James Monroe winner majors in service to Williamsburg community

The Virginia Gazette
William and Mary student recognized for service

The tutors from William and Mary who work with local students who live in Lafayette Square Apartments are all volunteers.

But the parent of one of those children says it's the college students who care that make the difference.

"Hallie seemed to always really enjoy what she was doing," Latonya Borden said. "She was always happy to help, and wanted the kids to have fun and learn."

Hallie Westlund, a senior at The College of William and Mary is this year's recipient of the university's James Monroe award for her work in the tutoring/mentoring program, Lafayette Kids, that helps children in the Williamsburg apartment complex.

Borden said Westlund bonded with students over their math, science, reading and other homework. Westland worked with Borden's son, Javarie, 13, and helped him do better in school, she added.

"I think the kids learned a lot from her, and in return, she learned a lot from them," Borden said. "They broadened each other's horizons."

For her work with Lafayette Kids and multiple other service organizations in addressing poverty, educational and health disparities as well as human rights abuses, Westlund won the civic leadership award.

"Throughout the years, it's been really nice to watch the kids grow up and stay connected to them," Westlund said. "It's been really rewarding."

Westlund will receive the award at a Feb. 5 ceremony at William and Mary Hall as part of the university's Charter's Day celebration.

"Hallie has exemplified the dogged pursuit of learning about topics in her classes, building relationships with people who are facing issues related to the topic and partnering with them to achieve their goals," said Melody Porter, director of the Office of Community Engagement.

Westland has been a tutor and mentor with Lafayette Kids since she was a freshman, working with students attending Williamsburg-James City County Schools.

She said working with the community has helped her get to know the city better and some of the university's staff, who also live in Lafayette Square.

"Sometimes, I would be stressed about my schoolwork but as soon as I'd get to Lafayette, I would realize it was a nice way to escape and really focus my attention on something else and someone else," Westlund said.

A double major in government and human rights/social justice, Westlund has also worked with Williamsburg's Head Start, Matty's Garden at Matthew Whaley Elementary School as well as other community service programs. She also completed an independent study on educational access for girls in Morocco, comparing urban locations to rural areas.

Borden said she admires how much work Westlund has done in the community, and the positive impact she's had on her son's life. She also said Westlund was a great role model for the girls in the program who looked up to the university student.

"I want Hallie and the other students to know how much their work means to parents like me, and that we appreciate them for giving their time to our children and for caring about them," Borden said. "It really means a lot."

William and Mary news contributed to this report.

Reach Canty at (757) 345-2341.

Copyright © 2019, The Virginia Gazette
73°