Proposals to cultivate gardens, engineer education and humanize homelessness were among the recently announced winners of SLU’s 1818 Community Engagement Grant Program. The Center for Service and Community Engagement piloted this program last year in celebration of SLU’s bicentennial year. By awarding up to $1,800 for student-led service and advocacy projects, it provides students the opportunity to make the difference they want to see in our world.
“It’s a chance—and a challenge—to put our Jesuit mission into action,” says Andrew Sweeso. Sweeso serves as the President of SLU’s Labre Ministry with the Homeless, one of the recipients of the grant. Labre is an organization that aims to build fellowship between students and those experiencing homelessness in the St. Louis community. Their project, titled “The Labre and Friends Community Dinner,” will implement a community dinner and resource fair on SLU’s campus for students and those experiencing homelessness.
Having access to this resource will steer the group’s focus to coordinating the community-building aspect of the event as opposed to raising the funds to make it happen. “Along with giving us a greater sense of confidence that we will be able to put on this event on our campus, this grant gives us hope that SLU will become more open to building stronger community ties with our friends and neighbors, and support our and many others’ efforts to build a much more inclusive, sharing campus environment,” Sweeso adds.
This sense of community spans across every initiative, as all student-led groups are required to partner with a local non-profit to carry out their goals. Last year, through the joint efforts of 48 non-profit organizations and 306 SLU students and faculty, the Community Engagement Grant Program impacted 1,100 children and adults in the St. Louis area. The fact that 16 of the 18 winning projects from last school year plan to continue their individual programs into this school year demonstrates the program’s ability to make a lasting difference.
Recipients of this year’s award in addition to Labre include projects intended to support minorities in STEM, promote immigration advocacy, make possible healthier eating and living habits, and more.
Bobby Wassel, Assistant Director of the Center for Service and Community Engagement, acknowledges the ability for the program to make an impact on and off our campus. “It impacts both in a tangible way—the projects certainly impact the St. Louis community” … “but it also has a positive impact on the development of our students as leaders. It teaches them the importance of communication, resiliency, fiscal responsibility, engaging in teamwork, etc”.
Wassal encourages students interested in service to find more information by exploring the plethora of resources offered by the Center for Service and Community Engagement, including one-time volunteer opportunities as well as a database of over 500 community partners, which are both housed on their website. There is also the option to fill out a service form, which will match one’s interests to volunteer opportunities around the area.
“We are a diverse group of individuals, and our identities may certainly put us at a place of marginalization in life; however, we all share a common privilege, and that is attending a university in pursuit of an advanced degree,” he says. “Among many things, students should use this privilege to work for the betterment of society, whether in small or big ways”.