Project Engage Mini-Grants

When students join faculty-community partnerships, a powerful learning circle is created which erodes the boundaries of classroom walls.  Project Engage was developed to recognize the impact of partnerships where faculty, students and community members are engaged together in action research. 

The Project Engage Mini-Grant Program represents NERCHE's commitment to support the combined resources and expertise of faculty, students, and members of the community in effecting change.

The 2001-2002 grant recipients are:


  • Creating Education Materials in Spanish for the Family Savings Program of La Communidad Hispana in Kennett Square, PA


Andrea Varricchio, Associate Professor, Foreign Languages, West Chester
    University, PA
Anita O'Connor, Executive Director, La Communidad Hispana
Beatriz Caycedo, Spanish major, West Chester University, PA
      The goals of the project are to assist La Communidad Hispana in Kennett Square, PA.  In order to help raise the quality of life and self sufficiency of its client population, the agency has recently begun the Family Savings Program. 
     The project will create a body of material on financial planning that currently does not exist in Spanish and that will be appropriate for Mexican immigrants with a grade school level of education.  The student, faculty, and community team will be responsible for researching, developing, and testing the materials.  The project will provide a model for other agencies to collaborate with institutions of higher education.
     The mission of La Communidad Hispana is to raise the quality of life and self sufficiency of its client population.  Through the fundamentals of personal money management and the preparation of financial materials in Spanish, the agency will better prepare its Mexican immigrant population for a future in the United States.
  • Designing An African American K-12 Enrichment Curriculum
Arthur Keene, Professor of Anthropology and Co-Director, UMass Citizen Scholar
        Program, University of Massachusetts Amherst
Ruth Wise, Executive Director, New Road Community Development Group,
        Exmore, VA
Kara Volpicelli, Anthropology/Education Major, UMass Amherst
      For the last three years UMass students associated with the service-learning courses "Grassroots Community Development" and "Leadership and Activism" have been partnering with profoundly poor rural black communities on Virginia's Eastern Shore in a variety of community development projects.  One aim of this development work has been to promote an interest in  education in communities where the high school dropout rate for African American youth is nearly 70% and where very few black students who do graduate go on to college.  Recent student research in the community, which included dialogs with students and parents, has indicated the need for an extracurricular enrichment curriculum in African American culture and history.  This project brings together students from two service learning classes  plus one co-curricular program at UMass.  Together they will partner with UMass faculty, graduate students, and parents, children and leaders from the community of New Road (Exmore), Virginia to develop and implement a badly needed enrichment curriculum in African American culture and heritage.  This collective endeavor will expand on and strengthen an already established partnership between the New Road community and the University of Massachusetts.                   
  • The EXERCISE PATROL: A Collaborative Partnership to Investigate and
    Enhance Fitness Levels Among Low-income Elders
Rose Jensen, Director of Gerontology, Beard Center on Aging, Lynchburg College,
Benita Ripley, Senior Adult Supervisor, Lynchburg Parks and Recreation
Michelle Lague, Psychology/Gerontology major, Lynchburg College, VA
Carrie Cretsinger, Sociology/Gerontology major, Lynchburg College, VA
     Low-income elderly, particularly those who are African American, are known to be at greater risk for health problems linked to life style patterns and behaviors.  Current attempts to address this problem have not been very successful, in part because changing life long behavior patterns requires consistent intervention strategies that extend over time.  Resources to institute programs that promote healthy aging, while simultaneously teaching alternative behavioral strategies, are generally not available.
     Through a collaborative partnership, Lynchburg College faculty and students engage with staff members of the Lynchburg City Senior Recreation program to (1) identify health behavior patterns of senior citizens and (2) to develop and implement ongoing exercise program for elderly participants, at four target sites.  Interview and survey data on health habits and behaviors of the elders, gathered at four points during the year, create multiple opportunities for student/faculty research.  Following initial data collection, the Exercise Patrol, consisting of teams of students and community partners who are trained by the Lynchburg College faculty, will conduct weekly exercise programs at each of four sites throughout the year.  All partners will work collaboratively, engaging in ongoing data collection, implementation of the Exercise Patrol program, participating in focus groups with elderly participants, data analysis and sharing of lessons learned, as well as dissemination of results.             
  • Whither Humanity?  Community Empowerment and the Precautionary Principle
Kathryn Pyne Addelson, Mary Huggins Gamble Professor of Philosophy,
       Smith College, MA
Sharon Koshar, Project Coordinator, Precautionary Principle Project,
       Massachusetts Breast Cancer Coalition
Erika Nonken, Religion major, Smith College, MA
     The precautionary principle counsels us to use foresight in making decisions that affect public health and welfare, for example placement of toxic dumps or nuclear plants, locating airports or freeways, setting emissions standards, spraying for West Nile Virus, or regulating lawn pesticide use. The principle has been used in international treaties for many years, and it is widely accepted in Europe. The United States has lagged behind many of the European nations in adopting precautionary approaches, but a movement has been growing over the past several years.  Our vision in this action-research project is to broaden the Precautionary Principle conversation.
     The current emphasis on toxins, biomedical health, and policy change leaves out pivotal social issues and encourages partisanship, pitting one interest group against another.   We are seeking to lend power to the idea of precaution through an increased understanding of people's relationships to their communities, and to help uncover unmet needs and values. These conversations will be an attempt to understand how people might define their problems in people terms, like neighborliness, friendship, family, God, children, and whatever other terms they feel might capture what is important to them. 
     We will work with community activists and other experts to draft a statement and develop presentations on community issues and precaution.  It will be necessary to provide an interesting and supportive format to entice the very busy community activists and other experts to devote time to the work of stage one.  To do this, we plan a series of 5 meetings of core participants, each featuring a brief presentation
by one community organization representative, an extended panel discussion with others doing related work, and roundtable discussions at  dinner.
     Our student principal on the grant, Erika Nonkin, will attend all dinners and will give three presentations on the precautionary principle in student houses, aided by the power-point resources. The core group will discuss and give advice to a student group currently working toward getting the College to use safe and environment-friendly supplies.  In addition, we will encourage members of the core group to take on student interns.  The dinners will be catered by a student chef and they will be vegetarian and use local products wherever possible - educating all of us in one aspect of sustainable community.                                                    
  • Reducing Risk Behaviors With Teens
Susan J. Moore, Clinical Director and Faculty, Shalom Health Care Center,
        Indiana  University
Rachael Metheny, Assistant Pastor, Broadway United Methodist Church,
        Indianapolis, IN
Bryan Sinkhorn, student, Indiana University
      Broadway United Methodist Church is an ideal resource to address needs of teens in the inner city.  Due to the large number of children, adolescents and single female head of households residing in the community, the church has facilitated a variety of programs.  The organization of a Risk Program would mesh with the church's outreach while addressing health concerns of adolescents in a comprehensive way.
     Identified health problems speak to the prevalence of violence and drug related concerns with increased drug related deaths.  High-risk behaviors result in high pregnancy rate, low infant birth weights and high infant mortality.  These statistics demonstrate the need for comprehensive efforts addressing health related needs and the underlying social forces. The Shalom Health Care Center of Indiana University is located in the community and serves as the primary health clinic through which the project may be delivered.
     Initial formulated goals may change as the community team conducts a continuous review.  The goals address high risk and addictive behaviors, which correlate with violence and negative health outcomes.  The project includes  individual/group rap sessions, educational support programs and development of individual "action" plans.  Opportunities for direct role modeling by the professional student and teen leader will be a component.  Participating adolescents will develop positive public messages targeting area peer groups.  Several approaches to evaluating short and long-term outcomes have been proposed and will continue to evolve through the team process.  Due to the strong collaboration between the Church and the Shalom Health Center, the likelihood of sustainability of the project, using both shared and existing resources is greatly increased.