By Julie Battaglia
Being a full-time student was not enough for Emily Woods, she wanted to make a difference. While senior applied communication studies major Woods works toward her degree at Kent State University she also is extending a helping hand to the Kent City residents. Woods is from Amanda, Ohio. She was involved in Key Club at Login Elm High School and decided to continue volunteering in college with the state of Ohio’s Key Club. Her involvement and love for nonprofit services soon inspired her to come to Kent State and continue to be involved.
With the help of former CCI advisor, Kay Levandowski, Woods added the Non-Profit Services Management certificate to her resume. Through Levandoski’s suggestion Woods was now academically focused and ready to start helping those around her.
In the fall of 2010, Woods was recruited by the Honors College to volunteer with a national program called Move the Mountain. These weekly meetings are for families who qualify for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) that have at least one dependant child in the household.
The Move the Mountain program uses the Aha! Process to help financially challenged families focus on improving all aspects of their lives. This process teaches the individuals long-term sustainability, independence and how to be more effective in their communities. Topics covered in the program are social rules of the middle class, workplace etiquette, relationship building, basic financial skills and work ethics. Local businesses donate time and resources to help they can. Portage County Bank assisted by creating savings accounts for every family involved.
Every family involved has the ability to continue to contribute to the program’s success even after finishing the course. Meetings strive to unite the community by starting with a dinner for all participants and staff. After dinner, the adults who have graduated from the course proceed to a focus group to discuss their experience in the program. The current class then begins the lesson in another room. As stated before, the families have at least one dependant child; this is where Woods helps out.
Woods was one of about 20 students who volunteered on a regular basis. The current class held a maximum of 15 individuals, each with at least one child. The student volunteer responsibilities included cleaning up after dinner and taking care of the children while the adults participate in a class or focus group. Towards the end of the fall semester Woods was approached by the AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer, and asked if she was interested in an internship for spring semester with Family and Community Services Inc., through Empower Portage.
Empower Portage is run by two AmeriCorps VISTA volunteers and relies on a continual volunteer basis. Empower Portage works hand in hand with Family and Community Services Inc., which is the largest service program in Portage County.
As an intern, Woods took on various new responsibilities including grant writing, poverty simulation for the community and developing events and programs for the participating adults. Poverty simulation is aimed at creating more awareness and to unite the community around the cause of poverty. Woods works to obtain grants for the organization from local foundations including Pathways Out Of Poverty, GAR in Akron, the RGK Foundation, and Davey Tree Company.
Woods’ evolution from volunteer to intern has provided her with a new perspective. Grant writing gives a glimpse into what happens behind the scenes in a nonprofit organization and has made her a more effective volunteer. Now, Woods not only plays with the children at weekly meetings but also is the main contact for the childcare activities and also participates in the focus groups.
Julie Battaglia is a senior applied communication major and practicum student in the Dean’s Office of the College of Communication and Information.