Community Engaged Leadership
Madison House shaped the future of this Charlottesville leader
Madison House alumna, Dalai Lama Fellowship recipient, and current Program Director of the Charlottesville Food Justice Network at City Schoolyard Garden says Madison House made her feel part of a UVA group dedicated to “community engaged leadership”.
“I got involved with Madison House to connect with the Charlottesville community,” Shantell says. “It was that one time out of the week where I felt directly engaged with real people in the real world, outside of UVA.”
During her time at the House, Shantell served as the Program Director and Head Program Director for Bridging the Gap (BTG). Through this program, Shantell and other BTG volunteers befriended and mentored refugee children who were resettling in the Charlottesville-Albemarle area. Volunteers would spend time with children, ages 5 - 15, playing games, helping with homework, visiting museums, and more.
"I got involved with Madison House to connect with the Charlottesville community."
“Having the opportunity to mentor resettled refugee kids, meant learning about their successes, their hardships, friends and family,” Shantell says. “Building those relationships with youth (and later on their parents) was invaluable for me. I was being rewarded with life long relationships through my volunteering. It was a reward I didn’t see coming.”
Shantell says that there are “so many” memorable moments from her time as a volunteer, but she fondly remembers one field day where she and her team of Program Directors were planning their end of year gathering. The budget was tight, and her team felt nervous that they wouldn’t be giving a big enough send-off for their kids and volunteers. They had spent the year visiting Carter’s Mountain Orchard and hiking Humpback Rock, and their efforts felt small in comparison.
“We raided the Madison House closets for toys and games,” Shantell recalls. “But then, Paul (another BTG volunteer) brought out this giant parachute and everyone went crazy for it! In that moment it hit me that, it wasn’t the activities we did that made our time fun, it really was one another.”
"Volunteering through Madison House was a gateway for me to forge real relationships with Charlottesville youth."
Now working with an organization that encourages children to engage with nature and cultivate healthy living skills, Shantell credits her time with Madison House for helping to build her career.
“Volunteering through Madison House was a gateway for me to forge real relationships with Charlottesville youth,” Shantell says. “And these relationships are what enabled me to build a career in community development here in Charlottesville.”
Bridging the Gap at-a-glance
Image: 2018-2019 Head Program and Program Directors