Campus / News / May 11, 2011

Volunteers make college a priority

In February, Knox received $75,000 from the Illinois Student Assistance Commission (ISAC) for the Knox College “Destination College” Granting Program. “Destination College” provides grant funding for volunteer programs at Knox that seek to emphasize the benefits of a post-secondary education to Galesburg elementary, middle and high school students. The grant money will help programs such as Odyssey Mentoring, Reading Buddies, Successful Performance Inspiration Community Education (SPICE), College for Kids, Gale Scholars and the Knox Housing Authority.

Kathleen Ridlon, Coordinator of the Center for Community Service, expressed three main goals of “Destination College.” The first is to identify the barriers that students face in pursuit of postsecondary education. Once these barriers have been identified, it is the goal of the grant program to increase access, providing a path around these barriers, thus inspiring the students to pursue higher goals. The program seeks to increase students’ motivation and sense of belonging by giving the students knowledge and means to use that knowledge.

Knox was invited to apply to ISAC when the program coordinators heard Knox alum, Anjali Pattanayak, ‘09, talking about the numerous volunteer mentoring programs running at Knox. The application began in the summer, but as fall term passed and winter term drew to a close, Ridlon assumed Knox had been denied the grant. Then late in February Knox received notice that “Destination College” would be given the $75,000 grant.

The grant gives funds to already existing programs on campus. The funding expires in August, and each club or organization may apply for anywhere between $500-$10,000, given out as reimbursement through the Knox College Business Office.

The Knox College Odyssey Mentoring Program was recently given $500 to support a field trip for students from Lombard Middle School. Odyssey Mentoring typically meets once a week, providing an open, secure group environment for the Lombard students to come and engage with Knox Mentors and each other. Shirley Dehn, a Knox senior and Odyssey mentor, said they will typically get about 20 students.

On May 3, the students arrived and were given a tour of the campus. They were able to see classrooms and a dorm room in the Admissions Suite. They ate dinner in the Hard Knox Cafe, where, Dehn said, most of the students ate salad from the salad bar. That is, of course, until they spotted the dessert room.

They filled out a survey as well and each student was given a goody bag filled with paraphernalia from the Knox Bookstore. Dehn hopes that with the financial help the grant offers, Odyssey will be able to do a follow-up trip, giving even more students the opportunity to simply say, “Yeah, I’ve been on a college campus!”

Odyssey represents just one program benefitted by the “Destination College” grant. The recent fashion show put on by SPICE was partially funded by the grant, and Reading Buddies plans to use some of the money to buy books and other materials for the students at Neilson Elementary.

CBS 4 for the Quad Cities recently covered the positive effect the grant has had on the Reading Buddies Program in particular. Reading Buddies is a program at Nielson Elementary where Knox students read individually with a student for half an hour a week.

“My reading buddy started with some simpler books … there’s no way he probably would have gotten this far without the extra attention we give him every week,” sophomore Amanda Lee said.

Ridlon noted that Knox students are particularly motivated to volunteer. The drive Knox students have to help the community is not major-driven, but rather driven by a desire to provide other, younger students with the same education and leadership opportunities that they have been given.

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