“Pay It Forward” helps Madonna students grant non-profits more funds

By Jessica Fellows

In the fall semester of 2010, Madonna University students got the chance to “Pay it Forward.” Students from four different classes spent 15 hours of the semester working close with a total of 12 local nonprofit organizations (three organizations per class). The classes spent their hours by providing volunteer work to the nonprofits by completing a variety of projects that coincided with their course.

Not only did these nonprofits get a little extra attention from Madonna, but also became eligible for grant money that was given to the students for participating in the philanthropy project. The Learn and Serve America Grant is given to over 18 college campuses that will in turn complete 12,934 hours of volunteer service and award 153 thousand dollars to local community nonprofits.

“It was an interesting experience. I think the class had an adventure they will think about for years to come,” said Chuck Derry, Associate Professor, Broadcast and Cinema Arts. Derry was one of the supervising instructors during the semester long project.

While some students volunteered by taking on extra work in class, others went on-site to learn more about their nonprofits. The BCA 3820 – Field Production & Editing II students went out to their three nonprofits to interview and produce promotional videos. The BCA students featured in their videos three nonprofits from the Contemporary Art Institute of Detroit: the Steve Barman Show, Ladybug Studios ad Whitdel Arts. After producing the videos, the three other classes in the “Pay It Forward” program voted on how the nonprofits ranked in “most deserving” of the grant money.

Overall, nine of the 12 participating nonprofits were granted the money awarded to the Madonna students. On Jan. 20, 2011, those winning nonprofits were awarded their grant money at Madonna University’s Pay it Forward Celebration.

“We had about 60 people attend the Pay it Forward Celebration. It was an incredible time of learning and sharing about how ordinary people are doing extraordinary things,” said Olga Martinez, Director of the Office of Service-Learning. Martinez is the coordinator for the program and had great things to say about the experience and how the students participated in the philanthropy project.

“Philanthropy is not solely about what monetary resources can provide but about caring for others and empowering them to realize their dreams,” said Martinez

The experience wasn’t just about the money though. The students were able to gain knowledge through more than just textbooks and lectures. They learned how nonprofits work for themselves and their community.

“We got real world experience, not like the hypothetical projects that are typically done in class,” said Alyse Paquin, a BCA student.

Paquin and the other students learned about philanthropy while developing decision-making, accounting and evaluation skills for the real world. “It really helped out,” said Paquin.