Scholar Q & A: Adam Polaski '12

Amanda Riggio (a class of 2012 integrated marketing communications major and journalism minor from Deep River, Connecticut) spoke with Adam Polaski (a class of 2012 journalism major from Collegeville, Pennsylvania) about the impact the Park Scholar Award has had on Polaski's college experience.

Q: How has the program contributed to your successes in your time at IC?

A: The program is a constant support structure for me in my studies and personal growth. By having such fantastic access to a community of people who are driven, motivated, creative, and out-of-the-box thinkers, I'm able to learn so much and challenge myself to do my best. These personal interactions that I have with other Park Scholars on a daily basis - in my classes, during my group service projects, in other clubs and activities, and even in my own home (I live with three other Park Scholars) - encourage me to better examine my choices, foster positive relationships in the Ithaca community, and push myself to succeed.

Q: The Park Scholar Program is more than financial aid. How has the service you’ve engaged in affected the way you approach your studies, the Ithaca community, and the world around you?

A: Service work and other involvement opportunities must have two objectives in order to be fully positive experiences: They must fulfill a need for a community member, organization, or group of people, and they also must provide the service worker with chances to learn and develop. That's what I look for in the kind of service work I do. Last year, I served as the Education & Advocacy coordinator of Habitat for Humanity, through which I coordinated educational events about affordable housing and homelessness. These projects provided the Ithaca area with a positive, informative look into the plight of the local and national homeless community, but it also allowed me to learn more about event planning, promotion, and direction. Similarly, last year I was involved with the Big Brothers Big Sisters Program through the Ithaca Youth Bureau. I was paired with a fourth grader, and we spent time together every week. My conversations with him allowed him to express himself and gave him a role model to hang out with, but it showed me the power of one-to-one mentoring and demonstrated to me how fun (albeit challenging) kids can be.

Q: What service projects are you working on this year?

A: This year I'm developing the United Way Philanthropy Corps, a grants allocation organization that raises money and then allocates that money to local nonprofits through a rigorous application process. I've been involved with the organization nearly since its inception - the idea began in spring 2008, a brainchild of three Park Scholars, and I got involved in the fall of my freshman year when it launched. We're currently looking to expand the organization to function as a "Volunteer Hub" for local nonprofit organizations and community projects.

I'm also experiencing the other side of the education process for the first time. I'm helping to teach a Media Studies class at the New Roots Charter School downtown - each week a group of Park Scholars and I develop curricula about a variety of communications-related topics - for example: gender stereotyping in the media, racism in the media, social media for social change. Then we teach a class of tenth graders two days a week, sharing what we've learned at the college and through our extracurricular involvements.

I'm also working with you on "Two Minds!" For those who don't know, Two Minds is a classroom exchange program facilitated in conjunction with Peace Corps member stationed in rural South Africa. We teach lessons about South Africa to a fifth grade class at South Hill Elementary School here in Ithaca while the Peace Corps member teaches his fifth grade class about the United States. It's been a rewarding experience so far.

Q: You studied abroad in Argentina your sophomore year. Can you tell me about these travels?

A: Argentina was incredible. I studied in Buenos Aires, the capital of the country, but I got to learn so much about every part of the country. I traveled from the south of the country - Patagonia, where I walked on a glacier - to the north of the country, Salta & Iguazú, where I saw amazing salt flats and ridiculous waterfalls - and everything in between. Studying abroad was extraordinarily challenging, but it taught me about independence, about never having expectations, about the joys of empanadas, about the diversity of cultures that traveling introduces you to, and about the horrors of 24-hour bus rides. Oh, and I learned Spanish, which was awesome.

Q: Over the past summer you worked in Washington DC. How have you brought this experience back to the work that you’re doing at IC (with the Park Scholar Program)?

A: I worked for a blog this summer called The Bilerico Project, a group project that focuses on LGBT issues and features some of the top voices in the community. The internship taught me how to write massive amounts of writing and make it all count. It taught me the importance of fact-checking and investigating. And it taught me how a little blog can make a big difference. In my field, mastering all of those skills is very important.

Q: What has your involvement been with Buzzsaw magazine during your time at Ithaca College?

A: Buzzsaw, the college's premier alternative publication, has always been a favorite among Park Scholars. The magazine allows writers to explore topics that they are genuinely interested in, develop their own unique reporting style and voice, and go beyond the college with a creative journalism outlet. I love Buzzsaw and how much it has taught me about what makes a good story and what makes an important story. That's why, after three semesters of working as the editor of the Upfront section, I've switched over to the Blog Editor position, using what I learned this summer to expand our social media presence, incorporate stronger blog content, and networking with writers. Last year we published sparingly online, but this year, we publish multiple times a day. It's an exciting expansion that is setting up one component of the future of Buzzsaw.

Q: You’ve been in the Park Scholar Program for almost three and a half years now, looking back, what experience have you learned most from?

A: That's just too difficult! My time at Ithaca College has been incredible, and without the Park Scholar Program, my experience would have been totally different. I've met some of the most talented people, engaged in the most stimulating service work, been confronted by some of the most challenging decisions, and developed more of my interests than I ever thought would be possible.


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