2018 Staff Person of the Year

The recipient of the Staff Person of the Year award is chosen based on their cultivation of active citizenship and mentorship of student leadership through alternative break programs on campus.

Chris Ciarcia at the College of Charleston

Staff Person: Christopher J. Ciarcia | Associate Director, Center for Civic Engagement

Nominator: Katie Joiner | Program Coordinator

“Chris’ dedication, compassion, and wholehearted belief in developing a critically engaged student population is evident to everyone he works with. He impacts students through his organizing of alternative breaks, recurring service, and specialized service learning support, all of which push students to think about service through a critical lens. Chris goes above and beyond to ensure that the college and the community have a reciprocal relationship, where both student learning and community needs are maximized." - Liza Wood, First-Year Experience Assistant Director

Built a program structure that prioritizes student leadership and growth

"Through his conversations, presentations, and meticulous planning, the diligence and passion demonstrated by Chris definitely motivated my commitment to the trip I was planning… Chris not only encouraged us to think about what type of experience we wanted our participants to have - he helped us to put it into action." - Cora Webb, 2017- 2018 Site Leader

  • Committed to developing students where they’re at, Chris worked to match individual strengths to programmatic opportunities; ready to help student leaders find and develop skills and stepping in to fill gaps when they needed support.
  • Discussing everything from strategic planning for the program to students’ personal and professional goals, Chris met weekly with College of Charleston’s Leadership Board to offer mentorship and encouragement as they navigated their role in the program.
  • Dedicated and invested in student’s ability to lead by doing, Chris developed a syllabus for Site Leader Training and met bi-weekly with Site Leader pairs throughout the year. Chris provides skills, education, and encouragement that supports leaders to feel confident in their abilities.

Deepened the 8 Components of a Quality Alternative Break 

  • Prioritized building long-term, reciprocal partnerships with community organizations by adding Community Impact as a program-wide 9th component.
  • Trained student leaders to see the 8 Components as a means to achieving a meaningful experience. Chris supports students in brainstorming creative ways to bolster pre-trip meetings, reflections, and reorientation activities with the goal of creating a more just society by cultivating a new generation of active citizens.
  • Provided a multitude of resources - including engaging other departments and personal connections from across campus - for Site Leaders to implement the 8 Components within their own trips.

"Chris has such a tangible desire and determination to create effective and transformative programs for students at the College of Charleston. His guidance and mentorship helped me to develop many valuable skills that I have been able to use on my adventure to become an active citizen within my community." - Stephanie Brown, Alternative Break Leadership Board

Committed to living his values, Chris regularly contributes to the Charleston community 

  • Serves as an Outreach Worker for We Are Family, a nonprofit serving LGBTQIA+ youth and allies; a HUD Point in Time (PIT) Count volunteer; and an advocate for racial equality - Chris spends much of his free time working for justice in Charleston.
  • Acts as an entry point for community members trying to navigate gaining access to college resources.
  • Connects students invested in broadening their engagement within Charleston to partner with off-campus involvement.

"He doesn’t just talk about active citizenship - he shows it." - Jordan Esopa, Outreach and Recruitment Coordinator

Incorporated Active Citizenship campus-wide through strategic partnerships and ongoing support

  • Served as an engaged member on the advisory committee of College of Charleston’s Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP), a 10-year plan focusing on Sustainability Literacy.
  • Advocated for integrating service into regularly-scheduled campus activities such as including a service component in the welcome program for all new students at College of Charleston.
  • Played an instrumental role in establishing the first on-campus food pantry dedicated to eliminating hunger and food insecurity among students.
  • Established partnerships with the Office of Institutional Diversity and the Office of Sustainability in an effort to secure additional funding and develop co-sponsored programming.

“Chris is the most helpful, supportive colleague I’ve encountered when it comes to collaborating on any idea related to active citizenship on our campus. He works so hard behind the scenes to make sure our students are presented with numerous learning opportunities for engaging with the community. Even more, Chris walks the talk, and inspires me to do the same." - Dr. Todd LeVasseur, Director of the QEP


Press inquires? Send us an email at breakaway [at] alternativebreaks [dot] org.