UNC Asheville student honored for leadership and community engagement

Press release from UNCA:

UNC Asheville student Mars Zappia has been selected for outstanding leadership and service by North Carolina Campus Engagement, a statewide network of colleges and universities committed to preparing students for civic and social responsibility. Zappia is a recipient of the network’s Community Impact Student Award, which honors one student leader at each member school and recognizes students with a deep commitment to community involvement and the ability to inspire peers.

A sophomore majoring in biology and chemistry, Zappia has served in multiple campus leadership positions, engaging in projects that have a lasting impact on both the student body and community. Their work within the Student Environmental Center (SEC) has been especially impactful, as they have helped provide the community with access to sustainably sourced products and educate folks about composting and recycling.

As an SEC employee, Zappia  manages the ROOTS garden, UNC Asheville’s largest community garden, where they grow food to be donated to local community organizations and hold workdays to provide gardening experience to our student body. They work with the Food Equity Initiative to ensure that more food that is grown on campus is being donated to food security organizations. Zappia also facilitates educational experiences in campus gardens that enable individuals to learn about sustainable practices they can adopt in their everyday lives.

In the Office of Sustainability, Zappia works to engage campus departments to contribute to projects that minimize UNC Asheville’s carbon footprint. They are also involved in a collaboration between the Office of Sustainability and the Engineering Department to install solar panels on campus buildings and promote knowledge surrounding solar energy and microgrids.

“Mars serves as the climate analyst for the Office of Sustainability,” said Interim Director of Sustainability Alison Ormsby. “This means they help with implementing the Carbon Commitment at UNC Asheville, our pledge to reach carbon neutrality by 2050. Mars has helped me with the annual campus greenhouse gas inventory, and with developing our Climate Action Plan,” Ormsby says. “They have also helped with additional tasks since the Office of Sustainability has been under-staffed. Mars has approached each initiative with professionalism and great attention to detail.”

Zappia’s work expands to the greater Asheville community as well. They have served as an intern for the WNC LGBTQIA+ Archive, helping to digitize oral history and physical artifact archives and are assisting efforts to organize a Planned Parenthood Generation Action chapter at UNC Asheville, with the goal  of providing resources to aid the accessibility of reproductive healthcare in the community. They are also involved in a Community Engaged Scholar project that is documenting the history of abortion access in Western North Carolina in conjunction with Planned Parenthood of Asheville.

“Zappia approaches their work with the philosophy that deeply important community work is not done alone, and a rewarding aspect of strengthening a community’s network is reaching out to other organizations or community partners whose values and commitments to equity and inclusion align closely with the work being done,” added Executive Director of NC Campus Engagement Leslie Garvin.

Kate Johnson, director of the Key Center for Community Engaged Learning, stated that “Mars believes an essential aspect of garnering peer involvement is fostering a supportive community. Creating a space where everyone feels welcomed, heard, and appreciated allows for an uplifting environment to collaborate within, and allows for individuals to work together under one common passion.”

North Carolina Campus Engagement is a collaborative network of colleges and universities committed to educating students for civic and social responsibility, partner with communities for positive change, and strengthen democracy. Learn more at www.ncccampusengagement.org

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