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Michelle Howard may spend this summer helping people to cupcakes at the soon-to-open Palmer Avenue bakery Sweet and Social, but the college graduate has an even sweeter way to help people.

Two days before graduating from the University of Vermont this spring, the Larchmont native, who will begin studying to be a nurse, was honored by the College of Education and Social Services for her efforts in community service.

"I'm part of a group of social workers who do so much community service," said Howard, who majored in social work. "They're so involved in - not to sound cliche - saving the world. So, for me to get this, I was completely shocked."

Community service has always been a part of Howard's life dating back to her girl scout days.

"It's something I've always been into," said Howard, who volunteered for programs that help battered women and their children, homeless shelters and hospitals during her four years at UVM.

Howard, who went to The Ursuline School for high school, also worked with two children who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of an abusive caregiver. For the last two-and-a-half years, she spent three-to-four days a week at their Berlington, VT home with their family, who became like family to her, she said.

"To be a part of that and watching the development that they all went through was so moving," Howard said. "And it just kind of gives you the hope and the resilience that kids have. You really can't underestimate them in the least."

After this summer, Howard begins a 15-month program at New York University's College of Nursing.

There will be no time for cupcakes after she completes her bachelor's program, as Howard expects to begin her career as an registered nurse in December of 2012.

"Having a social work background is such a great stepping stone into nursing, because it's so much of the bed-side manner," she said. "It's so easy to make it diagnosis first, instead of patient first. Having the ability to compartmentalize who that person is and looking at the whole thing is just an incredible view going into nursing."

Until then, cupcakes will consume her time, not to mention the family who lives nearby.

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