Celena Zacchai has demonstrated resilience, commitment, and leadership in her time at the University of Maine at Augusta. A senior in the Social Science program, Ms. Zacchai has dedicated herself to improving her community. She served as a tutor with VAWLT, the UMA Writing Lab. She conducted research on housing affordability, a strong area of interest for her, as the 2020 UMA Maine Policy Scholar. She was chosen to be the student speaker at the 2020 Convocation ceremony, where Ms. Zacchai spoke to the polarization affecting our country. Soon thereafter, she took action by co-organizing a discussion series on campus focused on civil discourse and the partisan divide. Ms. Zacchai is an exemplary student and community member. We are proud to have her represent UMA as a Newman Civic Fellow.
Although I didn’t have the words for it when I was growing up, I saw the effects of socioeconomic inequality all around me. I knew it was no coincidence that the public housing complex shared a fence line with an oil refinery, the dangerous neighborhoods were the ones with dilapidated buildings, and the best schools were surrounded by big, beautiful homes with well-kept yards. I chose to pursue a degree in the Social Sciences because I want to help make a difference. Since beginning my studies, I have become increasingly interested in environmental racism, the impact of physical space on health and well-being, and affordable housing issues. Last year, I had the honor of representing the University of Maine at Augusta as a Maine Policy Scholar—a program that challenged me to confront my fears of public speaking and taught me a lot about policy research and the legislative process. My experience as a Policy Scholar gave me a window into the ways everyday citizens can impact policy. I look forward to the opportunity to continue to develop the leadership skills I will need to be an effective agent for change as a Newman Civic Fellow.