Northern Kentucky University classes recently awarded $34,500 to nonprofit agencies as part of the university’s nationally recognized Mayerson Student Philanthropy Project.
“As important as the money is – what’s more important is that these classes change lives,” said NKU Provost Sue Ott Rowlands. “They change lives in the community, as agencies use the funds to provide goods and services. But they also change lives in our classrooms as our students are awakened to community needs and how to address those needs. Lifelong community stewards are born in our Mayerson classes.”
Last semester, 17 classes included student philanthropy as part of an integrated curriculum. The classes ranged from a dual-credit course taught at Campbell County High School to graduate courses in English, history and social work.
Classes typically have $2,000 each to invest in one nonprofit or $1,000 in two. Students spend the semester learning about community needs and, as the semester draws to a close, decide where to invest.
While most classes awarded money, one class also donated dolls. The costume construction theater arts class had students design and sew costumes that fit 18-inch dolls in order to learn theater costuming. Students made six costumes each for the 43 dolls and delivered the finished products to the Holly Hill Children’s Home in California, Kentucky. Some of the costumes are traditional, but the students also had some fun, dressing some dolls, for example, as super heroes.
“Our professors align the student philanthropy component with their learning outcomes, so that students learn their course material more thoroughly and with a real-world component,” said Mark Neikirk, executive director of the Scripps Howard Center for Civic Engagement, where the Mayerson program is housed. “In the theater class, for example, a student might be struggling with a zipper and think, ‘Well, that’s good enough.’ But when the student remembers that the costume will be the prized possession of a needy child, that zipper gets a lot more attention. Years from now, when the student is a graduate and working on Broadway, the costumes in some future show will be a little better because that class back at NKU included student philanthropy. Meanwhile, Holly Hill’s kids are about to get some really nice dolls.”
The Manuel D. and Rhoda Mayerson Foundation of Cincinnati is the lead sponsor of NKU’s student philanthropy classes. Other funders include Citi/Florence; the Scripps Howard Foundation; ArtsWave; the Straws Charitable Foundation; Newport’s East Row Historic District; and, the newest class sponsor, the Greater Cincinnati Foundation.
Over the past 17 years, the Mayerson project has invested nearly $800,000 in 350 agencies while NKU has included student philanthropy in over 40 disciplines, reaching more than 4,500 students.