Civic Engagement Fund: Recent Recipients

The Gephardt Institute is advancing a bold vision to foster a vibrant culture of civic engagement at Washington University. The Civic Engagement Fund is a critical tool that supports members of the WashU campus who seek to strengthen the social fabric of our communities.

In the 2016-2017 academic year the fund awarded forty-one grants and more than $55,000 to faculty, students, and staff who developed coursework and initiatives that catalyze civic engagement and community partnership in St. Louis and beyond. Read about our February 2018 recipients below.

SMALL CHANGE GRANTS:

Judgement at Nuremberg: Matthew DeVoll, Assistant Dean, College of Arts and Sciences

In April 2018, students in the University College literature course The Pen is Mightier Than the Sword: Literary Responses to Tyranny will join with members of the Jewish Federation of St. Louis to attend a performance of the play Judgment at Nuremberg at the Missouri History Museum. The performance and a discussion afterward will mark one of several visits the students made to area exhibits and performances representing the history of oppression. Through the reading of literary works and these visits, the students will expand the range of their texts to include physical representations provided by cultural institutions. Moreover, with the dramatic performance, the students will gain a unique opportunity to connect with young adults and educators in the Jewish Federation of St. Louis, whose mission is “to build and strengthen community by connecting people to information, resources, services and each other.”

Beyond the Bottom Line: Corporate Sustainability and Social Responsibility Summit: Sean Fallon, Class of 2018, College of Engineering and Applied Sciences

The summit’s inspiration comes from the letter from Blackrock’s CEO, Larry Fink, to CEOs demanding they demonstrate their companies’ sustainability and social responsibility efforts to show how they make an impact in their communities. These panels will bring together experts and executives from a variety of industries to showcase and compare the similarities and differences in the approaches these companies use to achieve their respective sustainability or social impact goals.

Black Girl Magic v. Black Boy Joy Literacy Workshop, Brandi Pikes, Graduate Student, School of Law

In Missouri, about 15% of Black Fourth grade students in comparison to 42% of White Fourth graders are scoring proficient on the National Assessment of Educational Progress. In St. Louis City, several local elementary schools only have about 17% of their student body scoring proficient in reading. Some resources have suggested that private prisons determine how many prisons to build and where to build those prisons based off third grade reading proficiency.

With this project, Brandi encouraged, empowered, educated second graders at Bryan Hill Elementary about the importance of reading by organizing a Black Girl Magic v. Black Boy Joy Literacy Workshop. Using the “I Do – We Do – You Do” Teaching Model, Brandi and WashU volunteers were able to lead a one-day literacy mini-workshop, which encouraged students to read and provided students with an opportunity to practice their reading skills in safe space. In order to empowered students, she insured that at least one of the books the students read featured a character of color and discussed the importance of civic engagement. In addition, by the end of the workshop the students had read over 23,000 seconds.

Books and Basketball, Lorenzo Lampietti, Class of 2020, College of Arts and Sciences

Books and Basketball is dedicated to working with kids at Hickey Elementary School, a local St. Louis public school, four days a week, spending an hour tutoring and an hour playing sports in the gym with them. The executive board consists of all WashU students, many of whom have been involved since their first semester on campus. Books and Basketball has demonstrated its effectiveness in engaging young people through academics and sports. The program has been running for several years, with plans to expand operations in the coming months. Serving more local kids is the goal. But to achieve this goal, Books and Basketball is requesting extra funding, so that the program is able to better reach the goal of serving students at the end of a long school day. The Small Change Grant will respond to student requests for school supplies and snacks for the kids. The goal is to improve the lives of the students at Hickey Elementary School, while simultaneously growing the organization to support more tutors.

Christian Activity Center Robotics Team, Gabriela Hall, Class of 2020, College of Engineering and Applied Sciences

The goal of this project is to work with the East St. Louis Christian Activity Center to start a robotics club for elementary/middle school kids and develop it into a robotics team. We will begin by teaching Scratch through Google CS First, Raspberry Pi projects, and NXT robot projects. We will then make challenges for the kids to complete by working together to program an EV3 robot. We will then develop the club into a competing First Lego League robotics team.

Danforth Spring Break Service Trip, Jackson Rideout, Class of 2020, College of Engineering and Applied Sciences

The focus of the Danforth Service Trip is to bring participants in contact with the realities that residents of St. Louis face and form the foundation of lasting relationships, questioning in the process what “service” means to each participant individually. Recognizing and wrestling with the question of how much of the service is about ourselves — in both this week and throughout the rest of our lives — is a key component to becoming an aware citizen of St. Louis and the world.

Drop Everything and Design Day (D3), Jeremiah Lorentz, Class of 2018, College of Engineering and Applied Sciences

Drop Everything and Design Day (D3) is innovative service event put on by Studio: TESLA. All WashU students are open to volunteer as D3 hosts middle school scholars from schools across the St. Louis region for a fun and challenging design challenge, STEAM rotational exposition, lunch, and team presentations. D3 is held on WashU’s Danforth campus, and the goal of this event is to expose underrepresented students to critical thinking, problem solving, and STEAM, while giving WashU students an opportunity to give back to the community.

Niños Cambios Puertas Enrichment Materials, Lily Fawcett, Class of 2019, College of Arts and Sciences

Since its founding in 1996, Niños Cambios Puertas Tutoring and Mentoring Program (NCP) has been committed to supporting students from low-income Spanish-speaking homes in south St. Louis. WashU tutors encourage students to strive to reach their full potentials, working towards overcoming challenges brought on by their family’s socioeconomic status, immigration status, or home language. They accomplish this through homework help with a focus on literacy development for English language learners (ELLs), college prep work, and bonding activities. As role models, tutors build the students’ self- and cultural-esteem and help them realize the strength and value in themselves and their community. This Small Change Grant will allow NCP to purchase inclusive enrichment materials—learning tools designed to be engaging for all students—to help meet the program’s goals. The materials will include (1) culturally relevant literature for the bookshelves of their kindergarteners through 10th graders; (2) manipulatives for hands-on learning of mathematical concepts; and (3) supplies to be used creatively during group mentoring activities. With these materials, tutors will have more resources at their disposal to facilitate educational, impactful, and fun learning experiences for all students.

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Blvd. Farmers Market Mural Project, Alexis Vidaurreta, Class of 2019, Sam Fox School for Design and Visual Arts

Representing a continuation of relationships formed in the Community Building course, for this Small Change Grant project three Sam Fox School students will be painting a mural in the Wells-Goodfellow neighborhood. Working in conjunction with Wellston Loop Community Reconnect and Wellston Loop Community Development Corporation, as well as other volunteers from the Sam Fox School, the students’ activities will be concentrated on the intersection of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Drive and Hodiamont Avenue, a central space in the history of the area. The mural will represent the persistent positivity embraced by neighborhood change-makers and bolster community support for the incoming farmers market and Metro Market stop, featuring fruits, vegetables, and the faces of neighborhood residents in bright colors. Several weekend painting sessions will be required to complete the project, the first of which serve as a kickoff event featuring a cookout and an opportunity for community members to get involved with the mural and form relationships with the WashU students. The ultimate goals of the project are to advance the success of the new farmer’s market, beautify a historic intersection, and begin to bring together the WashU and Wells-Goodfellow communities in a partnership for lasting change.

Teach Me to Help, Joshua Hollman, Class of 2018, College of Arts and Sciences

Teach Me to Help is a student-run organization at Washington University in St. Louis. The organization is operated by Josh Hollman (president), Jonny Hecktman (instructor), and John Froelich (instructor). All three students have received their American Red Cross CPR/First Aid/AED Instructor’s license and are now dedicated to instructing and certifying local St. Louis high school students. Teach Me to Help has already certified over 60 SLPS students in fall 2017 and the organization hopes to certify at least 100 more students by the end of the school year. We believe that this will allow the organization to become solidified as a permanent organization in the St. Louis region, improve the connection between Washington University and the community, and create a tangible difference to local adolescents. The organization hopes to continue into the future and recruit more instructors to expand outreach to multiple high schools in 2018.

Tech Together, Alice Liu, Class of 2020, College of Arts and Sciences

Tech Together is a technology hotline and weekly workshop for formerly incarcerated citizens of St. Louis run by WashU students. Tech Together began as a collaboration between WashU’s Design For America chapter and the Criminal Justice Ministry, a nonprofit in St. Louis that supports and empowers those impacted by incarceration. Following several in-person interviews with CJM clients, the Tech Together team noticed a general frustration over the use of technology in day-to-day life. Many formerly incarcerated citizens, following over ten-year sentences, have missed the tech boom, and are largely unable to function effectively in our technologically sophisticated environment. Tech Together seeks to create a program that will engage this issue: a technology hotline that  is sensitive to the needs of formerly incarcerated citizens with the broad goal of easing the re-entry transition process by encouraging greater technological literacy and confidence. The hotline will be run and operated by WashU students who would staff the hotline on a rotating basis, in conjunction with a weekly workshop at CJM. The project seeks to engage the complex reentry transition process by creating a working relationship between WashU and CJM clients, around this important but relatively manageable issue.

Washington University Chemistry Tournament, Alana Dinh, Class of 2019, College of Arts and Sciences

Now in its third year, the Washington University Chemistry Tournament (WUCT) has played a major role in promoting STEM education among high school students. As an interdisciplinary effort among over 70 WashU undergraduates and faculty passionate about STEM education, WUCT hosts a national chemistry tournament for 250+ high school students and teachers annually in April. WUCT emphasizes real-world applications of science and promotes fundamental problem-solving and teamwork skills that will empower students to solve challenges in their schools, communities, and the world.

WUCT’s third tournament will be on April 7, 2018. The organization plans to have 300 students and 50 teachers from across the nation attend.

On competition day, WUCT also hosts faculty-led workshops for high school teachers to discuss various evidence-based active learning strategies that teachers can use to promote critical thinking and collaboration in innovative ways in their own classrooms. Additionally, WUCT members work with a chemistry teacher at an underserved St. Louis public high school during the school day to impart problem-solving strategies in a collaborative learning environment to students. Since the fall semester of 2017, WUCT has worked with classrooms of Soldan International Studies High School.

Youth Expressions St. Louis, Cory Schmitt, Graduate Student, George Brown School of Social Work

Youth Expressions St. Louis, or YXP, is a platform for young people to express their voices through spoken word, poetry, dance, music, fashion, visual art & more. By hosting monthly open-mic nights for middle and high schoolers at the Julia Davis Library on the Northside of St. Louis, attendees are given a space to share their creativity, talents, and passions with their peers and community. With over 400 people having witnessed more than 45 unique performances at an open-mic night since launching in January 2017, the vision of YXP is to empower young people, especially those from marginalized communities, to become change agents and leaders. YXP hopes to instill confidence in young people to believe in the power of their voices, both individually and collectively, to drive positive change in their schools, neighborhoods, cities and world.

COMMON GROUND GRANTS:

Community Art Wall, Lyle Hansen, Graduate Student, and Eve Wallack, Class of 2020, Sam Fox School for Design and Visual Arts

Sam Fox School students were inspired by Candy Chang’s lecture last semester and have voiced a desire to create an interactive art wall. The Office for Socially Engaged Practice has selected the construction wall between The Mildred Kemper Art Museum and Steinberg Hall for the future art wall, and planned with four student organizations to coordinate a series of events around the wall for the WashU community.

The construction wall is currently the physical manifestation of WashU’s East End campus transformation. The intention is to convert the wall into an interactive chalk wall, becoming a space for dialogue to respect, understand, and celebrate our greater diversity of voices and experience, while working to transform our student body to become the future WashU for everyone.

The hope is to make visible the many experiences, differences, desires of WashU students, and to make public the conversations that often are private or taboo. This wall will be a place for the community to come together and challenge each other, using the wall as a space for creative exploration and dialogue. Topics will range from experiences of gender bias, inclusivity and exclusivity of experiences of St. Louis, and minority representation at WashU.