Russell Sage College students Ryan Jennings ’21 and Irelynn Sheehan ’21 are spending summer break as pandemic resilience associates at the Radix Ecological Sustainability Center, an environmental education center in Albany’s South End. They are part of the AmeriCorps VISTA summer program, which places civic-minded individuals in summer positions that address community needs.

The coronavirus pandemic has amplified existing food security issues in low-income neighborhoods. Jennings and Sheehan are involved with projects that will increase South End residents’ access to healthy food and contribute to community resilience — now and for the future.

Ryan JenningsJennings, a Psychology major and Criminal Justice minor, is working with the Radix Center’s community gardening program, which allows area residents to raise food for themselves and for food pantries.

“I was attracted to the opportunity of giving back to the community that I’ve attended college in for the past three years,” he said, adding that gathering eggs and caring for chicken, ducks, geese and a turkey is an unexpected highlight. “I learned chickens have a hierarchy, and there is, in fact, an alpha. I like studying human and animal psychology.”

Irelynn SheehanSheehan, a Psychology major and Sociology minor, is working with the Radix Center and the Trinity Alliance Food Pantry. Part of her time is spent facilitating her agencies’ involvement with the statewide Nourish New York initiative, an effort to increase the amount of New York state-produced items available at food pantries. She is also working on a project to increase the healthfulness of items available at the food pantry, and she’ll participate at some food distribution events. She said that the research methods she’s learned at Russell Sage College have been extremely helpful, especially in her work with Nourish New York.

Both students expressed appreciation to the Russell Sage College Psychology Department for making them aware of the AmeriCorps opportunity and agree that the experience is preparing them for community-oriented careers — Jennings in law enforcement and Sheehan as a school guidance counselor.

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