Community / News / January 12, 2011

SPICEing up lives of teens

Last year, the fashion show hosted by AAINA, the South Asian culture club, and the Galesburg Boys and Girls Club was so successful that the Boys and Girls Club asked the students who organized it to have another show this year, according to junior Aparna Kumar, one of the project’s leaders.

“Their families loved it; they loved it. It was a good time,” Kumar said.

However, according to senior Shuti Patel, the other organizer of last year’s fashion show, they “didn’t feel like we had actually connected with them.”

Kumar and Patel want to expand the program into an annual 12-week mentoring program, culminating in a fashion show, which will allow Knox mentors and students to form relationships.

The group is also planning on leaving AAINA and becoming an official club on campus, according to Patel. This new club will be called SPICE, which stands for success, performance, inspire, community, education.

These are the values that led to the focus of the mentoring program, inspiring students to consider higher education.

Patel hopes the students will “realize that college is fun. It’s not this intimidating, far away goal.”

The program will try to introduce the middle and high school students to college life. They will come to the Knox campus and learn about college in general as well as the athletic opportunities, cultural clubs on campus and opportunities in theater and dance, according to Kumar. They will also attempt to increase the students’ performance and confidence, while getting ready for the fashion show.

The goal of the program, according to Patel, is to “encourage them to seek out higher education by breaking stereotypes of college students,” showing them how college students have many different interests. They want the students to understand that “it’s not about how smart you are; it’s about how passionate you are.”

According to freshman Alyssa Gill, the third member of the SPICE executive board, the program will culminate in a fashion show to raise money for Heifer International, an organization that provides livestock for families in struggling countries.

“It’s a really good organization and supports diversity,” Gill said.

“The show is a representation of their relationship,” Patel said. Working towards this goal of raising money to help others will help the students and mentors bond.

The show was small last year and mainly consisted of Patel and Kumar’s own clothes, but SPICE members are trying to make it more serious this year. They are contacting businesses, designers and the Knox theater department for donations of clothing and working to find a space to hold the show, according to Patel.

The group hopes that the event will help build community between Knox and Galesburg.

“There’s a divide between the Knox campus and the Galesburg community…some people in Galesburg feel unwelcome on campus and that’s completely unnecessary,” Gill said.

“We live in a community,” Patel said. “We have to interact and care about what’s going on.”

The program will “allow the Galesburg community to see that we do want to give back and help out,” Kumar said.

Patel and Kumar hoped that this project would continue to grow even after they are gone and were looking for an underclassman to carry on the program. Gill is excited about the opportunity.

“I was looking for a really good way to get involved and I love mentoring,” Gill said, who was also in charge of the mentoring program at her high school.

They hope to expand the program by making it available to all of Galesburg, not just the Boys and Girls Club and possibly making the club active year round.

“It’s my job to make sure that this continues,” she said. “If it continued all year, I could do so much more.”

SPICE is currently looking for Knox students to serve as mentors.

“Having a bunch of enthusiastic people is what we really need,” Gill said.

Kumar encourages students to apply, stating, “the kids get so much out of it; you have such a profound influence on their life.”

Students who are interested can contact one of the members for an application. They will also be looking for people to help backstage closer to the event, Patel said.

The group is passionate about supporting Galesburg youth.

“I’m a dreamer,” Gill said “and I’ve always been supported. [Some students] don’t have support; we can take it as our job to support them.”

Gretchen Walljasper

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