Midaly Carrasquillo ’17, MA ’21 knows what food insecurity feels like.
Coming to Worcester State straight out of high school in Puerto Rico, there were many times when Carrasquillo worried about where her next meal would come from. She found help through the SNAP office of the Urban Action Institute (UAI), the outreach and urban action arm of the Urban Studies Department.
“They helped me get me on food stamps, which was a huge relief and took a big burden off of my shoulders,” she said. Now, as the new assistant director of UAI, she is excited about paying that kindness forward. “After being on the other end, it’s very rewarding to now be able to provide the kind of support that I was given when I needed it,” she said.
Carrasquillo graduated from Worcester State in 2017 with a bachelor’s degree in visual and performing arts and Spanish. She earned a master’s degree in Spanish at WSU in 2021. She was hired for the UAI assistant director’s position in September. She had applied for the job, she said, because it seemed like it would align with her passion for social work and community outreach. She already had been working with the local community through her church Generation in Danger, located in the Emmanuel Baptist Church building in Worcester. “We’ve provided food for the homeless and other activities aimed at helping the community, like toy drives,” she said. “We try to be of service and to support people in need in a lot of different ways.”
The UAI focuses on student learning through experience, connecting them to the larger community through projects involving social justice, equity, and food and housing insecurity. This has included working with students to start Thea’s Pantry, training students to help their peers sign up for SNAP benefits, and partnerships focused on immigrant justice. “Just seeing the passion and the commitment towards social justice and equity, it was something I was drawn to and it’s definitely something I wanted to be a part of,” she said, of the job posting.
Carrasquillo thought the job might be a good fit for her, and the UAI staff agreed.
“When we interviewed Midaly we felt like she had a really positive student-focused perspective,” said Adam Saltsman, associate professor of Urban Studies and director of the UAI. “She’s really interested in listening to students and understanding them so she can help them navigate the challenges of being in college, but she also wants to help push them to go one step further and do the kind of engaged work that UAI tries to do out in the community and within the University.”
What is Carrasquillo looking forward to doing at UAI?
“One of my goals is to be of more service to the Latino community,” she said. “Being Latina myself, I definitely want to see more resources available for that community and more opportunities, and if I can be the one to create or facilitate those opportunities then that would be really awesome.”
Currently, Carrasquillo is helping plan the annual Empty Bowls fundraiser, which raises awareness of food insecurity on campus and elsewhere. This year the event will be held. Feb. 22. “I’m super excited about the Empty Bowls fundraiser,” she said. “It’s my first time planning it and I’m hoping to push the envelope a little bit and make it more of a multicultural event to bring a sense of inclusivity into it.”
Carrasquillo said another goal is reaching out more to the entire campus community.
“I would like people to know that we’re here to serve everybody,” she said. “Something that I’ve noticed as a student, and especially with the incoming classes since Covid, is that there’s so much anxiety and so much concern in the student population. Many times, students don’t realize that there are resources like we have here at UAI that can help them find solutions to those problems.”
Photos by Nancy Sheehan
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