2021 Community Engagement Awards

Each year, Duke Civic Engagement recognizes one Duke student and one Duke employee for outstanding commitment to community engagement. In an especially challenging year, these individuals have worked collaboratively with local organizers and nonprofits to build capacity and to strive for a more equitable community. Both of their efforts have been grounded in a desire to be responsive to community concerns and have been defined by their thoughtful partnership with others. Duke Civic Engagement awards the 2021 Lars Lyon Volunteer Service Award to Hannah McKnight and the 2021 Duke Employee Community Service Award to Scott “Esko” Brummel.

2021 Lars Lyon Volunteer Service Award: Hannah McKnight

When Duke junior Hannah McKnight registered to vote at a table on East Campus, she overheard a conversation about voting access, a concern exacerbated by the multitude of challenges brought on by the pandemic. This conversation sparked a drive to ensure that all voices, particularly those without access to reliable transportation, would be heard for the 2020 election.

In response, Hannah collaborated with Bull City Votes, a local non-partisan coalition dedicated to helping neighbors safely cast their votes in 2020, to launch Durham Drives, an effort to provide transportation to the polls across Durham County. In the months leading up to the election, Hannah recruited, trained, and organized over 500 drivers to provide COVID-safe rides to 1,400 citizens, 40% of whom were first-time voters. To do so, she collaborated closely with existing community coalitions such as Bull City United, Durham for Organizing Action, and Bull City Votes. Throughout this process, Hannah and Durham Drives volunteers employed a deep canvassing strategy to listen to potential voters and engage them in the democratic process, and Hannah created a training video with Bull City Votes to provide examples of this technique in practice. Even with the election behind us, Hannah is continuing her partnership with local organizations to provide similar support for information-sharing and transportation for COVID testing and vaccinations, showing sustained dedication to community organizing.

In her nomination for the Lars Lyon Volunteer Service Award, Professor Gunther Peck notes that “Hannah is an extraordinary young organizer and leader—fearless, creative, willing to work extremely hard, and absolutely committed to justice in the world.” For this commitment to community engagement, Hannah will receive the 2021 Lars Lyon Volunteer Service Award, an annual award established in 1989 as a way to honor the life and values of Lars Lyon, a Duke undergraduate student known for his generous spirit who passed away at the age of 21 after a battle with cancer. The award grants a $14,000 partial scholarship towards Duke tuition for the 2021-22 academic year.

Learn more about Hannah’s organizing efforts here.

2021 Duke Employee Community Service Award: Scott “Esko” Brummel

The Root Causes Fresh Produce Program is a student-run food distribution program that seeks to address food insecurity in the Triangle by connecting food insecure patients from Duke Health and Lincoln Community Health Center with biweekly deliveries of healthy food. Their VP of Operations, Scott “Esko” Brummel, has worked tirelessly over the past year to streamline their operations and build a sustainable model of partnership. Though his “day job” is with Duke Science and Society, he volunteers his time, energy, and passion outside of work to contribute to Root Causes’ mission of healing the food system through education, advocacy, and volunteering.

Throughout the COVID pandemic, the Fresh Produce Program has delivered over 30,000 pounds of food to over 300 adult and pediatric patients and their households.Their service is an interdisciplinary partnership across various Duke undergraduate and graduate schools, UNC, and NC State University, as well as faculty, clinical health providers and community organizations.

Esko’s nominator, Clarice Hu (T’21), specifically speaks to his efforts to build sustainable partnerships, both within Duke and with community organizations. He has focused on the long-term reach of the program by working with Farmer Foodshare, End Hunger Durham, Caare, and the Black Farmer’s Market, as well as maximizing the program’s impact by working through Service-Learning courses and Bass Connections.

In honor of Esko’s community engagement efforts, Duke Civic Engagement is donating $200 to Farmer Foodshare, a Durham-based nonprofit with a mission of reshaping the disconnected food system by removing barriers to growing and accessing local food.