Emma Rothman ’21, a double major in citizenship and civic engagement in the Maxwell School and food studies in the Falk College, will be the Blackstone LaunchPad Engagement Scholar for the 2018-19 academic year.
Rothman has been passionate about community engagement since she was thirteen years old, and looks forward to inspiring other students across the Syracuse University campus to think about social enterprise and civic impact.
In 2013, Emma and her family established a 501(c)3 non-profit called Hearts for Emma, which benefits families of children with heart disease and supports educational initiatives relating to heart transplantation and organ tissue and corneal donation, particularly for her home community in New Jersey. The foundation will host its 6th annual fundraiser this November in Garwood, New Jersey, near her hometown of Cranford. The event will help enable Hearts for Emma to print and distribute educational materials and support select projects for the pediatric cardiac ICU at NewYork-Presbyterian/Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital. Hearts for Emma also funds an annual Scholarship to a Pediatric Cardiac Critical Care Nurse or Nurse Practitioner at NewYork-Presbyterian/Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital’s to support the continued education for the nurses and doctors who take care of children in the PCICU.
Working on these initiatives with the Hearts for Emma Board of Trustees, and becoming involved in community impact initiatives throughout high school, Rothman came to understand the value of building community, and giving back, especially raising awareness of the need for organ, tissue and blood donation through the New York Blood Services campaign #Blood4what and the New Jersey Sharing Network high school curriculum she designed that showcases organ, tissue and cornea donation in a relatable way that also complies with the Hero Act.
This education is critical to the NJ Sharing Network, a collaboration with educators, students, faith-based leaders, first responders and other community members help spread the life-saving message of organ and tissue donation. Nearly 4,000 New Jersey residents are currently awaiting transplantation. The network is also part of the national recovery system, which is in place for the 115,0000 people on the national waiting list.
Emma created, directed, and starred a video, called “You Have the Power to Save Lives,” that helped facilitate a positive conversation of organ donation for high schoolers that works to debunk common myths surrounding organ donation and transplantation as well as creating a comfortable space to talk about why it is so important to register as an organ donor. With Hearts for Emma, she designed the brochure, “You have the POWER to Save Lives,” outlining what it means to be connected to the organ, tissue, and cornea transplant community from the unique perspectives of volunteers, a donor family and a tissue transplant recipient. Since the video’s release in 2014, 110,481 students have been impacted from 333 school presentations spanning across New Jersey.
Emma and the Hearts for Emma Board of Trustees call their volunteer work “bedside giving” because of the individualized and personal support it provides each patient and family. #ItsYourRoom is a project that helps patients decorate their hospital rooms to make them warm and personal environments. Hearts for Emma Meal cards from local restaurants near NewYork-Presbyterian/Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital are distributed to families who need the support. Emma’s Closet provides donated toiletries and other personal care hygiene items to families that would like to use more comfortable and body friendly items rather than the customary products distributed by the hospital. All of these initiatives were designed with supportive community building in mind.
Through her volunteer efforts at her school, in her community, and in her home state of New Jersey, she realized she wanted to her pursue her passion for advocating important issues. That led her to the CCE program at Maxwell.
Her academic studies at Syracuse allowed her to also explore another keen interest — connecting her campus to fresh produce, and ensuring that there is an adequate food system in place for her community. Falk College offered the perfect opportunity to explore those goals, combined with a Maxwell public policy perspective. Food security — from the perspective of supply and access to diverse, balanced, healthy and nourishing food sources that support both individual active, healthy lives, as well as build community resilience and sustainability — became an important area of focus for her studies and volunteer work in Syracuse.
Rothman’s internship at Salt City Harvest Farm is helping her merge her academic studies and passion for food studies, with her interest in community education. Salt City Harvest Farm is a 32-acre farm, just outside the City of Syracuse, that “serves as a bridge for New Americans as they adjust to their new surroundings, language and culture.” New Americans can grow culturally appropriate food and maintain cultural heritage, while sharing cultural traditions and techniques, building a greater community. A coalition of academic and community partners help support the project.
The project embodies the sense of community building that is important to Rothman — whether it’s in her New Jersey backyard, neighborhoods or farms of New Americans in the Syracuse area, or across the Syracuse University campus as the LaunchPad Engagement Scholar. Rothman is also involved in OrangeSeeds, a program that seeks to empower first year and transfer students through service and leadership. She is a Recreation Service Ropes Corps Facilitator and Trip Leader, and a member of the SU Red Cross Chapter.
Rothman learned about the Engagement Scholar opportunity through Dr. Anne E. Mosher, chair of the Maxwell Citizenship and Civic Engagement (CCE) program. From there she connected with the Blackstone LaunchPad about the opportunity. The position was created as a part of the LaunchPad’s goal to increase social enterprise ventures across the campus.
As an Engagement Scholar, Rothman will assist Blackstone LaunchPad staff, mentors and “experts in residence” such as Syeisha Monquesse Byrd work with students who are interested in social impact. The goal is to encourage more students to think about creating community impact through civic entrepreneurship. She will also be working to mentor them through upcoming opportunities such as the Impact Prize, Hult Prize, and social impact categories of spring campus competitions such as the RvD iPrize.
“I am so excited to work with and be surrounded by so many entrepreneurs, innovators and civic-minded thinkers,” said Rothman.
On her first morning as an Engagement Scholar, she was already at work helping a first-time student entrepreneur think about how to develop a life skills coaching platform that might connect college students at SU as mentors for middle school students in developing countries around the world. As Rothman helped the student refine her thinking around the concept, it became clear that she is already helping build a community of innovators who share her vision of creating common good. And, that Rothman is making her own impact, in a very unique way, in every place she calls home.