Sunday, May 6, 2012

Community-based Team Project Reflection

Team: Brianna, Carrie, Mackenzie and Claire
Our group wrote a grant proposal and request to Zip Car in order to expand the transportation for the Community-Based Learning classes offered by the Spanish Department.  Our grant request was for the Public Engagement Grant via the University of Illinois Department for Public Engagement.  This grant is for community-based projects that also relate to course development and educational benefits for students as well as tie in with the university’s mission.  Because Spanish in the Community and Spanish and Entrepreneurship are both community-based courses, the grant perfectly fits the needs of these students.  These courses use hands-on experience in the community to not only help students improve their Spanish language skills, but also develop a sense of understanding of the world around them.  Specifically in the second course, students learn how to use these skills to work with and develop non-profit organizations and social businesses.  Many students also work with community partners that specifically relate to their specific courses of study, such as education, business, or medicine.  If the department receives this grant, not only will more students be able to take the courses, but will also have more opportunities to volunteer in places that really need the help, as well as relate to their interests and post-graduation plans.

The University of Illinois campus separates itself from the greater community of Champaign County.  It is a relatively compact academic hub, and campus town is marked by visible boundaries that separate the “us” from the “them.” This university is a powerhouse of research and technology, of business education and betterment.  It is not yet, however, a powerhouse of service.  Large parts of the Champaign community remain depressed and disadvantaged: It is time to spread the immense wealth centered in this single public institution.  This wealth does not need to be financial; rather, we believe that UIUC’s greatest asset is its students, and we hope that they can become much more active in the community at large.  The students of Spanish 232 and 332 have distinguished themselves by integrating community service into their studies, and many community organizations, such as the Crisis Nursery, SOAR and ECIRMAC have benefited from the steady supply of volunteers. Though Spanish 232 and 332 increase students’ awareness of the needs of the greater community, currently, there are few resources to increase students’ access to the county as a whole.  There are still many underserved community organizations that stand to benefit significantly from a new source of volunteers.  

Having the ability necessary to write a successful grant proposal proves to have many professional benefits. All of our group members are seniors and we can ll pinpoint numerous skills we have developed through the course of our project. Carrie is looking to work with a non-profit organization--where she will undoubtedly be able to apply her knowledge of grants. Through the project, she has gained a basic understanding of how to write a grant request, as well as refined her skills in professional communication. The ability to explain the current problem at hand, provide a proposed solution, and ask for financial assistance are all key components to writing a grant proposal that will translate to success in a non-profit organization.

Next year, Brianna will be teaching high school science through the Teach for America program, which places teachers into regions that are in need. These areas are primarily low-income, and many students are performing far below the academic standard for their level. While teaching, Brianna will need to think outside the box to develop alternative, creative strategies to help her students. During the team project, we took a problem (transportation issues) and proposed a creative solution. Brianna will be able to apply these critical thinking and logic skills to her career as a teacher.

Claire is pursuing a career in marketing, where she will be using skills learned in writing the proposal and letter to ZipCar to not only request funding to expand the class, but to help market for ZipCAr and expand consumer knowledge of their company. Not only is she learning marketing through writing to ZipCar, but also in writing the grant proposal because she is passionate about it, with hopes of growth in volunteer opportunities in the community, and marketing for the Spanish 232 and 332 classes.

Mackenzie is looking to find a career in business. She will be able to use the experience of dealing finally, forming the budget, with the grant as a way to further her knowledge of business practices which will someday help her in her career. She has seen what it looks like to be specific and precise in making a budget.

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