Birhanu van der Riet

Palm Beach Atlantic University

Birhanu van der Riet is a unique student that is eager to serve in the West Palm Beach community. Arriving to Palm Beach Atlantic University’s (PBA) campus during the Fall 2019 semester, he was quick to volunteer with the Rosemary Village after-school program. This program works with an underserved low income community two miles from our main campus, focusing on art, music, and technology. Birhanu became a regular presence in the after school program.

As a part of the “Great Initiatives: Music, Mindfulness and Stem” grant from the Children’s Services Council, he is currently working with the program’s director, Joi Cardwell, to help the participating students to practice mindfulness and explore forms of expression through art, music, and technology. An outcome for the program, is that the students will write, produce, and publish an album. Birhanu’s leadership in recruiting his peers has been vital to this project.

Working in the community and mentoring young people is often a slow process that requires persistence and patience. Birhanu’s love for the Rosemary community and contagious personality has made him a role model for service, which is why I have nominated him to be a 2020 Newman Civic Fellow.

William Fleming
Palm Beach Atlantic University

Personal Statement

I grew up in a farming community in Ethiopia, being taught the importance of serving others. Unfortunately, famished weather conditions impacted our farming way of life. This forced my parents to seek help for my siblings and me, from the wider community. When I was 14, my siblings and I were adopted by an American family. While some may view adoption as a sacrifice, I viewed it as a form of service for my family. This loving act, by my American parents, has provided me the opportunity to become a first-generation college student by attending Palm Beach Atlantic University. In addition to my studies, I have chosen to serve with the Rosemary Village after-school program. While serving, I have made it a priority to invite others to join me in my efforts. It takes a village to raise the next generation, just like the village that raised me. If I have the ability to inspire at least one person to serve, then they can inspire others to serve too. I believe that when this PBA village rallies together to serve the Rosemary Village community, the next generation will be inspired to seek out new possibilities for their lives.

Birhanu van der Riet
Intercultural Studies: Class of 2021
written 2020

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