English and Secondary Education Major Receives Newman Fellowship

June 6, 2017

By Jasmine Blais '17

Luke Testa '19, an English and secondary education double major from Derry, N.H., was chosen to receive both Saint Anselm College's Presidential Leadership Award and Campus Compact's Newman Civic Fellowship for his leadership and dedication to serve the community at-large.

Offered by Campus Compact, a national coalition of over 1,000 colleges and universities dedicated to the public purposes of higher education, the Newman Civic Fellowship honors students nationwide who have demonstrated their commitment to social change and worked to find solutions to face challenges in their communities. Testa was nominated for the fellowship by Saint Anselm College President Steven R. DiSalvo, Ph.D., who saw that Testa's actions mirror the beliefs and deeds of Dr. Frank Newman, founder of Campus Compact. Newman was a strong advocate for fostering student civic learning, participation in service, and community engagement.

Before arriving on the Hilltop, Testa sought to address his community's lack of equal access to athletic opportunities by co-founding Project PLAY in 2013. The non-profit organization provides athletic equipment to sports groups, clubs with athletic activities, and directly to families. Project PLAY has distributed over 6,000 pieces of athletic equipment to programs in the greater Manchester area including the YMCA, the Boys and Girls Club, Kids Café, and ROCA Kids Club.

"Since high school I have been passionate about addressing issues of inequality facing disadvantaged youth," says Testa.

Through the Meelia Center for Community Engagement at the college, Testa began to serve at the Sununu Youth Services Center (SYSC), a residential facility for court-ordered juveniles. There, he was exposed to and developed an understanding of the systemic issues impacting disadvantaged youth such as poverty, addiction, and unequal access to resources.

He soon went from a volunteer to a site coordinator at SYSC. In this leadership role, Testa explains, he "was able to facilitate youth empowerment programs as well as develop the infrastructure for larger, sustainable mentoring and educational initiatives."

"[Testa's] leadership has helped to strengthen a career coaching program and democracy-in-action initiative for the residents, and with faculty support he created a new poetry group in the girls' unit," says Dr. DiSalvo. "He is helping to addresses a significant and long-term need for adjudicated youth through a collaboration between the Meelia Center and staff at the youth services center, which will support a new mentoring program that begins on-site and then supports residents upon release to the community."

Testa is also involved in other programs at Saint Anselm, including Service & Solidarity Missions trips through the Office of Campus Ministry (where he volunteered for Habitat for Humanity in Abingdon, Va.), and the Office of Residential Life and Education as a resident assistant.

"I see these awards as an opportunity to further develop the work that I am doing at SYSC and with Project PLAY," says Testa. "Although it is an honor to receive them, I know that I still have a lot of learning to do. I hope that they will open doors for me to continue learning and to accelerate the work that I am currently dedicated to."