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New program matches students with community members

ISSUED: 20 April 2018
MEDIA CONTACT: Valerie Owens

SHEPHERDSTOWN, WV — A new initiative at Shepherd University, Dinner with Strangers, gives students the opportunity to get to know community members who are willing to host a meal in their homes.

The first dinner took place February 28 at the Shepherdstown home of Sue and David Kemnitzer. The idea for Dinner with Strangers came from Sue, who started a similar program in 1968 at her alma mater, UCLA.

Students invited to eat at the Kemnitzers’ house were Keerthana Mesineni, Falling Waters, a biology major, and student representative to the Strategic Planning Committee; Savannah Blades, Sykesville, Maryland, a computer science, mathematics, and engineering major; Kimberly Lukasik, Hagerstown, Maryland, a biology major; and Sneha Reddy, Glen Allen, Virginia, a biology major, Student Government Association president, and student representative on the Shepherd’s Board of Governors. The Kemnitzers also invited community members Marianne and Dwayne Alexander.

The Kemnitzers live in one of the oldest homes in Shepherdstown. It was built in 1790 as a tavern. David is retired from his architectural practice, which specialized in historic preservation. He restored many buildings in Washington, D.C., and several U.S. embassy properties around the world. Sue worked at the National Science Foundation, which funds scientific and engineering research at U.S. universities. They both actively volunteer for community organizations in Shepherdstown.

“It was a great experience getting to meet with the Kemnitzers,” Blades said. “It was amazing to hear what they have done throughout their careers and how active they are in the community here. I think that this is an amazing way for students to get involved in the community. It also lets the community get involved more with the students and lets them see what is going on at the school.”

“Dinner with Strangers gave us, as students, a way to share our experience in Shepherdstown and at Shepherd University with members of the community,” Lukasik said. “It also afforded us the opportunity to get to know four wonderful residents of Shepherdstown and be able to learn information about their backgrounds and experience throughout the years. It was definitely a memorable experience. I believe that this program will be beneficial in tying the Shepherdstown community to individuals at the university.”

Reddy said she especially enjoyed learning about the Kemnitzers’ careers.

“It allows to realize our potential in the field in which we study and see the impact we can have on our society one day,” Reddy said. “It showed me that after I hopefully excel in the field I choose, I would also like to mentor and foster young student in my community to go out and make a change in the world like the Kemintzers have. It was a wonderful evening, and I can’t thank them enough for their words of wisdom and delightful company.”

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