For the second consecutive year, a Belmont English major has won a highly competitive Harold Love, Sr. Outstanding Community Service Award, presented by the Tennessee Higher Education Commission each year to recognize dedicated service by individuals in the higher education sector. Rising senior Danie Contreras is a 2020 recipient for her extensive work with Moves and Grooves, Inc., which works with three Metro Nashville Public Schools to provide dance and tutoring inside of the classroom.
The Awards announcement said of Contreras: “Danie has always had a passion for learning about the world and her place in it. She loves reading and researching about global issues and dedicates her time to enriching the lives of those near and far. Whether she is teaching dance, aiding in student business proposals or encouraging students to be critical problem solvers, Danie strives to inspire others to actively recognize and respond to community needs through acts of meaningful service. Shaped by her faith, Danie believes everyone she engages with should be received as Christ, and therefore, deserves to have an unconditional champion in their lives.”
Moves and Grooves (MAG) serves more than 200 Metro students annually and was selected in 2012 to be a Nashville After Zone Alliance Anchor Partner by then Mayor Karl Dean. While at MAG, Contreras was highlighted and nominated as a top Tennessee volunteer by “DoingGoodTv.” View that video here.
Contreras said she did not have too much time to process the email informing her of the award because she was scheduled to do a middle school tutoring session on Zoom when she received it. “Getting the award and going into a tutoring session felt kind of like a full circle moment,” explained Contreras. “I believe in being an advocate and a champion for people. When we believe in others, it makes it easier for them to believe in themselves. Whether I’m teaching dance, giving tips on writing or teaching myself math so I can teach someone else the next day, I know it’s making a difference even if I don’t feel it in that moment. Getting the award just felt like a reminder to remain where my feet are planted because I know I’m doing good work. It was a reminder of faith to say the least.”
English Professor Dr. Robbie Pinter nominated Contreras for the award. She taught Contreras in the English Department’s Peer Tutoring course last fall. Contreras said the class was working on tutoring theory and students were asked to stop by Pinter’s office to pitch ideas. “I just started talking about social justice, which I’m very passionate about in terms of youth and race and ethnicity. Dr. Pinter really opened up a space for me to tell her about the projects I had been involved in. She is a great listener,” she said. “She has been an amazing teacher and friend, and I wish I could’ve hugged her in person when I got the news. Virtual hugs will have to do for now.”
Pinter said, “In the Writing Fellows class I teach, Danie mentioned some work she did through a Notre Dame teaching and learning program that met in a prison. We had several conversations about that program, and every time we talked, I learned of a different way she had volunteered, all related to teaching those who were ‘othered’ in some way.”
At Belmont, Contreras has also volunteered on a regular basis with several programs, including Salama Urban Ministry where she tutors students in mathematics. She volunteers at Stone Soup at Judson Baptist Church where she meets monthly with those who are differently abled to aid them in their social skills. Contreras has made the Dean’s list every semester and was inducted into Sigma Tau Delta, the International English Honors Society in 2018.
After graduation from Belmont, Contreras will continue her work with MAG, as she serves as a student mentor to high schools who are developing their own business plans.