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ODU Chapter of Student Virginia Education Association Awarded NEA Grants

As grants go at colleges and universities these days, the $1,215 and $1,000 awards won recently by the Old Dominion chapter of the Student Virginia Education Association would be considered small potatoes. But for the students who helped prepare the National Education Association grant applications, they are a big deal.

"Most of us would consider these mini-grants," said Jody Sommerfeldt, the lecturer of teaching and learning in ODU's Darden College of Education who advises the university SVEA chapter. "But for my students, they were colossal grants. They were student-initiated and student-led, and the activities will be student-run. I'm just so proud of them."

Student board members from the SVEA, whose current membership is at 82, wrote the grant proposals, including developing budgets for the activities. It was their first attempt at grant writing, Sommerfeldt said.

"The students really stepped up," she added. "They conducted the meetings and came up with the ideas. They became invested in the proposal. What was most impressive to me was that students drove the whole process."

For the $1,000 CLASS (Community Learning through America's Schools) grant, SVEA student members will take the lead this semester in developing and presenting educational activities for students in grades K-5 who attend the after-school program at Young Terrace Community Center in Norfolk.

The "Educating the Whole Child" program will start in February and focus on a different type of activity one day each month through the end of the spring semester - music, art, academics (with learning stations for science, language arts, history and math) and sports/physical activity.

The ODU students, all of whom are future teachers, will partner with Granby High School's Future Teachers of America organization and Trinity Presbyterian Church in offering the activities.

CLASS is a program that encourages NEA student members to volunteer their time and energy to help improve their communities, while gaining practical experience and growing as professionals, Sommerfeldt said. Since 1989, college students on more than 200 campuses have become involved in helping children through these NEA-funded programs in their communities.

Approximately 15 of ODU's SVEA student members will take part each month in the activities at the community center.

"I am ecstatic that our chapter was awarded both grants," said SVEA chapter president Clarissa Brown, who took the lead in writing the CLASS grant application. "In my 4½ years of active involvement with this organization, the Old Dominion chapter has never taken on such a difficult task. We had a dream and we conquered it through teamwork, dedication, and countless hours of planning.

"I would like to give a special thanks to members Katherine McCarthy, Stacee Nicholas and Jade Fleming for all their efforts to make the grant as successful as it was. I couldn't be more proud to say that I am a part of such an awesome organization."

Brown added: "As we go into the Young Terrace community to implement the planned activities … our goal is to help the children discover talents they never knew they had, which will motivate them to want to be successful in life and leaders in their community."

The other NEA award won by the ODU chapter was a SOAR (Student Organizing and Assistance Resources) grant, which is aimed at helping build membership in the student organization. Upperclassmen comprise a large proportion of the current chapter membership, but due to their student teaching and other demands, they aren't able to commit a significant amount of time to SVEA meetings and activities. SVEA board members Chelsea McGarity, Daniel Hendrix and Allison Short wrote the grant proposal.

With the grant money, the chapter will conduct a marketing campaign to attract more freshmen and sophomores. This will entail creating a brochure about the organization and developing a mentorship program with Granby High School, as well as making presentations on campus in education classes and during Preview and Parents Weekend. The goals are to increase freshmen and sophomore membership by 50 percent, and overall membership by up to 75 percent.

Sommerfeldt, who has served as adviser to ODU's SVEA chapter for two years, said membership had dwindled to about 10 when she came on board, so she is happy to see the resurgence in interest and is hopeful that it will continue to grow.

"When our students join the SVEA chapter, they're also joining the professional organization at the state and national levels," she said. "So, this is a good support system for them while they're here and once they leave us. It offers networking opportunities to develop personal and professional relationships with fellow students and faculty, as well as opportunities for community service and outreach."

This article was posted on: January 23, 2012

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