Two GW Students Earn Civic Fellowships for Commitment to Public Service

Recipients Bongani Ndebele and Lauren Patrick have been heavily involved in civic engagement projects through the Honey W. Nashman Center while at GW.
June 12, 2024

Bongani Ndebele and Lauren Patrick will, among other things, network with student leaders around the country as part of their year-long commitments for their respective fellowships. (Submitted photos)

Authored by: Nick Erickson

Two George Washington University students active in programming with the Honey W. Nashman Center for Civic Engagement for Public Service were recently named civic fellows for their leadership on campus and propensity to create change both at the university and in Washington, D.C.

Junior public health major Bongani Ndebele was named a Transform Mid-Atlantic Civic Fellow, while sophomore English and political science major Lauren Patrick was honored with a national Newman Civic Fellowship.

Both Ndebele and Patrick have been heavily involved in service opportunities, particularly tutoring youth, during their time at GW.

“I am delighted that Transform Mid-Atlantic and Campus Compact have recognized Bongani and Lauren for their excellent community and civic scholarship and engagement,” Assistant Vice Provost and Nashman Center Executive Director Amy Cohen said. “They exemplify the great work of so many of our student leaders and I am so glad they will have the opportunity to deepen and strengthen their leadership by learning alongside other national student leaders.”

Ndebele, who moved in high school to Gaithersburg, Md., from his native Zimbabwe, has been involved with the SMART DC program, where he has provided support to elementary school students to improve their reading and literacy skills, as well as being a part of the Math Matters program, where he works weekly with local middle school students on foundational math skills.

In addition, Ndebele participated in the Civic Changemakers program last summer, where he engaged middle school students in the D.C. Public Schools system by leading them through a curriculum about community change.

“Youth really are the future, and I think it’s important to start young to try and create change,” he said. “We occupy an opportunity to be not just tutors, but mentors, so I think the most important thing is building relationships so that they come out of that year of tutoring having enjoyed learning.”

The university recommended Ndebele for the Transform Mid-Atlantic Civic Fellowship. He will begin his appointment in August, and it will run through May 2025.

The fellowship, founded in 2008, provides students from across the region that includes D.C., Maryland and Delaware high impact opportunities to develop their leadership skills, as well as their understanding of civic and community engagement and sustainable development so that they may better serve as leaders in their communities and collectively create solutions to our region's most urgent problems.

Ndebele, who has also volunteered with Miriam’s Kitchen, will be asked to complete a civic project as part of his time in the fellowship program.

Patrick has been involved in service and community engagement since a young age as she accompanied her parents to volunteer at soup kitchens in her native Noblesville, Ind. That service lifestyle only intensified when she moved to Washington, D.C., at the start of her GW journey.

She immediately began volunteering at the Nashman Center, where she is a team leader at 826DC, a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting students ages 6-18 with their creative and expository writing skills, in addition to helping teachers inspire their students to write. The nonprofit is a community partner of SMART DC.

“Creative writing was such an important outlet for me growing up to build confidence around and to just build an identity from,” Patrick said. “It’s really amazing to kind of come back and teach kids in this way and to see how it helps them come into their own.”

Patrick has also worked with Becky’s Fund, a nonprofit working to end domestic violence through education and advocacy, Habitat for Humanity and has been involved with other days of service opportunities through the Nashman Center.

Also nominated by the university for this opportunity, Patrick’s Newman Civic Fellowship duration runs from September to May 2025. The fellowship is intended to recognize community-committed students who engage in collaborative action with others from campus to create long-term social change, take action addressing issues of inequality and political polarization and demonstrate the motivation and potential for effective long-term civic engagement.

Both Ndebele and Patrick are humbled to represent GW in their respective opportunities and look forward to connecting with other student leaders across the nation as they work together to create positive societal change through service.