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Students Give Back and Learn in Summer Program

With a gift to distinctlyDrake, you can touch the lives of students for years to come. For example, the Slay Fund for Social Justice at Drake University was started by a gift to distinctlyDrake from Brent, ED'70, and Diane, ED'70, Slay. The Slays, who really wanted to do something good for their alma mater, worked with Drake to design programs that advance social justice. Their fund marks the first formal entity on campus dedicated to social justice issues. 

The results of their generosity and interest had reached across the entire campus. One of those programs provided five Drake students with service-learning internships during the summer at area nonprofits in an attempt to raise educational and social capital in the community. The students were paid with grants from the Slay Fund, at no cost to the nonprofit. 

This opportunity made Drake one of just 15 universities in the country with a summer service-learning program, according to Mandi McReynolds, service-learning coordinator at Drake. Throughout the internships, students were encouraged to look critically at the root causes of social issues and to evaluate the role that they play in the community. 

"I hope these projects will provide an opportunity for students to be involved in the community and transcend some of the problems that exist in our society," Slay says. "Pairing students with these social agencies will raise awareness of these issues and be good for the city of Des Moines." 

Diving Into the Community
Courtney Howell
, a junior law, politics, and society major, worked with Dress for Success. The organization promotes economic independence for disadvantaged women by providing professional attire, a network of support, and career development tools to women in need. 

"This organization is helping women get back on their feet," Howell says. "Getting parents into a stable position through a job is getting at the root of a lot of societal problems." 

Pat Felker, a junior sociology major, was paired with Children and Family Urban Ministries. He oversaw volunteers and served as a contact for parents at the organization's Awesome Days, which provides educational opportunities and child care in the summer. 

Kelcy Smith, a sophomore psychology and biology double major, used her passion for painting to help area children. She worked with the After School Arts Program (ASAP). "Schools are cutting back on the arts, so it's important that we offer these opportunities to kids," Smith says. Michelle Bolton King, executive director of ASAP, was eager to bring Smith on. She hoped that Smith would get a realistic look at the demands that come with working at a nonprofit. 

Shivali Shah, a junior chemistry major, and Amelia Eckles, a junior sociology major, also took part in the program. Shah worked for Everybody Wins Iowa and Eckles was paired with Greater Des Moines Habitat for Humanity. 

In the end, McReynolds and the Slays hope that as this program continues, community service becomes a priority in the students' lives and they discover they can play a role in improving society by becoming engaged citizens through service. "We hope that relationships between students and their respective organizations will continue after the internship," McReynolds says.

 

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