It’s All About Giving Back

By GGTW Co-founder and contributing editor Tricia Yacovone-Biagi

Go Get The World’s mission is to help others achieve their dreams, whether through our weekly blog posts of encouragement and inspiration, or more concrete activities like financially supporting students and community members so they can Go Get The World they choose. In my case, I was able to achieve two goals in the past year by finding the interface between my own dreams and our organization’s mission.

Back when I was in college, I became interested in sustainable development, specifically regarding health care availability. I designed my own major in Development Studies, basing it on the only two programs that existed in the country at the time. After graduation, I began a career in public health, hoping to eventually pursue my goal of working on or supporting a development project somewhere in the world. But as life happened, I never ended up being able to work on a project. Instead, I held onto the idea that if I was ever in a position to help someone else create and execute a development project, I would.

About a year ago, when Amanda Epp and I were creating the vision for GGTW, I mentioned that I wanted to achieve a couple long-term dreams of my own: to help support a community development effort and to provide scholarship opportunities to outstanding students. Amanda, as always, encouraged me to make it happen, so I started to figure out how by surfing my alma mater‘s website. I discovered that my school, the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, now offers an academic major called Sustainable Community Development, so I contacted them with an idea. A few months later, after meeting with some faculty members and chatting with some students, the Go Get The Sustainable World scholarships became a reality!

Notes on a whiteboard
The May 2018 whiteboard session with UMass faculty that resulted in the creation of the Go Get The Sustainable World awards.

UMass Sustainable Community Development (or “SustComm”) students or student groups compete for the two awards. The applicants are required to submit a proposal in their junior year for a sustainable development project they will undertake in their senior year. Based on the two winning entries, I can see that the SustComm program truly emphasizes the “community” in community development, and doesn’t just pay lip service to it in the name. I am very proud to support these projects that will impact their communities well into the future.

I was able to meet and spend some time with the two winners earlier this month at an awards reception at UMass. Find out more about their amazing projects below!

Award winners with faculty member and Tricia Yacovone-Biagi.
Here I am (on the far right) at the UMass College of Social and Behavioral Sciences awards reception, with (from left) faculty member Mark Hamin, PhD, and award winners Stacy Weston and Jessica Daury. Jessica is showing off her “Go Get The Sustainable World” T-shirt.

First place winner Jessica Daury: Improving Social Experiences in Community Housing

Hearing first-hand stories from my family about experiences growing up in the “projects” has caused me to recognize the negative connotation that comes with living in public housing and the long-term effects that can have on residents. While the design of many housing developments restricts the community’s ability to strengthen social ties, co-housing communities encourage communal space, establish recreational and creative group activities, and give residents autonomy over their living situations. All of these characteristics can strengthen community networks and foster personal growth. This fall, I will research public housing and co-housing communities, specifically in urban areas, and I will analyze previous attempts to retrofit established neighborhoods into co-housing style communities without a full infrastructure change. This compiled research from both academic study and personal visits will prepare me to work with my own community’s housing authority this upcoming spring. I plan to work with the residents to determine which principles of co-housing, such as implementing communal meals or youth groups, could be implemented to improve their living experiences. 

Jessica Daury, ’20 UMass Sustainable Community Development
UMass students who won the GGTW scholarships for sustainable community development.
Inaugural Go Get The Sustainable World award winners Stacy Weston (L) and Jessica Daury (R).

Second place winner Stacy Weston: Improving Policy to Increase Rental Property Energy Efficiency

I am conducting research to determine more affordable ways for local rental property owners to perform home energy efficiency renovations in order to reduce student cost of living. I am studying models of home energy efficiency disclosure policy, and investigating possible routes of combining policy with existing programs that provide funding for home energy efficiency improvements. I intend to gather data from student tenants, investigate the costs and financial benefits of common energy-efficiency renovations, and review the effects of existing policies on the housing market. I will then synthesize the information into a report that demonstrates the need to improve existing home energy efficiency incentives and programs so that they are more affordable for landlords, and the costs are not passed onto tenants in the form of rent increases. Once published, I will distribute my research to interested stakeholders and begin a process of advocating policy among local governments.

Stacy Weston, ’20 UMass Sustainable Community Development

I firmly believe that it’s never too late to Go Get The World. I had to wait decades before achieving my dream of supporting a development project in some way. Always keeping my desire in mind and exploring opportunities that appeared before me allowed me to make my dream a reality eventually. And you can do the same if you always remember to Go Get The World!

If you are interested in supporting any of the GGTW scholarships or other philanthropic activities, please contact us! We are a 501(c)3 non-profit, and would love to hear your ideas about how you can help.

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