2024 Alden Award Recipients for Excellence in Service-Learning

Each year, Duke Service-Learning recognizes a senior student, a SLCE faculty member, and a community partner with the Betsy Alden Outstanding Service-Learning Award. Betsy Alden was a pioneer in service-learning, beginning her work at Duke during the 1980s. Read more about the legacy of Betsy Alden.

Recipients are chosen because they represent an exceptional commitment to the community-engaged ideals of service‐learning. Each winner receives an honorarium and is recognized at the University’s annual In the Spotlight reception at Penn Pavilion. 


Graduating Senior


Elaijah Lapay

Elaijah Lapay will graduate in Spring 2024 with majors in Migrant Health and Healthcare through Program II. Elaijah worked as a service-learning assistant for five semesters at Duke, and for the last two years with Eileen Anderson in SPANISH 205 (Advanced Intermediate Spanish with Service-Learning) and SPANISH 308S (Latinx Voices in Duke, Durham, and Beyond).  In addition to his role as a service-learning assistant, Elaijah is deeply involved in community service through the Iglesia Emanuel food pantry and the Root Causes Fresh Produce Program, where he spends each Saturday volunteering. He is the recipient of several other community awards, including the 2023 Lars Lyon Community Service Award, the 2024 Duke Department of Mathematics Excellence in Community Service Award, and the 2024 Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award.

Rebecca Ewing nominated Elaijah for the Betsy Alden Outstanding Service-Learning Award not only for his work as a student, but also for as his work as a community-partner!

Elaijah’s commitment to and passion for feeding the Durham community is tangible. He knows the ins and outs of Root Causes, and he is extremely attentive to every small detail to make sure that no food is wasted, each family that can receive food does, and each volunteer is placed in a position that maximizes their contribution to the cause. Each of my students commented on how his attention to detail and his knowledge of the organization and all its working parts led to an incredibly successful effort to feed Durham. – Rebecca Ewing, Romance Studies. 


Community Partner

Margaret and Miguel

Margaret and Miguel Rubiera,
Igleisa Emanuel Prespetria Food Pantry and Tutoring Program

Margaret and Miguel Rubiera were nominated by Andrew Nurkin, Hart Associate Professor of the Practice in the Sanford School of Public Policy and Director of the Hart Leadership Program, for their ongoing work with PUBPOL 298 (Authentic Leadership in Private, Public, and Not-for-Profit Organizations).

Margaret and Miguel Rubiera are the leadership team behind community service at Iglesia Presbiteriana Emanuel, a church serving the Spanish-speaking community. The Rubieras work as a team to source food, write grants, fundraise, recruit and organize volunteers, and direct both the food pantry and the tutoring program. They have extensive experience in non-profit work, including work with Habitat for Humanity, Meals on Wheels, Book Harvest and several others, and have worked with many Duke Service-Learning faculty in Public Policy (Tony Brown, Andrew Nurkin) and Romance Studies (Joan Clifford, Joan Munné, Ana Fernandez, Bethzaida Fernandez, Stephanie Contreras), as well as Root Causes, a Duke student organization fighting food insecurity. Read more about their work with Duke Service-Learning.

Without exception, every student that has the good fortune to work with Miguel and Margaret, either at the food pantry or the tutoring center, comes away from this experience with a transformed appreciation for what leadership in community looks like. My students speak of Miguel and Margaret’s passion for serving Durham, their ability to inspire and make service fun, their astounding capacity to be fully present to each individual—whether a student or a volunteer or a child at the tutoring center or a family coming to pick up food. They model for Duke students what effective leadership is and show profound respect for the growth of our students as learners and leaders.  - Andrew Nurkin, Sanford School of Public Policy.


Faculty Member

Bethzaida Fernandez

Bethzaida Fernandez

Bethzaida Fernandez, senior lecturer of Romance Studies, is a long-time faculty member with Duke Service-Learning and regularly teaches SPANISH 313, Bridging Cultures: Latino Lives and Experiences in NC, and in the Duke in Costa Rica summer study abroad program. Recently, she led a tour of the Durham Green Flea Market for Duke faculty, staff and students as part of the Duke Service-Learning Context & Connections series. In Fall 2023, she was recognized for undergraduate teaching through the Richard K. Lublin Award in the Humanities.

Fernandez works intensively in the community, creating a wide range of experiences for students to explore the community and interact with community members in context. In her course, students visit local Latine businesses, churches, festivals, and even a migrant camp.  They also work with organizations such as the Immaculate Conception Church, Durham Crisis Response Center and Swing Pals.

She is one of the most enthusiastic instructors in the Spanish Language Program at Duke University—and her enthusiasm is infectious. Bethzaida is a master teacher—able to set high academic standards for her students and still encourage them to get out of their comfort zones. She is able to create an inviting and supportive deep dive into culture, language, and community.  – Joan Clifford, Duke Service-Learning, Romance Studies.