New College Student Receives Two National Awards

New College of Florida student Abigail Oakes has won national recognition for her devotion to both the environment and her community.
She was one of 50 students nationwide to be awarded a Udall Scholarship for demonstrating a commitment to a career related to the environment. She also was named a national Newman Civic Fellow for service to the Sarasota-Manatee community.
Oakes, a third-year student in the Natural Sciences program, seems to spend as much time working off the New College campus as on it.
As she devoted her first two years to classes like calculus, biology, and organic chemistry, Oakes also founded a campus chapter of Circle K International, partnering with a local Kiwanis chapter. The club drew in 30 members, and coordinated on food and book drives, volunteered with Miracle League Baseball, Brush Up Sarasota and the Senior Friendship Center, and tutored at Robert L. Taylor Community Center. It was named the strongest new club by the Florida District of CKI.
Oakes also served as a director of SailFuture, a non-profit launched by New College students that uses sailing as the foundation of a mentoring program for at-risk youth.
In his nomination letter for the Newman Fellowship, New College President Donal O’Shea wrote, “She is the embodiment of a student leader who demonstrates strategies beyond direct service to seek long-term solutions to social issues, who inspires and engages others, and who demonstrates the motivation and potential for effective and long-term civic engagement.”
Meanwhile, Oakes also was developing her skills in science education.
In January 2013, she pursued an independent study project on science education with GWiz, the Sarasota science museum for children.
Then she spent her summer working for the National Science Foundation-funded National Ecological Observatory Network. She developed ways the group could customize its educational outreach programs to Latino and Hispanic groups.
“That’s when I got really passionate about education and about the environment,” she said.
It also likely impressed the Udall Foundation, which named her among the 50 winners drawn from 489 applications nationwide. She receives a $5,000 scholarship for her senior year, as well as training and networking through the Foundation’s programs.
The Udall Foundation was established by Congress in 1992 to honor Rep. Morris K. Udall, who represented Arizona for 30 years. Congress later amended its law to rename the foundation and also honor Stewart Udall, who served as secretary of the interior and worked with his brother Morris on many initiatives for the environment and for Native Americans.
The Newman Fellowship is a non-cash award that invites honorees to participate in a private online network designed to let them share information and cooperate in community service. It is awarded by Campus Compact, a national coalition of almost 1,200 college and university presidents committed to the civic purposes of higher education.
This summer, Oakes plans to combine her science studies and community service in research for her senior thesis project. Titled “Sailing for Science Education,” Oakes will work with ninth-graders from Sarasota’s Booker High School, teaching them how to sail and using the sailboat as a way to teach concepts in physics, algebra and biology.
Prof. Sandra Gilchrist, her advisor, said the project and the Udall award exemplify what’s special about Oakes. “Abigail is a very focused and dedicated student when it comes to science education,” Gilchrist said.  “She is great at organizing ideas and people.  She has a good understanding of what it takes to excite others about the environment.”
Oakes, a native of Odessa, Fla., comes from a family with both a history of community service and of enjoying Florida’s waters. She recalls annual visits to the Florida Keys, where as a child she would dive for lobsters – then return them to the sea floor.
But she never learned to sail until she came to New College, where she learned of the sailing team and the fleet of boats, free for students to use. In typical New College fashion, she created something special from that opportunity: “I learned to sail at NCF, and now it’s my thesis!”