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Student-led projects focused on making a change in communities

16 ASU projects awarded Woodside Community Action Grants

Students make a presentation about a pollinator garden.
February 02, 2016

Community and urban gardens, refugee outreach and wind-turbine-powered lights are just a few of the 16 Arizona State University student-led projects awarded up to $1,500 through the Woodside Community Action Grant for the 2015-2016 school year.

The Woodside Community Action Grant is a seed-funding competition for ASU students and student groups who are committed and passionate about service. Students applied during the fall 2015 semester and are set to implement their projects in spring 2016.

The 16 service-focused projects are community-driven and solutions-focused with a long-term impact.

“The Peace Corps club is so appreciative of the support we’ve received through Woodside Community Action Grants,” said Breanne Lott, Peace Corps campus recruiter and Peace Corps at ASU club adviser. “With the $1,500 our organization has been awarded, we are implementing a community-strengthening project at International Rescue Committee’s New Roots Garden. We plan to paint murals and create a community-resource bulletin board in the already existing garden space where refugees can come together, get to know their neighbors, and grow food either to eat or sell for income.

“We look forward to supporting Phoenix’s refugee population, to expanding a long-standing partnership with the IRC, and to providing another opportunity for ASU students to be engaged in the global community.”

Opportunities such as these create a hands-on, real-world learning environment while helping to make an impact in the local community. Students have the opportunity to apply what they have learned in the classroom and, at times, be a positive influence to local youth aspiring to continue their educational path through college.

Changemaker Central @ ASU is a community of students leading social change in the local and global community across the university’s campus locations.

The projects

Greenlight Solutions

Student lead: Jake Savona.

Project overview: Greenlight Solutions is a student-led venture at ASU whose focus is on sustainability education. They would like to implement a new sustainability project a local elementary school, Shaw Montessori. The project’s first phase focuses on the school courtyard, transforming it into a shaded, water-efficient living laboratory, which will empower learning through exploration, natural landscape manipulation and sustainable education. It will include a pollinator garden of desert-adapted vegetation that will serve as an opportunity to learn how to maintain a garden and how urban heat island effects can be mitigated, which is a serious issue currently experienced on the Shaw campus. Phase 1 also includes the implementation of a succulent wall, a bug hotel and a butterfly terrarium to teach about biodiversity and sustainability.

Funding: $1,250.

New Look for New Roots

Student lead: Breanna Gonzalez.

Project overview: This project is supported by the Peace Corps at ASU club, whose focus is on the refugee population in Phoenix. The students are active volunteers and partners with the IRC (International Rescue Committee) and their New Roots Program. New Roots is a community garden where refugees grow food to feed their families and even sell produce for a profit. At first sight the New Roots garden appears to be a large lot with a humble shed and a few rows of crops but lacks a strong sense of community. The students would be using their Woodside funding to revive this community garden, a key source of income for many refugees. Their additional plans include: painting inspirational murals, installing shaded seating areas as a conversational space to share experiences, and installing a community bulletin board to feature families, share gardening tips and promote IRC services.

Funding: $1,500.

First Gen Scientists

Student lead: Eugene Chung.

Project overview: First Gen Scientists (FGS) is a multidisciplinary initiative to broadly promote awareness of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields to local at-risk and underprivileged youth. FGS, an ASU student organization, forms partnerships with local schools and provides an opportunity for students in grades 6-8 to explore a wide-range of STEM fields through an interactive and mentor-based, after-school program. FGS ultimately plans to develop a three-year program that can be implemented in new sites across Arizona. The students would like to use the funding to develop an after-school curriculum and purchase materials for activity testing to use in local schools. After initial implementation, quality of the curriculum will be evaluated using retrospective pre-post surveys and grouped data including attendance, grades and benchmark scores.

Funding: $1,500.

Healthy Urban Gardens

Student lead: Nari Miller.

Project overview: The applicant is a doctoral student in geological sciences who studies toxic metals and pollutants. The project focuses on the spread of urban gardening in Phoenix, and how it has put people in close proximity with soil potentially contaminated by toxic metals and pollutants. The project funds would go towards soil quality and toxin (lead, heavy metals) testing of local soils to help urban communities choose healthy soils, to provide a strong foundation for future urban gardens. This group will network via local urban gardens (Clark Park, Tempe) and offer to test soils from homes as well. This project provides people with the power to grow their own healthy food with the assurance that the soil it is being grown in is safe. Knowing the levels of pollutants in the soils may dispel fears of those who assume city soils are toxic, and may prevent damaging neurological and health effects from overexposure. This project could help Clark Park and other urban gardens continue, and also help instigate more shared gardens. The project will include gardening lessons for school-age children, after-school opportunities for teens and volunteer (and harvesting) activities for families and seniors. Gardens are not exclusive — often the issue is providing the impetus to bring people there.

Funding: $1,500.

Refugee Youth Summer Program

Student lead: Lindsay Dusard.

Project overview: This student project focuses on working with refugee children in Phoenix during the summer 2016 months. Summer offers a vital opportunity for refugee students to develop their social, emotional and academic skills. However, due to lack of funding and priority, these summer months have often gone to waste in the past. The student will be partnering with two refugee resettlement agencies in Phoenix, the International Rescue Committee and Refugee Focus, to provide a summer program at Serrano Village Apartment Complex, which houses newly arriving refugee families. The student lead, who is a current active volunteer in this community, will use funding to purchase supplies for fun and interactive programs (games, books, arts and crafts supplies, etc.). Additionally, the student will also be conducting her undergraduate honors thesis research based on this project.

Funding: $1,500.

Arizona Living Classrooms

Student lead: Virginia Coco.

Project overview: This project supports the implementation of an experiential and adventure learning program that teaches academic and life skills to 80 fourth- and fifth-grade students in an urban public elementary school. There are four stages of project implementation. In Stage 1, the Newbery honor book, My Side of the Mountain, by Jean Craighead George, and the Pocket Guide to the Outdoors, by the same author, will be presented with an accompanying curriculum to teachers in fourth- and fifth-grade classes to increase the students’ awareness of community assets, understanding of the environment, and the use of books to embark on adventure. Stages 2 and 3 of the project focus on facilitating service learning opportunities. Students will complete four service projects, and each will allow the students to apply a theme that they have learned about in the classroom. The projects are: “Keep the Community Clean,” where students will clean up the school grounds and surrounding area; “Be Responsible,” where students will put in a day of service at an animal rescue; “Show Appreciation,” where students will make valentines and visit a senior center; and “Good Stewardship,” where students will help with a forest service project. The students will then complete a project to show what they have learned from the unit as a whole. The students will vote for each other’s projects, and the 30 with the most votes and highest grades on the unit will then be selected to go to Camp Colley, an experiential learning camp in Happy Jack, Arizona, for three days.

Funding: $1,500.

Light Up the Garden

Student lead: Stephen Annor-Wiafe.

Project overview: ASU’s Polytechnic campus has an on-campus community garden, where students frequently volunteer. Polytechnic students, via GlobalResolve, would like to set up a wind turbine to power lights for the community garden at night. GlobalResolve is a program in the Ira. A Fulton Schools of Engineering at ASU that would be overseeing the project. Their goal is to make community gardening at the Polytechnic campus easy and possible at any time of the day, since intense heat during the day can prevent people from wanting to spend time in the garden. The project implementation would occur over nine working weeks between Nov. 30, 2015, and March 7. Each of the weeks would have a specific goal to be achieved, ranging from constraints and criteria identification to product testing. At the conclusion of this period, the turbine would be installed and functional. Periodic monitoring would be carried out after installation to ensure its safety and functionality.

Funding: $1,350.

Recycling Inspired Murals

Student lead: Trinity England.

Project overview: The student would like to have a large mural painted in the trash and recycling room at Native American Connections' Devine Legacy affordable-housing complex. The colorful mural will create a greater sense of place, educate and encourage the residents to recycle. This mural project aims to strengthen community connectedness and overall sense of place. Murals will be painted by community members at three Native American Connections complexes using the grant money to buy the supplies. Educational posters regarding recycling will also be present in the rooms.

Funding: $1,000.

Life Renewed

Student lead: John McCrea.

Project overview: The project focuses on the adult refugee needs in the Phoenix-area community, primarily those who are experiencing culture shock. The student plans to purchase necessary supplies to coordinate lessons and seminars to help these people start a new life. This would include writing supplies, hygiene supplies, reading education books and other supplemental educational materials.

Funding: $400.

TigerMountain Foundation

Student lead: Maryam Dehghan.

Project overview: TigerMountain Foundation (TMF) was legally established in 2005 to help underprivileged youth and adults, particularly former prisoners, in south Phoenix gain job experiences in gardening and landscaping. TMF currently maintains three large community gardens on formerly vacant lots where it grows vegetables without the use of chemicals. With Woodside funding, TigerMountain’s team of student interns and staff would like to carry out a beautification project. The Garden of Tomorrow Beautification project will consist of painting and hanging murals around their tool storage container, turning it into a piece of artwork. They will also be installing multiple murals around the exterior of the garden to draw more attention to the presence of the garden in the community.

Funding: $1,500.

Designing Micro Air Vehicles

Project overview: The Micro Air Vehicle club at ASU will oversee this project, which involves 3-D-designing, building, testing and analyzing mechanical flapping birds and Arduino robotic cars in a six-week engineering outreach program for middle and high school students. The project connects local youth with ASU engineering students. The students will be exposed to ASU student organizations (Micro Air Vehicle club, Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers, etc.) and engineering alumni. The intent of the program is to spark imagination through hands-on learning by using the principles of flight, physics and engineering concepts. The project’s focus will be on engaging youth in high-need Hispanic communities.

Funding: $1,500.


Student lead: Abigail Graham.

Project overview: ASUPHS'I is a part of the Project Humanities program at ASU. ASUPHS’I is hoping to continue the “Building Bridges Film Series” with three veteran-focused films, with the goal of fostering community conversations between selected veterans groups and the ASU community. The group hopes to promote awareness around the struggles veterans often face, such as transitioning back to civilian life after service, homelessness and mental health care. The film series’ aim is to create a safe space where veterans can discuss and possibly propose solutions regarding these issues.

Funding: $1,000.

Local Community Renovation Project

Student lead: Audrey Elms.

Project overview: Audrey Elms was a 2014-2015 Woodside recipient who would like to continue her sustainability training with elementary school-age students. This project will be a continuation of the community garden project she began last year at Nevitt Elementary. Nevitt is an underserved elementary school that does not have funding for extensive science programing. Over the past year, students have renovated their school's garden and planted a variety of vegetables. Throughout this program, the students were able to learn more about plants and how to create a sustainable garden. Elms plans to use these funds to further expand and maintain the vegetable garden, fund sustainability programming and continue the role-model program with ASU students.

Funding: $1,200.

Iron City Magazine

Student lead: Natalie Volin.

Project overview: Iron City Magazine is a literary journal devoted to writing and art from the prison world. This group of ASU students would like to establish themselves as a non-profit organization, collect submissions and design a magazine, all with content from incarcerated individuals. To do this, they have recruited an editorial board of two undergraduate students, two graduate students and two professors. The publication date is projected for March 1.

Funding: $1,500.

Partners in Empowerment

Student lead: Sierra Morris.

Project overview: Partners in Empowerment is a new organization at ASU with goals to develop a mentoring program and curriculum to help at-risk community youth, raise awareness of exploited and trafficked children, and improve the health programming and nutritional quality of the food that group homes, shelters and other organizations deliver. The goal of its Greener Futures project is to promote sustainability, agriculture and the importance of proper nutrition to at-risk youth. The group will build a greenhouse and planter boxes at Tumbleweed Center for Youth Development in Phoenix, which provides a safe place to live for homeless or runaway youth. They will teach the residents of the facility (males, ages 13-17) about the importance of nutrition and sustainable gardening. ASU students will come every other week to help with upkeep of the greenhouse. The food produced will be used in the kitchen at the facility.

Funding: $1,400.

Worldly Kids

Student lead: Nicholas Stevenson.

Project overview: Worldly Kids is a nonprofit founded by an ASU student to provide resources and support to underserved K-12 children in Title 1 schools. The Woodside project is a beautification project at PT Coe Elementary. The west Phoenix school is currently rather dismal-looking, and the applicants are committed to making school a more enjoyable experience for the students by addressing some of the aesthetic issues on the campus. Members of the group will do interior and exterior painting on the school campus, including three playgrounds, 49 classroom doors and walls that have completely faded in color; as well as working on a community flower garden. The focus of Beautification Project for PT Coe is to help incentivize students to appreciate and actively engage in their learning environment. The applicant is leading a team of students to PT Coe on one of Changemaker’s Service Days to clean up trash around the campus, sweep and rake, sanitize classrooms and playgrounds, and power-wash exterior walls and walkways, and would use the Woodside Grant to purchase supplies to further these beautification efforts.

Funding: $1,200.

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