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The Alumni Leader Award  is given to 5 Verto alumni per semester who demonstrate global leadership in their studies and/or their extracurricular pursuits. Students who get this award receive $500 and an opportunity to engage mentors within the Verto network to help them pursue an academic or extracurricular project related to a global issue.

Sadiq Araye  – Sevilla, Spain Verto Semester Fall 2021

Through my semester with Verto in Sevilla, I was able to learn a new language and meet people in the city from various walks of life and places. Coming into Spain during the pandemic, COVID was always something I had to consider and plan for accordingly. Through my experiences traveling abroad, and going to many places with what I now consider to be my lifelong friends, I was able to grow as a leader and pursue my passions through Verto’s program. I am grateful for my experiences and understand that it wouldn’t be possible Without my vaccination and weekly testing. I now know that these health protocols are a luxury and I am blessed to have been vaccinated at such an early time. My family immigrated to the US from eastern Africa where vaccines are not as readily available and in turn this has caused the pandemic to rise. “Developing”  countries such as India, Pakistan and China are suffering from devastating air pollution and since COVID-19 is a virus that mainly attacks the respiratory system, the air pollution coupled with lack of resources has ruined the lungs and caused disaster and panic within so many of these countries. I want to utilize the money to start a nonprofit that will work to raise money to help send resources such as oxygen tanks and air purifiers to our brothers and sister worldwide. Due to our privilege growing up in the United States, we must stand strong against not only climate change and air pollution, but the clear discrimination in the process of handling medical resources geared to fight against the pandemic.

Kaileigh Lennon (Fall 2020 (Virtual), Spring 2021, Fall 2021)

Fast fashion and our growing concern for the planet has posed the question: Fashionable or sustainable? Forget the “or” and dare to say “and” with up cycling and ensuring the quality of your clothing donations so they can safely be enjoyed by a new owner limiting our textile waste! -Kaileigh Lennon sporting a thrifted cheetah print bodycon dress that just had a few seam rips to fix to be good as new.

Gracie Adsit (Fall 2019 Asia, Spring 2020 Australia)

“My project will focus on reducing food waste in restaurants  and event spaces by taking food that would have once been thrown away and providing it to homeless shelters.” 

Matthew Price (Fall, Costa Rica 2021)

 “My project aims to spread awareness for the floods which have 

devastated the Cusco Sacred Valley in Peru, and relay how it impacted the people who live there. It is my hope to shed light on this under-reported issue by experiencing and reporting its effects on the valley and its residents.”

Itasca Motter (Fall – Fiji 2019)

“I will be performing ecotoxicology experiments on the temperate coral Astrangia poculata involving different species of nitrogen at different concentrations in combination with elevated temperatures to determine the impact of increased nitrogen input into the ocean under the influence of climate change.

Now, let’s interview one of our Winners – Gracie:

Tell us a little bit about yourself. Where are you from, what are you currently up to?

Hi! My name is Gracie Adsit. I am from a small town, Richland Center, Wisconsin and I am currently a junior at the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee majoring in marketing with a minor in geography. When I am not working or studying you can catch me going on a hike, grabbing a coffee, or exploring new places! 

Take us back to your Verto experience. What was it like, and how has your Verto experience shaped you as a person? 

While traveling and studying abroad with Verto I was able to visit Asia and Australia for the first time ever! It was such an amazing experience, especially coming from such a small town growing up, I had never been exposed to a lot of new cultures or perspectives. Throughout my experience I was able to travel to places that were off the beaten path, meet people from all over the world, and learn from professors and support staff with years of travel and life experience. My Verto experience truly taught me about what it means to be a world traveler and a well rounded learner. It taught me to never accept settling for anything less than what I desire out of life and to always search for new perspectives. Through my Verto experiences I was able to learn about my passions, especially for sustainability and the outdoors, and how I can create a career around them. Verto has allowed me to grow so much as a person and I am forever grateful for my experiences with them abroad. 

Congratulations on winning the Verto Alumni Leader Award! What inspired you to choose the topic of your project? 

My inspiration behind my topic came from seeing so much food and resources be wasted each day when I worked at a restaurant and large events arena. At the time I was working in a community relations department for the Milwaukee Bucks and we would work with many nonprofits and food pantries and I learned about how big of a food shortage our city and country has. Learning about this wasn’t necessarily new news to me, but now I saw how it was impacting people right in front of me. This made me think about all the food that I had previously seen wasted and wanted to do something about it. The topic of my project is how to get restaurants and/or local farmers connected with food pantries and soup kitchens to redistribute food that originally would have ended up in a landfill. 

How do you hope that your project will impact others? 

I hope this project will inspire others to do this in their own communities and become more conscious consumers when it comes to buying and eating food. 

What are you most looking forward to with your project? 

I’m most looking forward to making an impact in my community and working with a mentor on this project who I will be able to learn from. I’m excited to learn more about food waste and sustainability as well. 

Anything else you’d like to share with our Community? 

Utilize the resources provided to you to chase after and discover your passion projects! Verto provides some great resources for students as well as many other institutes so there are plenty of ways to pursue what makes you happy and what you are interested in!