Fresno State graduate student Hannah Ellsworth was selected to receive the 2022 John D. Welty Award for Excellence in Community Service. The award, which includes a $2,500 scholarship, is given each year to a student who exemplifies the commitment to service that Welty championed during his 22 years as president of Fresno State.
“I feel incredibly humbled and honored to be given this award for my community service, especially because my wonderful experiences serving with the Mediator Mentors Program, the Community Cares Project and the Relief Society have been deeply rewarding in and of themselves,” Ellsworth said.
Ellsworth was a thriving varsity athlete while she was in high school until a devastating accident left her almost completely debilitated. She was diagnosed with fibromyalgia, and the condition forced her to leave college at Brigham Young University and move to the Central Valley to be closer to a doctor who specializes in treating the disorder. Through her many challenges, Ellsworth found great meaning in serving the community. She learned how to manage her condition in a way that has allowed her to connect with others and, in doing so, she has provided more than 1,000 hours of service to those in need.
Ellsworth began her journey as a Fresno State student in 2019. Shortly after, she was asked to serve as a leader for the young adult Relief Society women’s group of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Visalia. During that time, Ellsworth assisted with welfare distribution efforts, and she planned and executed service projects in conjunction with groups such as the Bethlehem Center, Habitat for Humanity and the Tulare County Parks Services.
Early on in her studies at Fresno State, Ellsworth enrolled in a peace and conflict studies course in which she participated in the Mediator Mentors program. As part of the program, she helped elementary school children learn about mediating conflict.
Over the course of her undergraduate studies, Ellsworth continued her involvement with the Mediator Mentors program. During the pandemic, she helped the program navigate virtual platforms. When schools reopened and the social-emotional results of the closures became apparent, Ellsworth was asked to provide in-person training sessions on communication, active listening and mentoring at a local elementary school.
She created training materials that addressed the social-emotional needs of local school children and contributed to the program’s efforts to build a more peaceful community. The training materials Ellsworth created were later shared with other trainers to use.
Additionally, she revised and updated the Fresno State mediation training manual and created multiple activities that provided interactive opportunities for public school students to build relationships and develop social-emotional learning skills.
Ellsworth drew upon her experience in the program when she was asked to design a presentation for Mediator Mentor trainings. As a result of her presentation, she received and accepted an invitation to serve as a board member.
Ellsworth also got involved as a community organizer with Faith in the Valley’s Community Cares Project. Her service involved compiling a directory of local resources including information on homeless shelters, welfare organizations, food distribution and other forms of community aid. She then trained Fresno State students to conduct deep canvassing phone interviews with community members to discuss the resources available.
Ellsworth contributed to documents the Community Cares Project gave to the Fresno City Council and co-authored an op-ed piece about housing justice in the Fresno community that was published in The Fresno Bee.
Most recently, Ellsworth has led multiple training sessions for the leadership class at Coarsegold Elementary School and designed a student field guide for mediating playground conflicts.
She is currently working on a new outreach initiative with Fresno Unified School District. As part of the initiative, she is compiling a book of insight narratives from inmates at Avenal State Prison that will be shared with Fresno High School students who are learning about the importance of mentoring and conflict management.
Ellsworth, along with other service award honorees, will be recognized at the annual Spirit of Service Awards hosted by Fresno State President Dr. Saúl Jiménez-Sandoval, at 8:30 a.m. Wednesday, May 3 at The Ruiz ballroom in the Lynda and Stewart Resnick Student Union.
(Written by Renee Delport, Jan and Bud Richter Center for Community Engagement and Service-Learning.)