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The Scarlet & Black

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SGA offers student-driven social prize

By Mariam Asaad

Amid the constant barrage of emails that seem to be flooding Grinnellians’ inboxes, there was a recent one with the subject line, “Student Service Challenge.” This campus-wide email sent by SGA Student Services Coordinator and S&B Columnist Que Newbill ’11 refers to a new initiative on the part of SGA Student Services to attract creative ideas for community service by offering groups $500 to execute plans which are geared towards bettering the community
The Student Service Challenge provides students with a platform through which they can actively reach out to the community in flexible and unique ways. It is exactly with this intention that Newbill started this challenge.

“The Student Service Challenge came about because I wanted to find more innovative ways to encourage our peers in service activities,” Newbill said. “It’s another way to market some of the opportunities for funding that are already present.”

Luis Vallejo ’13 and Viridiana Moreno ’11 were part of a student group that contacted SGA Student Services last semester to fund a community-service activity they were involved in. They, along with several volunteers, were teaching English as a Second Language (ESL) at a school in Marshalltown. While transportation costs were already covered by the CRSSJ, the group was able to use the SGA funding that it received through the Student Service Challenge to buy snacks, games and classroom equipment for the children.

Vallejo and Moreno were part of one of about five student groups that submitted proposals and got funding approved.

“Last semester the student groups that got involved had ideas that we hadn’t done before, which is what the goal is,” Newbill said.

Before any ideas are considered for funding, however, student groups have to submit a proposal and a budget form which are then reviewed by a student committee. This might seem daunting, but Newbill intends to facilitate the process for those who plan to apply.

“[They should] just shoot me an email and I’ll meet with them so they can get a proposal together and I’ll work out the budget with them and see what we can do. We’ll make it happen,” he said. “You dream big and I’ll spend big to make it happen.”

Vallejo also seemed to share a similarly laid back attitude about the process involved in securing funding.
“We tell them why we want this stuff and how it is going to benefit the community,” Vallejo said. “You just need two people to create any program, and if you have the capacity to put up posters, and if people like it, they’ll help you out with it.”

Volunteer Biva Rajbhandari ’12 spoke about how children at the Marshalltown school were benefitting from this exchange.

“I think the kids are kind of just excited to have role models,” she said. “Someone older than them—it makes them feel very important.”

The benefits of this program, however, extend beyond those sections of the community receiving explicit aid. Vallejo also acknowledged the impact the project had on him.

“I learned more about education doing this than I did taking an education course in Grinnell,” he said.

There is clearly great potential in the Student Service Challenge and there are almost no restrictions on the ideas that can be put forward. Newbill hopes that the number of people interested in pursuing their community-service related idea will increase this semester due to this challenge.

“I’m hoping to see more people apply for funding,” he said. “We need to max out on the things we can do on campus and have service represented in a variety of lights.”

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