Students give back all year round

Liz Bos

Liz Bos

SDSU has had several charity and service-learning projects in the works lately, with one more still to come this summer.

One project, called the ABC Project and spearheaded by Doug Martin, a senior political science and global studies major, is a trip to Costa Rica that is tentatively scheduled for June 2010. Martin and a group of SDSU students plan to drive a bus from South Dakota to San Jose, Costa Rica, making stops in Mexico and Guatemala to help people in need.

“It’s always a good place to direct your energy,” Martin said.

The students originally wanted to make the trip during this year’s winter break but decided to move the trip back to give them more planning time, Martin said.

“We’ll be able to make a much greater impact if we give it some more time,” Martin said.

The bus, which will be provided by a longtime friend of Martin’s, will be loaded with donated items, such as clothing, food and toiletries for people in need.

The project came about after the bus’s owner decided to put together a road trip to Central America and turn it into a service project because of all the extra room on the bus, Martin said.

“It’s been continually growing and expanding,” Martin said.

The group will be working with the nonprofit organization BorderLinks’s food security division called the House of Sympathy. They are also looking for other Central America-based organizations in need of volunteers or donations.

Due to limited space on the bus, about seven students plan on going on the trip, but Martin said the group is thinking about taking a second vehicle so more people can go.

“It’s still open as to how many people will end up going,” Martin said.

The students have to pay for the trip out of their own pockets. They started fundraising last weekend by selling hot chocolate from their bus in the Wal-Mart parking lot.

The group is in the process of setting up a charitable account in Brookings so people can make donations. Money raised from the account will be given to the organizations the group is working with.

One service-learning project that recently took place is the student health fair that was put on at Deubrook High School by nine students in SEED 450, a class for teaching reading in secondary eduation.

The fair, which took place on Nov. 23 from 9 a.m. to 11:15 a.m., was organized by students in an effort to provide a public service.

“It was an opportunity to get involved with the schools,” said Amanda Knutson, a senior physical education and teaching education major.

Fourteen groups had booths at the health fair, including the SDSU nursing and athletic training departments, ROTC, a County Extension nutrition booth and Truth 4 Youth.

“It was the first time Deubrook has had a health fair in quite some time,” Knutson said.

The students decided to do the health fair after instructor Mary Moeller asked them to come up with a public service project and suggested it, Knutson said.

“We thought of interactive ways that we could get knowledge to the students,” Knutson said.

The students originally wanted to hold the health fair at Brookings High School, but switched to Deubrook because two of the students were already student teachers there and scheduling conflicts prevented them from staying in Brookings.

Knutson said the health fair was a success and Deubrook was interested in having the health fair again.

“We thought it was productive all around,” Knutson said.

But the Jackrabbits’ charitable efforts do not stop there. On Nov. 25, another group of SEED 450 held a music fair at Camelot Intermediate School. Senior music education major Emily Humke said nine SDSU students were involved with the music fair.

“It was a way to bring things we were learning into the fifth-grade classroom,” Humke said.

Humke and the other students chose five areas – the continents of Africa and North America, as well as India, China and Australia – and brought instruments from those areas for students to see.

Students were able to sing songs from the different locations and listen to children’s books about the different areas. The fair was spread across five classrooms, with students rotating into each room to learn about the music.

Some of the instruments used for the African countries included hand drums, shakers and double bells.

The children had the opportunity to play some of the instruments and learn the rhythm patterns of the drums.

Humke said the music fair was a success with the children, with around 400 attending.

“We got a lot of really good feedback from the kids,” Humke said. “They seemed to really enjoy the other countries.

“It was really fun to see the kids get excited,” she said. “I think it was a great experience.”

A well-known charity project in Brookings is Project Joy. Formerly known as the Angel Tree, Project Joy is a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping disadvantaged families in Brookings County receive Christmas gifts.

“The community is unbelievable,” said committee member Cara Beers. “This community gives so much to so many people.”

During the Christmas season, Project Joy workers set up a “store” where parents in the program can pick out gifts for their children and have them wrapped, according to Beers.

To be in the program, parents must be on some type of assistance, such as WIC, and apply to the program.

According to its Web site, last year Project Joy procured gifts for 450 children. This year, each child in the program will receive a hygiene kit as well.

“It’s very neat to see how the community pulls together,” Beers said.