So Far So Good, But Much Remains To Be Done By Charitable Words Scholars

So Far So Good, But Much Remains To Be Done By Charitable Words Scholars
6 years, 10 months ago Comments Off on So Far So Good, But Much Remains To Be Done By Charitable Words Scholars
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Since the launch of its pilot project last fall, Charitable Words Scholars has connected 10 students interested in humanitarian work with nonprofits in Greater Cincinnati and around the globe. Several more assignments are pending for the summer and fall. Our goal for next year is to double that number and scale up to do much more going forward.

We feel Charitable Words Scholars is an important program, at the right time and for good reason. Students preparing for and in college today are of a generation hungry to help. But they are a generation in need of support to meet the rising financial strains of college. There are plenty of nonprofits – and those who rely on their services – who need help, too.

The initiative is a win-win-win-win with four corners of benefit:

–        The students who receive funding.

–        The nonprofits they are assigned to work and learn with.

–        Those in need of services the nonprofits provide.

–        The entire community benefits from an increased likelihood the students will stay, find jobs and contribute to the regional economy.

Community support — funding — will be essential and Charitable Words has applied for federal 501(c)3 nonprofit status. Until that arrives sometime later this year, we are hoping for recognition in the Greater Cincinnati Foundation’s Big Idea Challenge, which will award grants to those who have good ideas and big dreams. The Big Idea Challenge is part of GCF’s 50th anniversary celebration.

We have until late July to apply. So your thoughts or suggestions would be welcomed and appreciated. Here’s a look at our thinking as we prepare our Big Idea proposal.

Pictured above are snapshots of the work being done by Charitable Words Scholars.

  • Tutoring adults to prepare for GED tests.
  • Providing music therapy to special needs students.
  • Digging trenches to unearth clean, sustainable water supplies in developing countries.
  • Giving it their best at a literacy spelling bee.

The assignments are as diverse as the world we live in. The outcomes, however, are common. Charitable Words Scholars change lives. They change themselves. They are catalysts for future change in their community.

Charitable Words Scholars was founded earlier this year by Tom and Maureen Callinan, who have raised three millennial children themselves and have enjoyed mentoring and guiding students through careers in journalism and law. By the end of 2014 we plan to have benefited 18 students with paid internships, honorariums to support class-credit internships and service learning projects. But that is a small start and there is a great need.

The next step will be to transition to nonprofit status going into the next school year, which will enable Charitable Words to seek funding to  benefit more students and worthy causes. Some initial funding will be needed for fundraising and marketing capacity, but our 2014 plan calls for nine of every 10 dollars raised to directly to the scholars and nonprofits and those they serve.

A Big Idea award and recognition would be a great jump start to that end.

Why Charitable Words Scholars is important, at this moment.

  • Today’s college students grew up with the images of wars, 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina.  But they did not hide under their desks in fear.  They went to work.  Volunteer rates for ages 16-24 doubled in the ’90s through the 2000s, according to the Corporation for National and Community Service, the federal agency that oversees Americorps and other programs.  Three in five 18-24 year olds surveyed by the Harvard University Institute of Politics said they were interested in public service.
  • But this is a generation burdened with school expenses. Today’s college students will graduate with an average student loan debt of $26,600, according to  “The College Bubble ” in-depth stories reported May 19 in The Enquirer. Half face unemployment when they get out of school.  Internships increase their chances of employment – 60% of interns are offered opportunities with their host organizations, according to Intern in Ohio.
  • The nonprofit sector is underfunded and understaffed, but there’s work to be done in 1.5 million agencies (100,000 in Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana). The nonprofit sector has been growing steadily, surpassing the rate of both the business and government sector and now represents 10 percent of jobs in the U.S., according to The Urban Institute.
  • The College Bubble” stories by reporter Cliff Peale explored the cost of student debt, not only to students but the economy in general, much like the Internet bubble in 2000 and the housing bubble in 2009.  Student debt and scarce job opportunities after graduation leave little room to spend or save, promising little stimulus to the economy.  Peale reported that of those carrying student debt, 40 percent say they have postponed contributions to retirement plans, 29 percent have put off buying a house and 15 percent have postponed marriage.
  • Employing – and retaining – this generation is essential to our community’s economic strength and well-being.  Studies by Intern in Ohio show that students who attain internships are 83% more likely to remain in the region in which they interned.  They do not move to Chicago.  They stay here and go to work and contribute to their community and economy.

Who are the Charitable Words Scholars?

The students are selected through formal processes at the schools we partner with, working with an advisory board of six distinguished professionals in the fields of law, marketing, journalism, education and the arts.  The Charitable Words team and friends are available for mentoring and guidance of the students.

The program is intended to benefit students who may not be on the radar for traditional scholarships. Their grades may have suffered because they work to pay tuition. Charitable Words looks at the bottom of resumes more than the top: In that “Interests” segment, what have you done with your life besides attend classes? Have you volunteered to help others? Have you done service projects? Your character, core values and DNA counts more to Charitable Words than a GPA.

The nonprofits we look for are those in which a few hours a week would make an impact. Those that would take the time to provide the intern proper attention and mentoring to make the experience meaningful and, hopefully, life changing.

What matters gets measured: Outcomes, so far:

Charitable Words Scholars, in its pilot stage, is already seeing tangible results with student interns making significant contribution and changing lives.

Charitable Words Scholars contribute “reports from the field” to the Charitable Words blog, which is affiliated with and linked to the Cincinnati.com network, providing a significant audience.

Charitable Words Scholar Sarah Jernigan was assigned to the East End Adult Education Center, which offers preparation tutoring for General Education Development (GED) testing for high school diploma equivalency credentials. Her report:  “One of the students I’ve been working with, Amanda, has improved three grade levels in one month. Of course, I do not take full credit for her accomplishments. Other teachers have been working with her and she is a very dedicated student. The East End has led me to reevaluate my plans after I graduate and motivates me to continue to teach others.”

Since Sarah wrote that post and finished her internship, she reported that several of the students she was working with advanced two and three reading levels. Ten of them passed their GEDs recently. That will change their lives, at least give them a better chance for better circumstances.

Tia Garcia, a University of Cincinnati Journalism student and multimedia editor of the student News Record, was assigned as a Charitable Words Scholar with Melodic Connections, which provides music therapy to special needs students. Autistic students “rock out” in smiles with their guitars and drums. This is Melodic Connections’ mission. Tina’s job was to help the nonprofit with its message. She used her skills to redesign the nonprofits web site, including short videos of student performances.

Executive director Betsey Zelnick reported that  Melodic Connection’s “new digital store front” increased online traffic from 269 page views in 2012 to 5,512 by mid-June, 2013.

From 2008 – 2012, Melodic Connections had six volunteer inquiries, Zelnick said. “Because of website traffic, in 2013 we have had over 25 volunteer inquiries. Because of Tia’s connections to students at the University of Cincinnati we have had multiple students help us, from direct programming assistance to pre-professional work. A student from one of Tia’s classes learned about her work and provided over $1,000 in pro bono marketing and branding work.”

Charitable Words sponsored Richard Elliott, director of Cincinnati-based Village Life Outreach,  as a Scholar to lead a University of Cincinnati honors course group to East Africa. The students produced a documentary, “Telling True Stories in Tanzania” about Village Life’s work with local villagers and leaders in Tanzania on projects related to education, health and nutrition and water purification.  The documentary was shared on the Charitable Words blog and UC professor Elissa Yancey reported the video received more than 150 views and more than 250 guests showed up to attend the “Telling True Stories” documentary showing, raising $3,000 for Village Life projects.

The Charitable Words blog and social media strategies provide nonprofits a means to get their messages out.

When The Literacy Network of Greater Cincinnati was planning its annual “Handbags for Hope” benefit, the Charitable Words partnership and promotion was attributed to raising $2,000 for literacy. The Literacy Network reported social media metrics that showed its digital strategies reached more than 3,000 users the weeks before the event.  And when a tutor training session was mentioned on the Charitable Words blog, it “sold-out” with new 20 volunteers.

We hope the Big Idea reviewing committee — and voters from the public — concur that Charitable Words Scholars is a win-win-win-win — for students, nonprofits, those in need of help and the community. Recognition in the Big Idea program would be a big win to help Charitable Words Scholars move forward to do more.

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