Project teaches students to give

Two years ago, the Manuel D. and Rhoda Mayerson Foundation introduced a new concept to NKU. The Student Philanthropy Project allows students, enrolled in participating courses, to determine the best way to award funds to charitable foundations. Harvard and Xavier have since duplicated this concept.

The Student Philanthropy Project gives participating courses $4,000 to be given to charitable organizations in the Tri-state. Students assess the need of organizations by researching several different organizations and inviting them into the classes to speak. The students determine who is most in need of the money, who the funds are awarded to and how much they will receive.

Currently five courses are taking part in the project, including University 101, English 101, Applied Social Research, Speech 340 and one Honors course. The diversity of classes involved in the project give various types of students the opportunity to engage in philanthropic work – from first-semester freshman to seniors.

Dr. Cady Short-Thompson, professor of Speech Communication says she hopes students can “get a sense of how connected we are in the community. That what they learn here is something that will carry through their entire life and that there is value and service in philanthropy and caring about other people.” She says that she often tries to make her class something that students will be able to remember the rest of their lives.

Jami Hergott, senior speech major, says she is glad that she enrolled in the Mayerson course. She says that because of the course she “hopefully will be more apt to become involved in the future.”

Hergott says that the course is beneficial to her because “it gives students a chance to become involved in the community.” She also says that she has “never actually thought of doing it before” but this class gave her a reason to.

Dr. Short-Thompson’s class is raising additional money over and above the $4,000 given to them. They hope to either award a larger amount to one organization, or award money to more organizations.

At the end of each semester, a press conference is held to announce the charities who will receive the grants. This is a student-led event in which the students announce and award the grants.

Due to its success, the project is currently being institutionalized by The Scripps Howard Foundation Center for Civic Engagement. The foundation will manager the project which will continue at NKU, and, possibly, expand to other schools.

Dr. Short-Thompson says that the project is very gratifying. It is amazing “when people stand in that auditorium crying as they get this money…they know how much it matters,” she said.