Spending the past two summers working with the City of Novato’s Sustainability Department has taught biology major Scherina Chi ’22 important lessons in leadership, communication, strategy, and diplomacy. Along the way, she’s developed a passion for public service and a commitment to incorporate service into her career.
Scherina worked with the city through the innovative Reimagining Citizenship program, which allows students to receive a quality college education while engaging with the community through local government. Dominican provides each Reimagining Citizenship Scholar with up to $100,000 in scholarship funding, while the City of Novato contributes an additional $10,000 stipend per student over two summers.
For Scherina, the experience has been transformative.
“Reimagining Citizenship has really opened a new chapter in life for me,” she says. “It has sparked an interest in long-term community service, something that I would love to pursue as a doctor or medical professional.”
The Reimagining Citizenship scholars began working for the city the summer before their first year at Dominican. At first, the thought of starting a local government internship before starting college seemed overwhelming, but the experience helped Scherina develop strong relationships with her Novato supervisor and the cohort of five Reimagining Citizenship scholars – they call themselves “The Reimagining Five.”
“Knowing some students attending Dominican made the transition from high school to university much easier,” Scherina says.
Being placed in the Sustainability Department allowed Scherina to combine her interest in health and the environment while collaborating with city staff, local residents, and community organizations. A key project was working with the School Travel Working Group, which consists of residents, school officials, safety officers, and local grassroots organizations focused on developing safer, healthier, and more sustainable ways for students to travel to school.
“The program showed me that learning isn't limited to textbooks or the classroom,” she notes. “I learned that an important role of city government is to bring local organizations together, and that helping people build relationships with groups and organizations that are striving for the same purpose will create a much greater and possibly quicker impact.”
After attending many meetings to understand issues and concerns, Scherina drew on her graphic design skills to produce posters with tips from Safe Routes to School, Novato Unified School District, and the city, to highlight the environmental and health benefits of walking, biking, and carpooling to school.
“Dominican and the City of Novato have offered me an abundance of resources and connections,” Scherina says. “Knowledge from one community can be brought to others if you know the right people and if you are willing to reach out to those people.”
Scherina recently reached out to her Dominican network when working on Novato’s plans to develop a Utility Box Art Project. Art professor Lynn Sondag introduced Scherina to Catherine Layton ’09, a lead facilitator in the San Rafael Utility Box Art Project.
“For our pilot Utility Box Art Project, we definitely relied on advice and the structure of other similar projects happening in Marin. Both Catherine and Professor Sondag were huge resources,” says Scherina, who has since created a draft of project guidelines, an application, and a work plan for the project, which will have a sustainability theme.
Scherina’s contributions won praise from her Novato supervisor.
“Working with Scherina was definitely the highlight of the last two summers! Her insight, enthusiasm, and talent were a huge asset for the city, and her contribution to the Sustainability Program was invaluable,” says Gretchen Schubeck, City of Novato Sustainability Coordinator. “We feel very fortunate for the partnership with Dominican, and look forward to the next cohort of students.”
Scherina will continue her community engagement through the Community Action and Social Change minor (she’s also minoring in Chemistry). As a first-year student, she worked with Marin Community Clinics’ Health Hubs as part of her first class with the minor. In May, she reached out to Marin Health (formerly known as Marin General Hospital) to find out about service opportunities. Today, she already has more than 60 hours of community-engaged learning and hopes to continue serving the hospital through her senior year.
The confidence she has gained as a Reimagining Citizenship scholar was the boost she needed to reach out to Marin Health.
The Reimagining Citizenship program grew from conversations between Dominican’s President Mary B. Marcy and Novato’s former mayor Josh Fryday about educating students to address and solve social issues in their communities. California Governor Gavin Newsom recently named Fryday California’s new Chief Service Officer.
Reimagining Citizenship is open to high school students who are residents of Novato. Students attending any public, private, or home school program are eligible to apply. Students in any major can participate in the program. Reimagining Citizenship aligns with Dominican’s nationally recognized signature program, the Dominican Experience, which provides real-world opportunities for students to flourish in college and in careers while surrounded by a network of support, opportunity, and innovation.
Read news stories about the Reimagining Citizenship program: