When a group of students spontaneously serenaded an 82-year-old, wheelchair-bound nursing-home resident with a rousing rendition of “Happy Birthday to You” during the Mayerson Student Philanthropy Project award ceremony, the Mayerson classes made the grade by proving a point. They showed philanthropy can promote a deeper understanding of civic responsibility and reinforce student involvement in communities.
“Cowboy,” as the 82-year-old is nicknamed, accompanied Yogi Wess, director of the nonprofit “Little Brothers – Friends of the Elderly,” to the Eva G. Farris auditorium’s podium, where the organization was given a $2,000 check. The funds were designated for the agency by Northern Kentucky University Professor Jon Cullick’s honors freshman composition class.
Student representative McKenzie Marx, before presenting the check, credited Cullick’s class with creating life long memories and friendships among the students and the elderly whom they interacted with at the agency.
Little Brothers wasn’t the only organization receiving funds. A total of 11 nonprofit agencies received their share of more than $14,000 April 19 alloted by NKU students participating in the Mayerson Student Philanthropy Project. This year the project, originally developed in 2000, incorporated new elements.
Maggie Stevens, director of service-learning programs for the Scripps Howard Center, explained during the ceremony that the Mayerson Foundation’s funding allowed each participating class to give approximately $4,000 or more, depending on its fund-raising efforts, to different community agencies. The Mayerson Foundation recently challenged program leadership to create new ways to support the project.
Through community-building efforts, the project partnered with Citigroup. They agreed to provide funding for the 2007 spring semester and allowed students to partner with its community-impact board, which supports numerous local nonprofit agencies.
This semester Mayerson classes gave in three different ways, Stevens explained. Some students were involved in the traditional direct giving, which required requesting proposals and deciding where to allot funds. Other classes helped Citigroup to review proposals that came into its office and made recommendations to its board. Yet other classes, such as professor Cady Short-Thompson’s Strategies of Persuasion, used a combination of the methods.
Students and faculty were enthusiastic about the process.
“I’ve been here at the university for 11 years, and I love it here,” Short-Thompson said during the ceremony. “But I will say that I now have the luxury of choosing which things I do, and I like to do things that matter. And I think this is a process that matters.”
Taylor Link, a senior political science and public relations major, is taking her second Mayerson Project class.
“(I’m) understanding the needs that are out there in our community,” Link said. “I live in Covington, and I see it on a daily basis. But I didn’t know there were different nonprofits out there that really reach the community and actually make a difference.”
Wahid Lewis, a junior, also enjoyed the experience.
“It opened a lot of doors,” Lewis said. “My major is public relations, so this is something I can definitely see myself doing in the future as a career. I would highly recommend this class to other students at NKU. It’s an excellent experience to have.”
Vassilis Dalakas, assistant professor of marketing and director of the Mayerson Student Philanthropy Project, also found it to be well worth the efforts.
“It’s exciting to me, because of the fact that it’s taking education to another level,” Dalakas said. “I like to use that expression that education is not just about educating the head, but it’s also about educating the heart and the hands. The philanthropy component is not ‘instead of .’ It’s the way through which the material is taught. That’s exciting to me to be a part of, and it was exciting for me to witness the outcome and result of it.”