Student creates nationwide service program

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November 29, 2006

7:45 PM

The results of sophomore Angela Perkey’s summer Sharpe service project will endure far beyond one season. Based on her service learning experience, Perkey recently created Students Serve, a nationwide program to provide grants to students whose colleges and universities do not provide money for service projects like the College does.

p. Perkey completed her Sharpe project last summer at her home in Nashville, Tenn. She worked with the Nashville Planning Department to create a program that works to decrease factors that encourage obesity in low-income communities, where the obesity rate is higher, by improving walkways and zoning.

p. “I wanted to incorporate knowledge from [my] freshman seminar, Social Perspectives on Community Health,” she said. “This was a chance to apply my knowledge to my project and community service.”

p. Students Serve grants money to projects using service learning, like her project.

p. “I think a lot of people don’t know what service learning is — it’s an integration of academics and service,” Perkey said. “Service learning projects are well-informed and effective service projects.”

p. She was inspired to start Students Serve after speaking about her project to friends from high school who are now attending other universities that do not offer such opportunities. While the College offers summer grants for students doing research or participating in some unpaid internships, many colleges do not have similar programs, making it difficult for students who need to have summer jobs to do service work.

p. “I explained the opportunities I was having, and they were envious, so I researched what kinds of grants other colleges give,” she said. “I found there were none and thought it was unfortunate.”

p. Perkey started planning last July for grant distribution this summer. The number of grants has not been determined and will depend on the project applications. Grants can range from $200 to $2,000, depending on each applicant’s financial need.

p. Those interested must submit an application that describes their project and how it applies to their studies and future career. They must also include a budget.

p. Students Serve is currently trying to raise money for grants by writing applications to private foundations and businesses for support. There will also be a PayPal link on the organization’s new website for direct donations, and the organization will be in contact with alumni through the alumni newsletter and the Alumni Association. In addition, they recently received a grant from the mtvU network.

p. “We got $1,000 from mtvU, which is enough money to fund operational expenses for a year, so all the money that is fundraised will go directly to the grants to students,” Perkey said.

p. “The mtvU grant has the capacity to spread the word about our grants. Hopefully we can partner with them, because we are a national organization and hopefully will get people from California to New York to Vermont to Florida applying to maximize the amount of communities affected.”

p. Perkey plans to spread the word through college newspapers, the FastWeb financial aid website and the offices of volunteer services in other colleges.

p. “The most gratifying part will be when we give grants to other college students,” Perkey said.

p. Students Serve also consists of four other students Perkey hired. She raised awareness for the positions with ads in The Flat Hat and networking with friends.

p. “I got involved in the project because, as a student who is interested in social justice and service learning, I know how hard it is to find the funds and resources that are needed in order to make a difference in the world,” sophomore Trey Comstock, associate director of fundraising, said.

p. The organization is also trying to recruit high-ranking people to serve on their Board of Directors to ensure substantial finances, Comstock said.

p. Director of Sharpe Community Scholars Program Monica Griffin will probably be on the board, Perkey said.

p. “She was very influential to me and she was the professor for my freshman seminar,” she said.

p. Perkey will continue to direct Students Serve after graduation. On campus, she is also a member of International Relations Club and the president of Youth Organized and United.

p. “I volunteered in a nursing home in high school, more than anything because my mom forced me to. That is another reason for my fascination with informed service. It’s not about wheeling around old people; it’s about engaging your own mind and thought process through the tenure of service,” Perkey said.

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