Home Runs for Gabby: Campbell University Baseball Team Rallies Around No. 1 Fan

The Fighting Camels of Sullivan Foundation partner school Campbell University didn’t make it to the College World Series this year, but it wasn’t for lack of support from their No. 1 fan: Gabby Hernandez. For the last six years, Gabby Hernandez has rolled up to Jim Perry Stadium in her wheelchair, belting cheers for her team—even while fighting for her life.

“No matter what kind of struggle she’s got going on, she makes sure that she’s here for us,” said Drake Pierson, a first-team All Big South Conference first baseman this year as a redshirt junior. “And we make sure that we are here for her.”

Gabby suffers from a life-threatening genetic disorder on Chromosome 22q, leading to multiple physical ailments, including a severe form of epilepsy called myoclonic-astatic. She has faced brain loss in the form of cerebral atrophy, respiratory failure on a half-dozen occasions and has been diagnosed with several other conditions.

Related: Non-speaking student with autism delivers powerful valedictorian speech at Rollins College

While catching something as simple as the flu could be devastating, you wouldn’t know it by watching the teenager cheer on her team.

“They’re always willing to do whatever is going to make her happy,” her mother, Joann Ayala, said. “It means the world to us, just to give her a chance.”

The relationship dates back to the team’s community service trip to the Miracle League of Johnston County. From the moment Gabby laid eyes on the Fighting Camels in 2016, the connection clicked. By the time the 2018 season rolled along, then-freshman Ty Babin saw her splendid smile across the dugout and made sure to make Gabby feel at home.

Ty Babin poses for a photo with Gabby Hernandez and her family.

“I tried to talk to her every game and, whenever she was here with her family, [spent] as much time as I could with her, because it was really obvious to see how much she truly cared about Campbell baseball,” Babin said.

His teammates quickly rallied to support Gabby as well. The players sign autographs for her before every game. Many of them say hello to her during the game in the on-deck circle or even on the field, and everyone makes sure to stick around after the game for any photo request Gabby wants.

“Honestly, I just try to put on a show for her,” Pierson said. ”She’s over there smiling and screaming for all of us to say hello, and it’s really nice to see her find happiness through us.”

Gabby’s voice echoes through Jim Perry Stadium. She knows every name on the Campbell roster and is keenly aware of when to cheer. And that unwavering support is deeply appreciated, according to Pierson. “Whatever it is, whether you got a guy in scoring position or whatever, I’m going to get it done,” he said. “I want to make her smile, make her happy.”

Related: Native American commission meets at Campbell University to forge a path to the future

That desire to make Gabby smile hit close to home for Babin. This past December, the fifth-year first-team All-Conference senior organized a Home Run Derby fundraiser at Jim Perry Stadium. Fans paid to get their cuts in and take batting practice on the field, and the event raised more than $4,800 to help pay medical bills for Gabby’s family.

“I’d like to believe these moments give her a drive to keep going and keep fighting because she does have a lot of illnesses, and we don’t know how long she has left,” her mother said.

While Gabby continues to deal with multiple life-threatening diseases, nothing is more sacred to her than time spent with her boys. Following a series win on April 10, Babin and Pierson noticed Gabby watching kids run the bases from her usual perch by the visitors’ dugout. The players acted immediately, pushing Gabby around the bases so she could be a part of the action.

A Fighting Camels player wheels Gabby around the bases at Jim Perry Stadium.

As Gabby rounded third base, rolling toward the plate in her wheelchair, fans in attendance stood in unison and cheered on the Camels’ biggest fan.

“They treat us like family,” said Elizabeth Ayala, Gabby’s older sister. “They take the time out of their day to talk to us and hang out with us, and it just feels like family.”

“It’s really important to me and our guys to make sure she can enjoy her life on a daily basis,” Pierson said. “If we have any small part in that, then then I want to contribute to that.”

Gabby’s latest miracle came from a phone call she received on Memorial Day. Campbell’s baseball team had earned a spot in the NCAA Regionals, and the entire Ayala family was invited to watch the games in Knoxville, Tenn., as special guests of the team.

“Gabby was just so excited about the news, that’s all she would talk about,” Joann said. “We just really appreciate all the love that we get here from everybody.”

This article has been edited and expanded from the original version appearing on the Campbell University website.

“May Peace Prevail on Earth”: Furman University Dedicates Peace Pole

By Clinton Colmenares, Furman University

A steady rain couldn’t dampen the spirits of about 50 students, faculty, staff and guests who gathered inside Hartness Pavilion at Sullivan Foundation partner school Furman University in early April to dedicate the installation of a peace pole.

Outside, between the dining hall and Furman Lake, the peace pole, installed the day before, stood as a stalwart symbol of reflection. Painted pencil yellow, the square wooden pole, standing about seven feet high, reads “May peace prevail on Earth” in English, Spanish, Arabic and Chinese.

The Cothran Center for Vocational Reflection presented the pole after students encountered other poles during trips to the Corrymeela Community in Northern Ireland and to Montgomery, Alabama.

The pole “represents Furman’s hope and commitment toward peace in our community and the entire world,” according to Abijah Leamon, one of several students who spoke at the ceremony.

Related: Campuswide collaboration brings period equity to Furman University

John Harris, director of the Cothran Center, said the peace pole “is also a reminder of the peace that can be felt individually and internally by those who work toward understanding their own vocations and callings. Personally, the peace pole reminds me of the special experiences we have had with our students in locations where these poles already exist.”

There are more than 250,000 peace poles around the world.

Furman President Elizabeth Davis said the peace pole symbolizes the Cothran Center’s mission of reflection, which is central to “The Furman Advantage.” She also thanked Jeanette Cothran, who was in attendance, and her husband John, for their gift in 2013 that endowed the center.

“I hope this peace pole encourages us to pause and appreciate what we have and to pray in your tradition for people for whom peace is fleeting or foreign,” Davis said. “Let us use this peace pole to motivate us to spread peace wherever and however we can.”

This article has been edited and condensed from the original version appearing on the Furman University website.

Non-Speaking Student With Autism Delivers Powerful Valedictorian Speech

Elizabeth Bonker delivered a powerful valedictorian speech that many at Sullivan Foundation partner school Rollins College will never forget—and she never said a word.

Bonker, who is affected by non-speaking autism, hasn’t spoken since she was 15 months old. She communicates solely by typing and used text-to-speech software to inspire her fellow graduates to serve others, recognize the value in everyone they meet and “be the light.”

“The world,” she told them, can’t wait to see our light shine.”

Read the full text of Elizabeth Bonker’s valedictorian speech here.

Bonker is the founder of the nonprofit, Communication 4 ALL, whose mission is to “champion efforts to ensure communication is available to all non-speakers with autism.” She’s a poet, a lyricist and the co-author of the book, “I Am In Here,” which describes her journey as a non-speaking child with autism and how she found her voice without speaking aloud.

That voice rang clear and strong in Bonker’s valedictorian address.

“Today we celebrate our shared achievements,” Bonker said. “I know something about shared achievements because I am affected by a form of autism that doesn’t allow me to speak. My neuromotor issues also prevent me from tying my shoes or buttoning a shirt without assistance. I have typed this speech with one finger with a communication partner holding a keyboard. I am one of the lucky few non-speaking autistics who have been taught to type. That one critical intervention unlocked my mind from its silent cage, enabling me to communicate and to be educated like my hero, Helen Keller.”

“My situation may be extreme,” she added, “but I believe Rollins has shown all of us how sharing gives meaning to life.”

Bonker has “spoken” at many events, including the Autism Society’s Town Hall and an Ashoka Changemakers conference. She has been spotlighted by PBS and TedMed and in the documentary film, “In Our Own Hands: How Patients Are Reinventing Medicine.”

In April, she released two songs from a 10-song album, titled “I Am In Here.” She wrote the lyrics, and the Boston-based band The Bleeding Hearts wrote and performed the music. One of the songs, “Silent Cage,” features guitarist Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine.

As a changemaker, Bonker is following in the footsteps of another Rollins College hero: Fred Rogers, who received the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award in 2001. In her speech, she recalled a story about the beloved Mister Rogers. “When he died, a handwritten note was found in his wallet. It said, ‘Life is for service.’ You have probably seen it on the plaque by Strong Hall. Life is for service. So simple, yet so profound.”

Bonker continued: “We are all called to serve, as an everyday act of humility, as a habit of mind. To see the worth in every person we serve. To strive to follow the example of those who chose to share their last crust of bread. For to whom much is given, much is expected.”

“God gave you a voice,” she said. “Use it. And, no, the irony of a non-speaking autistic encouraging you to use your voice is not lost on me. Because if you see the worth in me, then you can see the worth in everyone you meet.”

Catawba College Offering More Scholarships to Students from the Catawba Nation

The Catawba Nation has lived along the banks of the Catawba River in South Carolina for at least 6,000 years. The Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto encountered them in 1540 as he marched his troops across the Piedmont region in search of gold. Later, the Catawba welcomed European settlers to their ancestral land, but these latecomers—or invaders— brought diseases like smallpox to the Catawba, reducing the population to less than 1,000 by 1760.

Today, the Catawba people stand tall and proud, describing themselves as “the tribe of tomorrow, today.” And now more members of the Catawba Nation will have the chance to build their own tomorrow through higher education, thanks to a new agreement reached with Sullivan Foundation partner school Catawba College, located in Salisbury, N.C.

Back in 2007, the Catawba Nation and Catawba College came together to discuss the name of the college’s athletic teams’ nickname, the Indians. They reached an agreement to allow the use of the name in exchange for a scholarship for a Catawba student. The initial agreement allowed one student to receive a four-year scholarship every four years. In April of this year, that agreement was updated to offer a four-year scholarship to a new Catawba Nation student every year.

Related: Sullivan Award recipient Gabriel Carrilho helped bring clean water to village in Ecuador

The change reflects ongoing collaborations to further strengthen the relationship between Catawba College and the Catawba Nation. The goal is to offer more educational resources and opportunities for tribal students while teaching Catawba College students about the rich history and culture of the Catawba Nation.

“Catawba College and the Catawba Nation have been intrinsically linked since the college’s founding over 170 years ago,” said Dr. Jared R. Tice, senior vice president for the college experience and dean of students at Catawba College. “This new annual scholarship offering further demonstrates the strengthened partnership of our two communities working together to advance the educational opportunities for Catawba citizens. We look forward to creating additional pathways and opportunities with the Nation in the very near future.”

“We are excited to see the partnership between the Catawba Nation and Catawba College grow, and in turn, to see the educational opportunities for young Catawba citizens multiply,” Catawba Nation Chief Bill Harris said.

To be eligible for the Catawba College Scholarship, Catawba students must provide a copy of their Tribal ID and meet other eligibility requirements for admission.

As a general rule, there will be one full-tuition Catawba Indian Nation Scholarship available each academic year, inclusive of all merit scholarships already awarded. The scholarship does not cover on-campus room and board or book costs. However, each student receiving the scholarship can still receive additional scholarships to cover those costs. Like any other scholarship recipient, the recipient must remain in good academic standing with Catawba College while carrying a full-time class load except in their final semester or due to extenuating personal circumstances.

Last October, Catawba College received a $200 million gift to its endowment, the largest in its history, putting the school in line with nearby colleges and universities like the University of North Carolina-Charlotte, according to the Salisbury Post. That gift means Catawba College now has one of the highest endowment-per-student ratios in the region.

This article has been edited and expanded from the original version appearing on the Catawba College website.

Ungrading: An English Professor Makes Her Case Against Grading Students’ Work

By Elisabeth Gruner, Professor of English, University of Richmond

I’ve been teaching college English for more than 30 years. Four years ago, I stopped putting grades on written work, and it has transformed my teaching and my students’ learning. My only regret is that I didn’t do it sooner.

Starting in elementary school, teachers rate student work—sometimes with stars and checkmarks, sometimes with actual grades. Usually by middle school, when most students are about 11, a system of grading is firmly in place. In the U.S., the most common system is an “A” for superior work through “F” for failure, with “E” almost always skipped.

This system was widely adopted only in the 1940s, and even now, some schools, colleges and universities use other means of assessing students. But the practice of grading—and ranking—students is so widespread as to seem necessary, even though many researchers say it is highly inequitable. For example, students who come into a course with little prior knowledge earn lower grades at the start, which means they get a lower final average, even if they ultimately master the material. Grades have other problems: They are demotivating, they don’t actually measure learning and they increase students’ stress.

During the pandemic, many instructors and even entire institutions offered pass/fail options or mandated pass/fail grading. They did so both to reduce the stress of remote education and because they saw that the emergency, disruptive to everyone, was disproportionately challenging for students of color. However, many later resumed grading, not acknowledging the ways that traditional assessments can both perpetuate inequity and impede learning.

I started my journey toward what’s called “ungrading” before the pandemic. In continuing it throughout, I have seen the effects, which are like those observed by other researchers in the field.

Three Reasons
I stopped putting grades on written work for three related reasons, all of which other professors have also cited as concerns.

First, I wanted my students to focus on the feedback I provided on their writing. I had a sense, now backed up by research, that when I put a grade on a piece of writing, students focused solely on that. Removing the grade forced students to pay attention to my comments.

Second, I was concerned with equity. For almost 10 years I have been studying inclusive pedagogy, which focuses on ensuring that all students have the resources they need to learn. My studies confirmed my sense that sometimes what I was really grading was a student’s background. Students with educational privilege came into my classroom already prepared to write A or B papers, while others often had not had the instruction that would enable them to do so. The 14 weeks they spent in my class could not make up for the years of educational privilege their peers had enjoyed.

Third, and I admit this is selfish: I hate grading. I love teaching, though, and giving students feedback is teaching. I am happy to do it. Freed from the tyranny of determining a grade, I wrote meaningful comments, suggested improvements, asked questions and entered into a dialogue with my students that felt more productive—that felt, in short, more like an extension of the classroom.

It’s Called ‘Ungrading’
The practice that I adopted is not new, and it’s not my own. It’s called “ungrading,” though that’s not entirely accurate. At the end of the semester, I do have to give students grades, as required by the university.

But I do not grade individual assignments. Instead, I give students extensive feedback and ample opportunity to revise.

At the end of the semester, they submit a portfolio of revised work, along with an essay reflecting on and evaluating their learning. Like most people who ungrade, I reserve the right to change the grade that students assign themselves in that evaluation. But I rarely do, and when I do, I raise grades almost as often as I lower them.

The first class I ungraded was incredulous. After I explained the theory and the method, they peppered me with many of the questions that other ungraders have also faced. “If we ask you, will you tell us what grade we have on a paper?” No, I answered, because I really won’t have put a grade on it. “If we decide halfway through the semester that we’re done revising something, will you grade it then?” No again, because I’m grading an entire portfolio, not individual pieces. “Will you tell me where I stand?” My comments on your work—and our conferences—should give you a good sense of how you’re progressing in the class.

As for motivation, I asked them, “What do you want to learn? Why are you here?” Like most college professors, I teach classes across the curriculum, but I started my ungrading journey in classes that students were taking to fulfill basic graduation requirements. They were stopped short by the question. They wanted a good grade, and fair enough: That is the currency of the institution.

As we talked, though, we uncovered other motivations. Some took my children’s literature class because they thought it would be a fun or easy way to fulfill the requirement. They confessed, sometimes reluctantly, to anxieties about reading, about writing. They weren’t confident in their skills and didn’t think they could improve. These were exactly the students I was hoping to reach. Without putting grades on their work, I hoped—like my fellow ungrader Heather Miceli, who teaches general science courses to college students—that these less confident students would see that they could improve, could develop their skills and meet their own goals.

In my more advanced courses, students had an easier time identifying content-related goals, but I have also found surprisingly similar results in their reflections: They, too, want to overcome anxieties about speaking in class, concerns that they aren’t as prepared as their classmates, fears that they can’t keep up.

How Did It Go?
That first semester, students participated in class, did the readings and wrote their papers. I read and commented on them, and if they chose to, they revised—as often as they wanted.

At the end of the semester, when they submitted portfolios of revised work, their reflections on the process and assessments of their learning tracked closely with my own. Most recognized their growth, and I concurred. One student, a senior, thanked me for treating them like adults. As for my interest in equity, I found that students who were less well prepared did indeed develop their skills; their growth was substantial, and both they and I recognized it.

The system takes time to implement, and I’ve revised it over the years. When I began, I was inexperienced at coaching students to develop their own goals for the course, at helping them to reflect, and at guiding them to think about assessment in terms of their own development rather than following a rubric. And I’ve found that students need time to reflect on their own goals for the class at the outset, at a midpoint, and again at the end of the semester, so they can actually see how they’ve developed. They need encouragement to revise their work as well—my comments help, but so do pointed reminders that the process of learning involves revision, and the course is set up to enable it.

Students in introductory classes require a bit more direction in this work than advanced students, but most eventually take the opportunity to revise and reflect. Now, I see students from all backgrounds recognizing their own growth, whatever their starting point. They benefit from my coaching, but perhaps even more from the freedom to decide for themselves what really matters in their reading and writing. And I benefit too, from the opportunity to help them learn and grow without the tyranny of the grade.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article here.

The Citadel Amps Up STEM Outreach With Engineering Event for Girl Scouts

The Citadel’s School of Engineering is consistently ranked as one of the top 25 programs in the country by U.S. News and World Report. But attracting more women to engineering programs can be a struggle. Fortunately, the School of Engineering has a highly engaged chapter of the national Society of Women Engineers (SWE), and its members are committed to transforming this male-dominated field.

Cadet Madison Locklear, the chapter’s treasurer and a mechanical engineering major from Lugoff, S.C., recently helped coordinate an event that drew 100 girl scouts from across the Lowcountry of South Carolina to the Citadel campus to learn more about careers in engineering.

Related: 7 ways to get students excited about STEM careers

“The reason I joined our SWE chapter is because I am in such a male-dominated career field and also attend a male-dominated college,” Locklear said. “I wanted to be able to connect with more women who are engineers and see what it’s like for them in their career fields and be able to see all the amazing things that they have achieved and accomplished in their careers.”

According to The Citadel Office of Institutional Research, women comprise just 6.6 percent of the university’s engineering undergraduates. Whether they’re studying mechanical, civil, computer, construction or electrical engineering, the women cadets and students in the SWE chapter have made it part of their mission to introduce girls to a non-traditional career path that could change their lives.

On February 27, they hosted the Introduce a Girl Scout to Engineering event, reaching out to girl scouts who are beginning to consider their career options.

“I want to some day be a designer for projects in sustainability for the power and energy industry,” Locklear said, adding that she shared her career goals with the girl scouts as an example of the many careers options that exist for engineers.

“Our theme of space exploration was a hit, providing an incredible opportunity to see three generations of women and girls exploring creative ways to solve engineering problems, such as building a space elevator, a rover and a moon communication system,” said Rebekah Burke, a professor of construction environmental engineering at The Citadel and the SWE chapter advisor.

Related: Auburn University to lead STEM education initiative for students with disabilities

At the event, Burke said, teams of girl scouts were partnered with a Citadel cadet or student and an engineering professional or Citadel professor in a model of informal mentorship. Their goal was “to encourage girls to pursue a career in a STEM career such as engineering,” Burke added.

Cadet members who hold leadership positions with the SWE chapter on campus planned and directed the event. They included Locklear, Alicia Brewington, Elizabeth Lockridge and Rachel Short.

This article has been edited from the original version appearing on The Citadel’s website.

Brenau University Professor Helps Brownie Troop Earn Their Potter Badges

Pottery is one of the world’s most ancient—and useful—arts, practiced since the early days of humankind. It’s not an easy skill to master, but, with some help from Brenau University’s Center for the Arts & Design, members of Girl Scout Brownie Troop 11917 are well on their way.

The brownie troop members earned their potter badges during classes held Feb. 12 and 26 at the Simmons Visual Arts Center on Brenau’s campus in Gainesville, Ga. They learned about clay and then got to build their own ceramic pots and other items. After the pieces dried and were fired in the kiln, they returned to glaze their pieces before a final firing.

Related: Girl Scout creates sustainable shopping maps to combat fast fashion

“We’re teaching the children that ceramics are another positive way for self-expression,” said Huy Chu, an assistant professor of art and design and studio arts program director at Brenau, a Sullivan Foundation partner school. “Gainesville and the surrounding area has a rich ceramics history. This is a great avenue for them to connect with that history.”

Photo by AJ Reynolds/Brenau University

Elizabeth Manfroni, mother of scouts Sophie, 8, and Clara, 6, said the classes were fun while also providing a great learning experience. She said the scouts recently earned their first-aid badges.

“It’s been really great to see how it’s empowered the girls,” said Manfroni, as she helped Sophie put the finishing touches on her Pikachu.

In addition to her Pikachu, Sophie also made a dog, a pot and a snowgirl. “She may not be perfect, but I still love her,” she said of her snowgirl, which she topped with a blue flower and painted-on bangs.

Sarah, 7, daughter of Kelly and Ian Peters, who both work at Brenau, was excited to be earning her potter badge. “It’s been so cool,” she said as she painted the restaurant that her brother, William, 3, made during the first of the two classes. He was sick and unable to make the second class.

Related: How one Mary Baldwin University student is using her MBA to improve education for dyslexic youths

Huy Chu gives scouts a quick lesson in pottery-making. (Photo by AJ Reynolds/Brenau University)

Sarah said she’s also looking forward to getting her snack-making badge. “Trail mix is my favorite snack,” she said.

Kelly Peters, troop leader and assistant to Brenau’s executive vice president and CFO, said Chu was the first person who came to mind when the scouts expressed an interest in completing the Brownie potter badge.

“I emailed him to see if he would be willing to help them earn this badge, and he immediately replied that he would be happy to help,” Peters said. “He was even willing to give up two Saturday mornings to accommodate my troop’s usual meeting times.”

Peters said Troop 11917 met for an hour and a half each day to complete their projects.

“I hope the Brownies and their families had a memorable event at Brenau,” Chu said. “When they show their badge to others, they have a great story to share on how they achieved it.”

While this was the Center for the Arts & Design’s first time working with scouts, Chu said he hopes to do similar events in the future.

This story has been edited from the original version appearing on the Brenau University website.

Photo by AJ Reynolds/Brenau University

30-Plus Students from Bellarmine University Devoted Spring Break to Service

More than 30 students and eight faculty/staff members at Sullivan Foundation partner school Bellarmine University dedicated their spring breaks to volunteering and engaging with four communities across Louisville, Ky. and the surrounding region.

As part of Bellarmine’s annual Alternative Spring Break program, each trip was designed to encourage students to develop a deeper understanding of social issues and a personal sense of social responsibility.

Bellarmine announced the creation of its Center for Community Engagement in 2021. The center now facilitates the Alternative Spring Break program.

Students spent their spring breaks focusing on specific issues in the following locations:

  • Huntington, West Virginia—Food Access: Students, faculty and staff worked with Huntington City Mission and Facing Hunger, a food bank, to support a food warehouse and mobile food distribution service in the area.
  • David, Kentucky—Education Access: Students and faculty visited the David School, an educational program for Appalachian high school dropouts and at-risk youth, to help students in their daily studies and support a renovation project on the main campus.
  • Indianapolis, Indiana—Healthcare Access: A group of students and staff members supported the Center of Wellness for Urban Women and the Diabetes Impact Project.

Related: This George Mason University student is a champion for people with disabilities who need organ transplants

The program in Louisville focused on Social Justice and Race Relations. The group spent the week working with community partners such as AMPED, Louisville Urban League, Russell: A Place of Promise and St. George’s Scholar Institute.

Prince Mugabo, a philosophy major in Bellarmine’s pre-med program, was busy one Thursday afternoon filling bags of rice for families served by La Casita Center, a Louisville nonprofit that enhances the wellbeing of the local Latinx community. “I want to be a helping hand, part of the solution, not just sitting on the sidelines,” he said.

Breanna Dukes, a freshman nursing major, said she enjoyed learning about the community partners and the projects they were working on. “I thought this was a good opportunity to feel more connected to my city,” she said.

This story has been edited slightly from the original version appearing on the Bellarmine University website.

Hollins University Creates First-Year Seminar Based on UN’s Sustainable Development Goals

Two professors at Sullivan Foundation partner school Hollins University last semester launched a one-year seminar built around the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and put students to work addressing the goals of their choice with their own projects designed to impact their community.

The UN’s Sustainable Development Goals are a set of 17 interconnected global objectives that serve as “a blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all people and the world.”

Assistant Professor of Education Teri Wagner and Assistant Professor of Biology and Environmental Studies Mary Jane Carmichael answered the UN’s call by launching the new first-year seminar entitled, “Ask Not What Your Community Can Do for You: Sustainability and Social Innovation.” Under Wagner’s leadership, the course was extended into the 2022 January Short Term (J-term).

Related: How Ignite Retreat speaker Sanah Javani overcame alopecia and learned to love her natural self

The was also supported by student success leader Zahin Mahbuba, who was selected as a 2021-22 University Innovation Fellow by Stanford University’s Hasso Plattner Institute of Design. Fellows design experiences to help their peers gain the creative confidence, agency and entrepreneurial mindset needed to address global challenges.

“It was just serendipitous that Zahin ended up as our SSL,” Wagner said. “One of the reasons it worked out so well is that my dissertation centered on design-based learning and how you implement it into the classroom. With Zahin doing this internship, we spent a lot of time brainstorming and thinking through the course together.”

“Sustainability and Social Innovation is based on the SDGs,” Wagner said. “Students in the first-year seminar dug into those goals and ranked the three that interested them the most. From those rankings, we divided the students into four groups, asked each group to focus on a specific SDG, and had them identify a problem in the local community that they’d like to solve. We then connected each group with a community organization in the Roanoke Valley that is working on initiatives related to that goal. Students in the first-year seminar spent the fall term planning and designing projects, and those in the J-term extension implemented them.”

The groups chose the SDGs “Good Health and Well-Being,” “Quality Education,” “Gender Equality,” and “Life on Land” for their respective projects. To secure funding, each team in the first-year seminar applied for a Warren W. Hobbie Ethics and Service Endowment grant. The Hobbie Endowment provides Hollins students with a program of experiential or service learning opportunities that require them to confront values or ethical issues. “They had to specify what they intended to purchase and how much it was going to cost,” Wagner said. “Each group received a grant, and the awards ranged from $550 to more than $800.”

Related: Josh Campbell brings “deep listening” superpower to Spring 2022 Ignite Retreat

The group centering on “Good Health and Well-being” partnered with Carilion Children’s, which provides pediatric programs and services to residents of Roanoke and southwest Virginia. Carilion in turn linked the group with New Horizons Healthcare, a not-for-profit, community-based family health center that cares for underserved patients in the greater Roanoke area. The team put together “health bins” for New Horizon that contained shampoo, deodorant, soap, lotion, aspirin, ibuprofen, cough/cold medicine, sanitary products, and other items. Over $550 in supplies were donated.

For the “Quality Education” goal, another group worked closely with Roanoke’s West End Center for Youth, which champions youth development and literacy. “The group learned about how so many children are way behind in reading due to the pandemic,” Wagner said, “so they purchased all kinds of reading materials, flash cards, games, and other supplies, such as notebooks, for the West End Center. They also bought them subscriptions to Hooked on Phonics and an online program where students can practice their reading skills.” A Hollins faculty member generously matched the $550 Hobbie Grant, so a total of $1,100 was devoted to the project.

The “Gender Equality” group collaborated with Planned Parenthood Roanoke to address the issue of “period poverty,” a lack of access to menstrual products, hygiene tools and education. The group used its $700 Hobbie Grant to create 250 “period packs—zippered black pouches containing tampons, pads, hand sanitizer and peppermint tea. The packs will be distributed to students in local schools.

The danger of invasive plant species in the region informed the work of the “Life on Land” team. “Working with the Hollins Tree Committee, this group received $862 in Hobbie Grant funds and purchased four trees that they planted on campus—two red maples and two white oaks,” Wagner said. “The students also wrote 500-word articles on different topics that will be published in an upcoming guide for “Plant Southwest Virginia Natives,” a campaign that raises awareness, appreciation and application of native plants in the region’s landscapes. Additional educational outreach related to the tree planting is in progress, Wagner said.

Wagner will be teaching “Sustainability and Social Innovation” again next fall and during the 2023 J-term. “As soon as the students are assigned to teams, I plan on engaging them with their community partners as early in fall term as possible,” Wagner said. “We’re also going to employ a project management framework in both the fall and J-term courses so that the students can grow their project management skills.”

The feedback she received from students in both courses this year has been gratifying, Wagner said. “It was eye-opening and invaluable for them to be able to work on a real project with real people in the community who had a demonstrated need they were able to help fill. They felt like they were making a difference.”

This article has been edited from the original version appearing on the Hollins University website.

McDonald’s Future 22 Campaign Spotlights Young Black Changemakers

McDonald’s hopes to amplify the voices of young Black changemakers in a new nationwide advertising and social media campaign—titled Future 22—that launched during Black History Month and will continue at least through June.

The campaign is designed to “give voices to some of the next generation and future leaders in America,” said Elizabeth Campbell, the burger chain’s senior director of cultural engagement, in an interview with Nation’s Restaurant News.

Related: Want to create social change but don’t know where to start? Don’t miss the Spring 2022 Ignite Retreat!

“We wanted to partner with people who are making a difference in their community and put a spotlight on them and shine through the work that they are doing so that people would know about them,” Campbell said. “That way it would help amplify the work that they are doing in the communities … they come from.”

Starting this month, the campaign will spotlight a total of 22 young Black leaders in a series of TV and radio ads, an Instagram account called @weargolden and McDonald’s Future 22 YouTube channel.

One of the featured changemakers is Parisia Hutchinson, a Howard University student and McDonald’s crew trainer in Newburgh, N.Y. Among her many achievements, Hutchinson has spearheaded a project to feed the homeless, coordinated a prom for senior citizens in assisted living facilities, tutored kids with the U.S. Department of Education’s Upward Bound program, and organized indoor activities for children with sun sensitivities.

Nyla Sams, a podcaster and mental wellness advocate from Long Island, N.Y. (see video above), is also spotlighted in the campaign. Sams has made it her mission to spread self-care knowledge and works through the National Black Justice Coalition to improve the quality of life for LGBTQ+ students at historically black colleges and universities. A student at Florida A&M, Sams is an accomplished orator and headlined a Tedx Talk on the subject of Black female exceptionalism. In her talk, she described “what it means to be a Black woman and how the burden to be exceptional just to be validated is crushing for us.”

“I just really learned to use language for action-based changemaking, and that’s how I’m a game changer,” Sams said in her Future 22 spot. “I want people to remember me as a girl who was shy and used her voice to make a big difference.”

Related: The Sullivan Foundation offers a life-changing experience for college students in its Summer 2022 Study Abroad France program.

Other Future 22 change leaders include:

  • Jackson, Miss. native J.C. Smith, a student at Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C., who works to preserve the rich history and culture of Black vernacular through Black American Sign Language (see video above);
  • Kevin Brooks, a Memphis filmmaker and University of Memphis graduate who mentors kids interested in the film industry as a career while using his gifts to share positive stories about Black culture;
  • Nasir Barnes, a STEM leader and Morehouse College student from Deerfield, Mass., who created a robotics program for children from diverse backgrounds and works with the Destined for Greatness Outreach Youth Center in Atlanta;
  • Marveon Mabon, a Morehouse College student who runs urban gardening and anti-bullying programs in Watts, Calif., teaching youths how to grow their own healthy food and providing them with safe neighborhood spaces;
  • Earl Robinson, a filmmaker, entrepreneur and Winston-Salem State University student from Richmond, Virginia, who made his first short film at the age of 11 and currently runs a business, ER Scholars, that helps students find scholarship opportunities.

Actress/singer Keke Palmer, an Emmy Award nominee and one of Time magazine’s Most Influential People in the World in 2019, narrates the video spots for the campaign. “I am thrilled to work with McDonald’s to honor these heroic young people who are doing extraordinary things in their communities,” Palmer said. “They are standing on the shoulders of the giants who stood before them to chart dynamic, new paths, and I am excited to let the world know about them and their causes.”