WKU Students Leave a Living Legacy

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Written by Alyssa Stephens, Photo by Clinton Lewis

Beginning with the class of 2013, students will have the opportunity to give something meaningful while they are attending Western Kentucky University, something that will keep on giving to both the university and the community long after they graduate, a living legacy.  This is the idea behind the Class Legacy Project.

The Class Legacy Project was introduced in WKU’s Quality Enhancement Plan, which states that WKU will “establish a Class Legacy Program whereby each student cohort adopts and addresses a significant university, social or civic issue during their tenure at Western.” The Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP) is part of WKU’s accreditation review, but this program in particular was based on a demand from students who want to be more involved in the community and a desire for increased engagement and connection between students at WKU and the citizens of Bowling Green.

After being published in the QEP, the project was passed on to Honors College Senior Joey Coe, who was part of the successful ONE campaign in 2007, in conjunction with Dr. Paul Markham, Co-Director of the Institute for Citizenship for Social Responsibility (ICSR).  According to Honors College Sophomore, Tracy Jo Ingram, one of the founding “Legateers,” beyond that sentence, nothing was really given to them.  “It wasn’t defined beyond that, what a Class Legacy Project was or what it should look like, so that it totally became the interpretation of students.” Joey Coe and Dr. Markham started inviting a group of freshman to the Hill House to further develop the idea, and since then it has been in student hands, the class of 2013.  “We’ve taken the reigns, and it is up to us to dictate what it might look like.”

The inaugural class has yet to name a specific project, but students have narrowed their focus to Bowling Green’s “Enterprise Community”, so named because of a grant program that provided hundreds of thousands of dollars over 11 years to improve the economic and social conditions of this area. In Ingram’s opinion, this decision is the most important. “Our overarching goal isn’t the project but the place. We are making a commitment to that area, and each class will find their niche within it and find room for improvement in that area.”

“It’s not anything like what we thought it would look like last year,” says Ingram, “It’s very much derived from the QEP, but now that it’s started to take shape, it’s also changing form. It’s really an idea that requires patience. The whole idea of ‘Rome wasn’t built in a day.’ It’s this concept that’s being built upon more and more as we learn about our community and the difference we want to make.”

The idea made its official debut this fall at the Freshman Assembly and was met with considerable interest. The original class involves around 10 people, but about 40 members of the class of 2014 expressed interest in being a part of this project.  This may seem small, but according to Ingram, that is all you need. “It really boils down to a few committed people,” says Ingram. “But that’s really all it takes to make a difference.”

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