Features — 24 January 2013

Murray State University has announced its Fall 2012 student-selected grant awards to regional nonprofits. Students enrolled in YNL 351 “Leadership and Support Systems in Youth and Human Services Organizations,” taught by Gina Winchester, were charged with awarding a total of $1,500 to nonprofits. The nonprofits that won those grants demonstrated innovation in volunteer leadership development. Over the course of the semester, students worked on various nonprofit projects in the region. Through a peer-reviewed grant-making process, students selected proposals for funding.

Three organizations in the region received funding. The Mayfield-Graves County YMCA was awarded $500 for a “YMCA afternoon jamboree” program. MSU student Kacie Kemp developed the program to provide specific programming in movement, arts and music for special needs children, primarily elementary school aged mentally challenged kids.

“The program aims to help special needs children feel like a part of the YMCA and, by extension, the community,” Kemp said. “It also aims to show the community the unique qualities and gifts of these specially challenged children.”

One outcome Kemp envisions is for the community to realize the benefit of funding programs for these children. The grant money will help establish the program for the first year.

The second awardee was the Main Street Youth Center Inc. in Murray. It received $500 for a “Building character with the word of God” initiative created by MSU student Lisa Robin Spiderwoman Sanford. The program consisted of six individual sessions lasting eight weeks that incorporated the eight pillars of character from national Character Counts in to biblical concepts. Prizes for the participants were donated from local merchants, and each child received an individual Bible donated by the University Church of Christ. The grant money will go to help support the ongoing work of the center.

Additionally, the Coldwater United Methodist Church, also in Murray, was awarded $500 to support its fall festival, which raised money for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital mission. MSU student Andrea Broach organized this project. She worked countless hours planning, organizing and soliciting local businesses for donations for a silent auction that helped raise $1,400. Church pastor Tim Palmer was thankful for the support and was hopeful that the event helped build awareness of the children in the community dealing with illness.

The Giving Back Scholars Program was created by Patricia Mendez Long and Robert F. Long Jr. as a resource to the MSU Youth and Nonprofit Leadership (YNL) program and is designed to promote quality volunteer engagement in community organizations. It addresses critical needs in communities through student-led grant making and volunteerism. Student philanthropy allows college students who are enrolled in an academic course to award charitable dollars to worthy organizations with strong proposals that address immediate economic needs. This type of service learning, student philanthropy, is becoming popular with both faculty and students across the United States.

“Student philanthropy is a dynamic way for faculty to teach and students to learn, while also benefitting the community,” Gina Winchester, executive director of MSU office of regional outreach said. “When students have to make tough decisions about which organizations receive funding, they develop important skills such as critical thinking, analysis, research, interviewing, and persuasive writing and speaking. They are learning lifelong skills in a real-world setting.”

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