Family's Gift Powers Students' Community Service

Labika takes a selfie in front of a mirror and a display of wigs.
One of the most memorable experiences for 2022 Fellow Labika Baral was helping with wig fittings for patients at the American Cancer Society and HopeClub in Latham, NY. Labika’s work inspired community fundraising and promoted public health education.

While many students use the summer season to recharge, over the last six years more than 30 UAlbany students have spent their summers in service to Capital Region communities. They've joined the fight against cancer, welcomed refugees, helped the homeless, and supported disaster relief efforts — all thanks to the Massry Community Service Fellowship program. 

The fellowships, created in 2014 as part of a $5.25 million gift to the University from the Capital Region’s leading philanthropic family, allows students to follow their passion for community service through unpaid internships at local nonprofits. At the end of the summer, Massry Fellows receive a $6,000 scholarship credit on their student accounts. The financial assistance, the Fellows say, is a welcome bonus, but it's the life-changing experiences that they cherish. 

"I chose to work with the Refugee Welcome Center," said 2022 Massry Fellow Chamanka Gamage, an international graduate student pursuing a master's in Women's, Gender and Sexuality Studies. "One of my proudest accomplishments was introducing an educational program for young adults that provided a safe space for young teenagers to engage in conversation about important topics each week," added Gamage, who is from Sri Lanka. 

The 2022 Massry Community Service Fellows also include seniors Labika Baral, who volunteered with the American Cancer Society's Hope Club; Alex Goldfeder, who worked with the Ronald McDonald House; and Ruiyang Ma, who served as a disaster duty officer for the American Red Cross.  The opportunity to intern at an array of Capital Region nonprofits is a signature feature of the fellowship. 

"This program continues to reach new heights and higher levels of expectations," said Martha Asselin, director of the Center for Leadership and Service at UAlbany.  She cites increased interest from students as well as growing interest from nonprofits who are eager to benefit from students’ expertise and enthusiasm but lack the resources to provide paid internships. 

For Asselin, the entire endeavor is a win-win scenario made possible by the generosity of one family. "The Massry family sets a gold standard with their own commitment for exemplary service and leadership,” said Asselin. “It is that vision and passion that fuels this program to new heights.” 

Speaking on behalf of the Massry family, whose gift was at the time the largest single donation to the University, Julie Massry Knox noted, "For more than seven decades, our family has been blessed to make our home in the Capital Region. We are deeply honored and proud to continue to help bring together UAlbany students with the area's vital nonprofit organizations in service to our communities. There is no better calling than to help each other."