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The Scarlet & Black

New Award Recognizes Partnerships with Community

The Office of Community Enhancement & Engagement, SGA’s Student Services Committee and the Service Learning and Civic Engagement Program recently announced the establishment of the Community Engagement Award, which—in an effort to further connect Grinnell students and members of the local community—offers up to three 1000 dollar grants for students to undertake service projects in conjunction with community partners.

Tyler Banas ’13, a former AltBreak administrator and the 2012-2013 Community Enhancement & Engagement Apprentice, initially conceived the idea for the award. Banas felt that even though Grinnellians were availing a host of service-related opportunities through AltBreak programs, they were not reflecting one of AltBreak’s core values, that of life-long service. He then proposed the award as a way for Grinnellians to bring lessons that they learned during these various trips back to the Grinnell community.

As the idea evolved and drew support from various offices, it was decided that the award would be open to all student applicants, not just AltBreak returnees. The Community Enhancement & Engagement Office offered a maximum of 1500 dollars for up to three awards and was matched by the SGA Student Services Committee. In addition to this, the Service Learning and Engagement component of the CLS will provide logistical support for the award.

The award requires that applicants put forth proposals demonstrating strong partnerships between students and members of the local community in order to ensure that projects best utilize students’ different skill sets while prioritizing the community’s needs and desires.

“One of my biggest pet peeves is imperialism in the guise of service. And so one of the things that’s built into this award … [is that] there has to be a demonstrated desire for the project, a demonstrated need from the community, as well as an ability to asses, with the community’s input, whether or not the project was successful,” said Susan Sanning, Assistant Director of Service Learning and Engagement.

Micah Nelson ’14, the 2013-2014 Community Enhancement & Engagement Apprentice, feels that this award can help advance town-gown relations and “facilitate positive student engagement in the community.”

The award feels reminiscent of The Student Service Challenge, a 500 dollar award started by 2010-2011 SGA Services Chair, Que Newbill ’11. However, what renders this award different is the way in which it prioritizes partnerships and collaboration in their truest sense—both within the bodies on campus that support it and with the community partners. For Sam Offenberg ’14, Student Services Coordinator, the award is a way for the Service Committee and the student body to demonstrate their commitment to community engagement.

“There’s a lot of really great things that [the Service Committee] do[es] and this is adding another dimension to what we do … with the financial resources that it has, it’s important that [SGA] do things like this,” Offenberg said.

There has already been some interest in the award as students have proposed innovative ideas for community engagement. For instance, some ReNew leaders have been considering the idea of a “supply closet” whereby community members can borrow tools from a single collection instead of having to buy expensive equipment for house repairs.

Christian Noyce ’15, one of this year’s ReNew leaders, looks forward to the ways in which this award can provide students with an opportunity to help the community.

“There are plenty of volunteer opportunities on campus and in our community for students. However, most students don’t have the time or resources to cultivate an idea that may enhance our community. This award will hopefully lower those barriers, so that those who have good ideas can pursue them without having to give up their other commitments,” he wrote in an email to the S&B.

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