Two members of the William & Mary community were recognized during Wednesday’s Opening Convocation ceremony for their service efforts in areas ranging from food insecurity to immigration.
At the event held in the Wren Yard, W&M President Katherine A. Rowe presented Allisyn Lam ’25 and Clinical Associate Professor of Law Stacy Kern-Scheerer the 2023 President’s Award for Service.
Given annually to one student and one faculty or staff member, the award honors people “who have demonstrated a sustained commitment to service and made a significant and measurable impact on our community.”
Recipients are selected by the Office of Community Engagement and the President’s Office, and each receives $500 to donate to the community organization of their choice. Lam is donating it to the Rotary Club of Williamsburg, and Kern-Scheerer is donating to Transitions Family Violence Services.
Service is one of William & Mary’s core values, and in the past year, more than 1,000 students and other W&M community members participated in more than 9,400 hours of community and civic engagement opportunities, according to the Office of Community Engagement.
Allisyn Lam ’25
Lam, a neuroscience major, is the president of Food for All at William & Mary, a student organization that focuses on providing resources to faculty, staff and students who face food access issues. Established in 2022, it is the only active group on campus focused solely on addressing food insecurity.
“Food has the power to build community and is at the heart of fostering deep human connection,” wrote Lam, in her nomination for the award.
In just over a year, the organization has distributed 2,500 meals to more than 200 people. Its efforts have included meal swipe drives during which more than 600 swipes were donated; a food delivery service that served more than 100 meals, including to over 40 students who were isolating due to COVID-19; and a Free Food Fans GroupMe that reaches more than 1,590 students. The organization also established the first on-campus location for the Campus Food Exchange in the Sadler Center. Established as the Campus Food Pantry in 2019 by the Wesley Foundation, its name was changed to the Campus Food Exchange this spring, and the main location is still housed at Wesley.
Lam wrote that a guiding principle for Food for All may be found in this quote from “The View From Flyover Country” by Sarah Kendzior: “Charity, as a supplement to justice, should be applauded. But charity as a substitute for justice is neither charity nor justice. It is cruelty.”
“Serving alongside each team has been transformative, and these experiences will serve as a reminder for all that is possible when passionate individuals fight to realize their visions.” Lam said. “Our degrees come with responsibilities; as the resources of our communities have enabled us to pursue a world class education, we have been empowered with particular skills that have the potential to give back to others who lack the same access.
“At the end of the day, it is the investment in our communities that we will be remembered for. This world needs passionate individuals who embody the vision of leaving this world better than they found it.”
Rev. Max Blalock with the Wesley Campus Ministry has worked closely with Lam throughout the year.
“Allisyn is a leader who serves with joy, integrity, compassion and courage,” he wrote in a nomination letter. “She always begins with, ‘How we can make this happen?’ It’s never, ‘We can’t do this.’ Because of her leadership, our community now has the very first Food Exchange located on campus, and our community for the very first time provided three meals a day for food insecure students over Spring Break, through a partnership with Wesley.
“But it doesn’t stop with the ongoing successes here and now, Allisyn has also positioned Food for All to be a sustainable force for good for the foreseeable future.”
In addition to her work with Food for All, Lam is president of the Rotaract Club and pursues international humanitarian projects with Rotary International. The Rotaract Club has contributed to supplying the Sawua Elementary School in Ghana and is working to bring water and sanitation to earthquake victims in Turkey.
“William & Mary will always be a part of our story, so we should leave something that after our time here will become part of its story,” Lam said.
Kern-Scheerer has long been interested in supporting the immigrant community and founded the Immigration Clinic at W&M Law School in 2019. The clinic’s goals include providing pro bono, trauma-informed representation to immigrants in Hampton Roads and training law students to provide that representation while they build their own skills as immigration advocates.
Since the clinic launched, it has provided more than $3 million in pro bono legal representation, which has resulted in securing asylum and green cards for clients who may not have access to representation otherwise. While more and more law students enroll in the clinic each year, the demand is outpacing their capacity – illustrating the pressing need for such services.
“The incredible work being done for the community by our Immigration Clinic would not be possible without Stacy’s leadership, passion, drive and unwavering commitment to help those in need,” Adam M. Gershowitz, James D. & Pamela J. Penny Research Professor and R. Hugh and Nolie Haynes Professor of Law, wrote in a nomination letter.
In addition to her work at the law school where she is also director of clinical programs, Kern-Scheerer serves on the Williamsburg City Council. She was elected last year and now serves on the council’s School Liaison Committee and Local Emergency Planning Committee.
“As my colleague and friend, I know that Stacy is a true public servant,” wrote Gershowitz. “She does not seek the spotlight. Her work on City Council is motivated by her desire to always give back to her community, make sure all voices are heard and use her skills and talents however she can to make our community a better place.”
Earlier this year, the university recognized Kern-Scheerer at Charter Day with the Thomas Jefferson Teaching Award. She said she is extremely honored now to be receiving the President’s Award for Service and has learned much from her community involvement.
“Service can take so many forms, and I’m grateful that I have been able to advocate for others in many different capacities so far in my life,” she wrote. “I love working with people, facing complexity, persisting through challenge and celebrating the little wins along with the big ones.
“Particularly through the Immigration Clinic, I’ve learned that service is a team effort. I work alongside many amazing people – colleagues, community partners, clients and students – who inspire me and remind me every day that when we harness our collective strengths and skills, something that once seemed impossible becomes possible. Loving and believing in not just what I do, but also the people I do it with, fills me with joy and buoys me through the days when there are disappointments and setbacks. The work we do together is hard, but I feel gratitude every day to be part of it.”
Erin Jay, Senior Associate Director of University News