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Sara Leopaldi Honored as Newman Civic Fellow

Sara Leopaldi has been named a Newman Fellow for the 20242025 cohort for her dedication to supporting the success of student parents at MWCC
Sara Leopaldi has been named a Newman Fellow for the 2024/2025 cohort for her dedication to supporting the success of student parents at MWCC

Athol resident Sara Leopaldi has been named as a Newman Civic Fellow by Campus Compact, a national coalition of colleges and universities working to advance the public purposes of higher education. Leopaldi is one of 142 students from 38 states, Washington, D.C., and Mexico to be named to the cohort.

The Newman Civic Fellowship is a yearlong program that recognizes students who stand out for their leadership potential and commitment to creating positive change in communities. The fellowship is named for the late Frank Newman, one of Campus Compact’s founders, who was a tireless advocate for civic engagement in higher education. In the spirit of Dr. Newman’s leadership, each fellow is nominated by their campus president or chancellor, who is invited to select one exemplary community-committed student from their campus each year.

Leopaldi was inspired by a family member who has Autism and is non-verbal to pursue a degree in Early Childhood Education for Exceptional Children at MWCC. A full-time student, Leopaldi serves as the Child Watch Lead in the college’s drop-in child watch managing volunteers and supporting other parenting students. She has presented regionally and nationally on her work and has also connected MWCC with community resources such as “Valuing Our Children” and has replicated some of their parenting workshops on campus.

“Sara has shown so much dedication to ensuring the success of parenting students,” notes Ann Reynolds, MWCC Academic Coordinator. “It is not an exaggeration to say that our new child watch service would not have been as successful without Sara’s commitment and leadership”

Through the fellowship, Campus Compact provides these students with learning and networking opportunities that help to nurture their development as civic leaders. Programming emphasizes personal, professional, and civic growth that can empower them to collaborate effectively across disciplines and create large-scale positive change.

The cornerstone of the fellowship is the Annual Convening of Newman Civic Fellows, which offers intensive in-person skill-building and networking over three days. The fellowship also provides fellows with pathways to apply for exclusive opportunities, including mini-grants to help fund community projects, scholarships, and post-graduate opportunities.

“Sara is a leader both on and off campus, always willing to share insights and wisdom to ensure all students and their children benefit from her experiences, and all while being a full-time parenting student herself,” stated MWCC President James Vander Hooven. “Sara is truly remarkable.”

“I loved early education while working with and teaching the children in my life. An individual with disabilities came into my life, and my teaching them became a true passion, and I knew then that I wanted to earn a degree not only for me, but to show the children I love that it could be done,” Leopaldi stated. “I enrolled at MWCC in the Early Childhood Education for Exceptional Children degree and began as a work-study in the new Child Watch for parenting students. It is here where my passion has grown to include working with not only the children, but the families that raise them. Working with my fellow parenting-students and their families makes me feel part of a community that values the change we are all becoming.”

“We are honored to recognize such an outstanding group of community-committed students,” said Campus Compact President Bobbie Laur. “One of the best parts of the Newman Civic Fellowships is the richness of students’ perspectives, experiences, and backgrounds—and how these varied stories all led to their passionate engagement with the social, political, and environmental issues impacting our world. These students will be the catalysts for change on many levels, and we are privileged to help empower them to create that change.”

The Newman Civic Fellowship is generously supported by The Allstate Foundation. Learn more at You can read more about each of the student leaders selected for this year’s cohort at