By Gabby Carlson | Echo
Last week, four social work majors wrote a grant to enable the beautification of the Marion downtown district. The group received a $10,000 grant for a project that will ultimately cost around $100,000.
Their grant pays for a corner of the 5th Street Commons, in downtown Marion to be repaved, have a bench put in and plant a tree. This grant was made possible by the initiative of Thriving Families, Thriving Grant County (TFTGC). The grant was accepted to beautify downtown Marion and provide a place where festivals and community events are able to take place.
The students involved in this grant are senior social work majors Grace Elenbaas, Rachel Houck, Michaela Shake and Sydney Wagoner. All four are in the class Social Work Process and Package 3, taught by Jacob Kendall, visiting assistant professor of social work.
They were first presented with the project near the beginning of the semester and worked until the Oct. 4 deadline. They chose the subgroup with which they would work in the TFTGC program which was the "Quality of Life and Place" group.
Kendall decided to partner with Cathy Weatherspoon, executive director of TFTGC, on the project.
"I knew I wanted to find some kind of local interagency collaborative initiative with which my students could partner for the semester in writing grants and conducting research projects," Kendall said. "Students have attended agency and community meetings and have collaborated with community members and agency personnel to plan their grants and research."
When the group chose their project, they met with Weatherspoon to understand what the initiative wanted out of this grant.
Weatherspoon also assisted them in areas they would not previously know about in writing a grant, according to Shake.
"We would email our advisor (Weatherspoon) for research, and once a week we would meet as a student group to go over the grant questions, and we divided the questions among us four students to answer," Wagoner said. "The final part of the project required a cover letter to the mayor for approval of the grant and once we were approved, we then (came) together one final time before we sent it off to be submitted."
The group split up the project evenly, each writing a portion of it on the Community Foundation website. Then they would come together and edit through it to make it sound cohesive. When they were finished with all parts of the grant, they sent it in and waited a couple of weeks before finding out they had received it, according to Houck.
All four students find the process beneficial for their futures in various social work jobs. Part of their second semester practicum is writing a grant by themselves, so all agreed having a grant under their belts as a group will be helpful when they write future grants.
It was announced last week the group had received the grant for 5th Street Commons. Everyone in the class was excited, and a small celebration was held on Tuesday for all of the grant winners in this cycle.
"I almost started crying," Elenbaas said. "I was so excited. One of my first reactions was 'This is going to be such a good thing to put on my resume, to apply for jobs, to apply for grad school next year.' We all gave each other high fives, so that was really fun."
Two more groups in the class will submit grants for the January cycle. All four groups will also conduct a small research project and present on the projects and their grant work in early December to community members and agency personnel on Taylor's campus.
According to Houck, the group is very excited to have a place they can visit in the future and know they helped with the creation.
Besides the research project, the group will have no further responsibility in the project. The group members were not sure when construction would begin.
"Our group was first shocked with the results and absolutely thrilled that we won the grant, but even more excited that we're able to help Grant County fulfill this project that they have been dreaming about," Wagoner said.