The $100 Solution™ exceeds expectations of service-learning

Written by: Aurelia Spaulding

When registration opened for the spring semester, many students never imagined how they would apply their coursework to make sustainable differences in the community through The $100 Solution™ program.

“I had a friend who (the semester before) had done a $100 Solution project with her communications class, and she was telling me about it,” said Joanna Williams, a WKU English and philosophy student from Clarksville, TN. I immediately thought of her and thought this would be something really great to do; not only to learn more about Gender & Women’s Studies, but to also give back to the community in a way.”

Similar to other student groups implementing $100 Solution projects, Williams, with classmates Amanda Moody and Alyssa Turner, met with a community partner to talk about what they were interested in doing and to identify any needs the organization had. They found that a number of the youth at Parker Bennett Community Center (PBCC) were not reading at their grade levels. The three WKU students created a reading and incentive program to help accelerate their reading skills. They used the $100 to purchase books, and they highlighted books related to Gender and Women’s Studies.

In addition to the group working with Parker Bennett Community Center, 43 other groups completed service-learning coursework by implementing similar programs or projects. Some of these included Community Development Through Service-Learning students’ recycling program for Bowling Green High School, Cultural Diversity students’ interactive driving instruction board project for refugees, and Healthcare Analysis students’ gardening program for Magnolia Village, an Alzheimer’s center.

The last of the projects take place before the semester ends. A group from Dr. Jennifer Mize-Smith’s Group Communication class is creating sensory boards for the Kelly Autism Center in order to help advance the educational development of autistic youth from elementary to college aged.  A group from Dr. Paul Markham’s Citizen and Self class are establishing a sustainable volunteer network titled Buddy Volunteers for Down Syndrome for the Down Syndrome Support Group of South Central Kentucky.

“The $100 Solution™ program has been real good for our kids,” said Omar Rogers, Parker Bennett Community Center director. “A lot of times if we can get the kids to sit down, and we read the problems to them, then they can easily answer the questions. So, I think this reading program is really going to help our kids.”

Not only are the youth at PBCC learning, but the WKU students are learning through the services provided.  “One of the things we talked about in our class was women being in charge of their own lives and choices they make. Some of the books that we bought with the $100 show strong female characters. We wanted the kids to read about characters that they could identify with and they do not typically come across. These kids were reading more and were able to open up and discuss how the topics related to them,” Williams said.

During the spring 2012 semester, 11 instructors at WKU utilized The $100 Solution™ to include the service-learning principles of reciprocity, partnership, capacity building, sustainability, and reflection.

The $100 Solution™ is an international program. To learn more about The $100 Solution™ at WKU or to donate $100 for a project, please contact the ALIVE Center at 270-782-0082 or visit www.wku.edu/alive/the100dollarsolution

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