to the program through a class she was taking on opportunity gaps in the American education system.

Through her work with the Lafayette Kids program, Westlund has formed relationships with dozens of kids at the elementary, middle and high school levels and had a unique opportunity to watch them grow and change over her four years with the program.

“Throughout the years, it’s been really nice to watch the kids grow up and stay connected to them,” she said. “It’s been really rewarding.”

In addition to her work with Lafayette Kids, Westlund has also volunteered with several other service organizations that address poverty and educational and health disparities, including Williamsburg Head Start, Matty’s Garden at Matthew Whaley Elementary, the Alpha Phi Omega service fraternity, Building Tomorrow, the Virtual Conversation Partner Program and Students for Belize Education.

Westlund has also worked as a program leader for the Office of Community Engagement, heading events including the Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service, SHOW Day, Spring into Action Day and the 7 Generations program.

In addition to her extensive involvement in service-oriented extracurricular activities, Westlund has also used her passion for addressing issues of economic and educational disparity to inform her academic work. She has had internships with the UNC Poverty Center, the Moroccan Association for Human Rights and the Study of the Tsunami Aftermath and Recovery Project.

“There has been a continual and mutual interaction of my educational experiences with my community experiences such that each drives and enhances the other,” Westlund said in her essay for consideration for the Monroe Prize. “I have grown from a student and volunteer to an active citizen and, importantly, these educational community experiences have guided and accelerated my leadership roles in mentoring other students so that they, too, can become engaged learners, empathetic partners and active citizens.”

Westlund will receive the award at the 2016 Charter Day ceremony in William & Mary Hall on Feb. 5.

“Hallie has exemplified the dogged pursuit of learning about a specific topic in her classes, building relationships with people who are facing issues related to that topic and partnering with them to achieve their goals, and applying those lessons back to her academic growth,” said Melody Porter, director of the Office of Community Engagement. “Those relationships have made this work a personal passion and commitment that will have lasting effects.”