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UW-Eau Claire Alumnus Wins Governor's Service Award for Variety of Efforts to Strengthen Community

RELEASED: April 6, 2007

Jeremy Gragert
Jeremy Gragert

EAU CLAIRE — A University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire alumnus received one of the 2007 Governor's Service Awards, an honor that recognizes organizations and individuals that help solve social problems and meet their community's needs.

Jeremy Gragert, Eau Claire, received the Exemplary Community Service Participant Award in Madison on Feb. 22. Gragert graduated from UW-Eau Claire in fall 2005 with a degree in history and is currently serving as a Wisconsin Campus Compact K-16 AmeriCorps*VISTA member. The UW-Eau Claire Center for Service-Learning serves as his host site. Gragert has already fulfilled a year of service and is on an extension, expecting to do another year starting in August. As a VISTA member, Gragert has worked to connect students and classroom curriculum with service-learning opportunities and civic engagement activities that address poverty issues among children in the Eau Claire area.

One of Gragert's focuses has been working with local government, communities and non-profit organizations on transportation justice issues to provide transportation that is affordable, accessible and safe for people of any income, age or ability. Gragert worked to provide more transportation options to low-income children by securing donations of more than 60 used bicycles and then recruiting volunteers to repair and deliver them; working to strengthen the city's outstanding Safe Routes to School program; and helping non-profits take advantage of public transit for after school programs.

"Jeremy is very skilled at assessing community needs, identifying community resources and strengths and facilitating the implementation of community change efforts," said Donald Mowry, director of the Center for Service-Learning at UW-Eau Claire.

Gragert is quick to involve others in his goal to strengthen and improve the Eau Claire community and has recruited over 50 volunteers who have contributed over 200 hours of service, many of them UW-Eau Claire students, faculty and staff. He has recruited college students to support a UW-Extension program that developed food, nutrition and gardening programs for children in low income neighborhoods.

Literacy initiatives have also been a focus for Gragert as he worked to bring The Big Read to Eau Claire, a community-wide reading program made possible by a major National Endowment for the Arts grant that he co-wrote. Other projects that Gragert works on with UW-Eau Claire students include developing live programming for WHYS Community Radio's Hmong Hour and starting dorm food drives at the end of each school year.

"I hope to make a difference in the lives of young people and families in need and in students who seek opportunities to do service-learning in the community," Gragert said.

Gragert plans to continue working to make positive change in the Eau Claire community, and he would like to see Eau Claire make major steps to tackle global warming and energy issues by investing in conservation and weaning citizens from the use of cars for most urban transportation purposes.

Gragert said that through his work he has seen that the most significant barrier keeping people in poverty is societal dependence upon the automobile for transportation, where in order to function one must first be able to afford a car just to get to a good job, care for children and be taken seriously.

"We must work to build a more livable and just community, where improved access to bicycling, walking and public transportation can create a level playing field and stop destructive urban sprawl that only serves to isolate people," said Gragert.

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RK/NW

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