Ohio State Newark Students Award Grants to Local Organizations
Enterprising students at The Ohio State University at Newark can participate in service-learning courses in which there are no simulations, hypothetical situations or made-up numbers. In the 2019-20 academic year, Ohio Campus Compact, with support from the John and Mary Alford Foundation, sponsored two student philanthropy courses. In these courses, the stories are real – as is the money students give away. Their collective experience amounts to hundreds of hours in community service and grants totaling $4,000 for local nonprofit organizations.
Students in Cultures of Professional Writing, offered in autumn semester, and Leadership in Community Service, available in spring semester, volunteer in the community, getting to know their organization intimately. They use their knowledge to determine a need and develop a solution for which they write and present a grant proposal to their classmates, the “review board,” who then vote on which project receives funding.
“The grant-writing project is particularly beneficial to the students as they can see an immediate real-world impact for their writing — that writing well, clearly and persuasively, can make a real difference in the success or failure of a dream,” said Professor Elizabeth Weiser, PhD. She explained how this project additionally benefits students by exposing them to local agencies and their staff as well as the world of nonprofits and the intricacies of funding.
The five organizations that received Pay it Forward grants are:
• Midland Theater: $500 awarded by Sarah Guendert, English major
• The Woodlands: $750 awarded by Ezekiel Acheampong, English major
• A Call to College: $750 awarded by Maddie Ford, English major
• Food Pantry Network of Licking County: $1,000 awarded by Joel Mercer, social work major, and Jake Cartagena, business major
• YES Club: $1,000 awarded by Jacob Merry, undecided, and Nae Perrin, health professions exploration major
“Being a social work major, I feel like what I have learned in class has given me a whole new perspective here,” said Mercer, who volunteered at the Food Pantry Network with Cartagena. “During this particular experience, I’ve seen how a lot of material I learned translates over. I really appreciate that the Food Pantry Network is genuinely meeting a very big need.”
The Food Pantry Network’s $1,000 grant will be used to purchase ID scanners that will increase efficiency and allow the organization to serve as many people as possible. Demand at the Food Pantry Network has doubled since the COVID-19 pandemic hit Ohio, making the implementation of Mercer and Cartagena’s idea all the more timely and necessary.
“I’ve been doing this for 16 years, and we’ve been doing this computer system since 2014. I had two guys come in and tell me we could do something better, and I giggled about it. But this will allow us to make it easier for families to come through and get food from us,” said Chuck Moore, director of the Food Pantry Network. “I love having students come in each year and be part of the organization. It opens our eyes to the young generation coming in to make things different. These two have done that for us. They brought us into the 21st century from where I was just three months ago.”
While not all students in the course had their proposals accepted, they all have taken the initiative to move forward either continuing their community partnerships or getting involved with other organizations, said instructor Jamie White who also serves as director of retention and student success initiatives.
“A lot of their devotion, advocacy and philanthropic skills came through,” said White. “We were able to see in the grant proposals just how invested that they are in the Licking County community and within each their community partners.”
Ohio Campus Compact is a statewide non-profit coalition of 41 college and university presidents and their campuses working to promote and develop the civic purposes of higher education. The Pay it Forward initiative is developing a new generation of philanthropists through an innovative course-based service-learning program that engages Ohio college students in hands-on philanthropy, grant-making, and volunteer service while providing community nonprofits with much needed assistance during difficult economic times. Participating students provide volunteer service to local nonprofit agencies while simultaneously identifying community needs, establishing funding criteria and engaging in group decision-making as part of the Pay it Forward course. Since 2012 Pay it Forward has awarded Ohio State Newark and the co-located Central Ohio Technical College a combined $38,000 for students to re-grant.
The Ohio State University at Newark offers an academic environment that’s inclusive of diversity, challenging but supportive with world-renowned professors and access to Ohio State’s more than 200 majors. It’s where learning comes to life. Research, study abroad and service-learning opportunities prepare students for their careers in ways they never expected.