Laryssa Durschlag, a junior majoring in Communications with a concentration in Media Productions, has served the William Paterson University and local community by participating in over 50 university coordinated civic engagement activities. As a founding member of WP’s Changebuilder program, created in cooperation with NJ Campus Compact, Laryssa organizes activities that encourage students to serve our campus and local community. Laryssa’s passion for civic engagement includes working to address issues of food insecurity on campus by volunteering weekly at the WP Pioneer Food Pantry. She has helped coordinate programs to assemble care packages for local shelters, school supply kits for Paterson schools, and toy drives for community centers. Laryssa has volunteered with organizations to raise awareness regarding breast cancer, food insecurity, voter registration and environmental issues. She is empathetic, hardworking, and fully engaged with those who she serves with, and those she serves. Civic Engagement is a core value at William Paterson University, and Laryssa embodies these ideals through her commitment and leadership in serving the campus and surrounding community, and by encouraging others to follow her lead.
I first became involved with civic engagement at a young age. My mom would take my sister and me to soup kitchens and rehabilitation centers to feed those who are in need. At William Paterson University, I met Maria Pagan, an AmeriCorps Civic Engagement Coordinator, who helped me become more involved with civic engagement. Becoming a founding member of the WP Changebuilders program helped me to meet Caesar Jure, a senior who is in the same program. Both of them motivate me and are my role models. I volunteer weekly at the WP Pioneer Food Pantry, which has helped me understand more about food insecurity, and how it affects people’s lives. By volunteering, I help students who use food stamps, are affected by natural disasters, and not able to buy food for the week. Some reasons food insecurity is happening occur for financial reasons, loss of a job, and inability to pay bills. I want to end food insecurity. More students need to know it is happening, and I want to educate them through guest speakers, lectures, and providing more information on the topic.