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ASU student-led Woodside grants to tackle elder wellness, ‘period poverty’ and more

Two ASU students paint during a day of service

Changemaker Central at ASU students at a day of service event.

December 31, 2019

Sun Devils were inspired this fall to launch projects addressing community issues as diverse as gender-inclusive sports and postpartum health for refugees. 

After pitching their projects in November, seven teams were awarded a total of $8,600 in funding through the Woodside Community Action Grants to complete projects by summer 2020. The teams granted funding were:

• Menstrual equity project Devils Go With The Flow ($1,500).

• St. Vincent de Paul Teen Program for homeless youth ($1,500).

• K–6 Gardening Project for Roosevelt Elementary in Mesa ($1,500).

• Refugee Women’s Health Clinic for pregnancy and postpartum health ($1,500).

• Furry Friends social connectedness for elder Phoenix residents ($1,000).

• Equality and Ultimate Frisbee for gender-inclusive athletics ($850).

• Student Action for Community Health Advancement for health education in Title I schools ($750).

The Woodside Community Action Grant is a seed-funding competition for Arizona State University students who are passionate about community service and social change. Students are eligible to receive funding to carry out service-focused projects in Maricopa County. Six years after the grant was launched through the generosity of Migs Woodside, 88 projects have earned a total of $106,420 in funding for community impact. 

Sarah E. Ford, who is a graduate student in the School of Social Work at ASU, is a leader of the Furry Friends project, which will address social connectedness for the residents of Westward Ho in Phoenix, where Ford interns through ASU’s Community Collaborative. The historic building was a hotel for decades; now it serves as housing for residents over the age of 62 or with a disability. 

Ford says that older adults and people with disabilities are at elevated risk of social isolation, which is linked to several poor health outcomes, including early death, coronary heart disease and stroke. But being a pet owner is associated with better health because it’s an opportunity to interact with others.

“I myself can attest to this, as I did not know any of my neighbors before adopting a dog over the summer, and now I know at least two dozen,” Ford said. 

The Furry Friends project will host a social support group and pet resources for Westward Ho residents and their leashed pets and even non-pet owners. The project will help offset the cost for pet care for residents on fixed incomes and provide a space to encourage interaction among residents. 

“Furry Friends will hopefully serve as an opportunity for the residents I work with to meet and connect with their neighbors and build a stronger community,” she said.

Grant writing has been a personal and professional goal, said Ford, and she plans on volunteering to write grants for local agencies in the future. 

“It has been so exciting to go through this process, and I have learned so much. … I am excited to begin what many in the grant writing world refer to as ‘the real work,’ which is making the proposal for the grant a reality,” she said.

Biological sciences junior Lauryn Jackson is the treasurer of another Woodside grantee, Go With the Flow. The project is part of a statewide effort to provide menstrual hygiene products to secondary students who need them.

Jackson said that many schools in the state can’t afford to keep these products in supply, so Go With the Flow provides “period packs” with an array of products to keep students from rationing products in a way that could be detrimental to their health, among other issues. 

“These period packs are distributed across participating schools and help diminish period poverty, as well as reduce the chances of students staining their clothes or facing public ridicule from their peers,” Jackson said.

Thanks to their Woodside funding, Sun Devils involved with Go With the Flow will package period packs for local Title 1 schools that students can take home over summer break. 

“This project will relieve students and parents from any stressors that may come from a lack of access to period products typically obtained from school nurses; now they will have enough products at home to last them throughout their whole break,” Jackson said.

The project is fulfilling in multiple ways, Jackson said, since it works toward an important mission but also has allowed her to build her professional skills.

“This organization has allowed me, as an individual, to be a part of an incredible movement and has taught me more about the aspects of business such as marketing, finance, etc. I am very excited to contribute to the growth of Go With the Flow and observe its impact on our community,” she said.

That kind of leadership experience is what ASU student Natalie Zarasian finds inspiring about helping manage the Woodside grants through her role at Changemaker Central at ASU. The sophomore, who is pursuing concurrent degrees in supply chain management and sports business along with a minor in art history, helps guide student groups through the application process as service chair. 

The grants are offered once per semester; the process starts with an online application and moves through to a pitch day in November, which Zarasian and two other students this year helped judge, before awards are announced. Zarasian said she enjoys seeing how people’s projects evolve based on feedback.

“It’s a great way to get started on something you’re really passionate about. I’ve talked with students who they’re not sure if they’re ready. And it’s a great way to get that initial push to make that change,” she said.

Students are supported throughout the process with office hours at Changemaker, mixers among those who applied and more. Zarasian said she’s impressed with the diversity of ideas but loves watching the ideas and the students’ skills grow. 

“That’s why I think Woodside is great. It gives them the opportunity to explore what they want to do and it gives them such a great platform to make these great projects and to see the impact they can truly make,” she said.

The deadline to apply for a spring 2020 grant is coming up. Applications open Jan. 13, and the deadline is March 1. Follow Changemaker Central on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter for updates on Woodside-related events.

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