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Roanoke Refugee Resettlement Project Wins Governor’s Award

Students Katherine Lodge and Brittany Gianetti, and AmeriCorps Vista project manager Will Evans accept the Outstanding Service-Learning Collaboration Award.

by Whitney Johnson

The Roanoke-based Virginia Tech Pilot Street Project Coalition for Refugee Resettlement,  which helps resettled refugees transition into their new home,  recently received the 2011 Governor’s Volunteerism and Community Service Award.

Through the project, Virginia Tech students volunteer in English classes, tutor students, and serve as mentors to individuals and families.

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell presented the award to project manager Will Evans, and the two student leaders of the Coalition for Refugee Resettlement program, Katherine Lodge of Centreville, Va., a junior majoring in political science with an African studies minor and Brittany Gianetti of Oneida, N.Y., a junior majoring in biochemistry and biology.

The Coalition for Refugee Resettlement is the student arm of the Pilot Street Project.

The Governor’s award recognizes organizations that mobilize volunteers and cultivate civic engagement and social responsibility.

This is the second time this year that the Pilot Street Project has received recognition for its efforts. The 2011 Gulf South Summit on Service Learning and Civic Engagement through Higher Education presented the project with the Outstanding Service-Learning Collaboration Award during the first week of March in Roanoke. The award is for providing a service-learning opportunity through community partnerships while meeting the needs of the community served.

The Pilot Street Project is a partnership among Virginia Tech’s Center for Student Engagement and Community Partnerships, Catholic Charities’ Office of Refugee and Immigration Services, and the Roanoke Redevelopment and Housing Authority. It began in 2006 and, in the last year, provided more than 864 hours of instructional English classes to adults, in addition to other types of programming for all ages. The population served includes men, women, and children from Somalia, Burundi, Ethiopia, Liberia, Eritrea, and Sudan.

Recently, the project joined forces with a new initiative, the Star City Soccer Foundation, to provide tutoring to immigrant and refugee youth at William Fleming High School. The Project also supported the tuition of seven Somali Bantu adults to attend the Grower’s Academy at the Roanoke Higher Education Center.

Approximately 200 individuals are served annually through the Pilot Street Project / Coalition for Refugee Resettlement.  More than 135 Virginia Tech students volunteer with the project each year through service-learning classes.

The Pilot Street Project is working to expand programming by raising $4,000 through an Open Challenge on Global Giving. Global Giving provides an avenue for people to donate money to help fund community service projects around the world. The money that is raised for the Pilot Street Project would fund a new program to provide one-on-one tutoring for teenage refugees to help them do better in school.

Additionally, the Pilot Street Project is competing for a True Hero award, which invites people to vote on community service projects. The projects with the most votes are eligible to receive from $1,000 to $5,000. Last year the Pilot Street Project placed third.


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