Fifteen students in a College of Education (COE) leadership perspectives course met their goal of funding a freshwater well for a developing country this semester. And they are not stopping there.
When the students found out their project had raised a little more than $3000 — enough money to fund one well — they quickly raised their goal to funding two.
ED403 is a pilot leadership course designed to give COE students the opportunity to plan and implement a semester-long service project. Students raised money for Generosity Water, a nonprofit advocate for bringing clean water to developing countries. Once Generosity Water decides which country will receive the class’ well funding, the organization will send photos and documentation.Associate Dean and this semester’s ED403 instructor Deb Lecklider and other education faculty created the course last year to provide COE students with a way to sharpen their leadership skills.
“One thing I thought was important for this course was for the students to establish a lot of the criteria for the class as well as the service project,” Lecklider said. “The students developed the projects and assessments, and they had active input in what they wanted out of the course.”
Lecklider specifically chose Generosity Water for the class project to parallel the theme of Butler Provost Jamie Comstock’s faculty initiative, The Waters Project (http://www.butler.edu/provost/faculty-development/waters-project-2010-11/) this year.
For the project, the students divided themselves into three committees — research, promotions and planning. Meeting just once a week for class, the students spent countless additional hours outside of class to plan every detail leading up to Generosity Water Week, Monday-Thursday, April 18-21.
Generosity Water Week kicked off with a presentation from the students about their initiative and the events that would follow. Tuesday and Wednesday’s events were canceled due to uncooperative weather, but Thursday was a success.
The class hosted a meet-and-greet that day with the senior players on the Butler men’s basketball team. Campus members had the opportunity to get signatures and photos with the players for $1. In just an hour, the students raised a little more than $100.
A major portion of the money raised to fund the well came from letters written to students’ families and friends asking them to donate to the cause. The students also have a web page on the Generosity Water website, http://www.mygenerositywater.org/butler, which accepts donations.
Anna McDonnell, chairperson of the class project, was especially proud of the way things turned out during Generosity Water Week.
“Seeing the class work together, knowing that funding just one well is affecting so many people, was incredible,” said McDonnell, junior middle and secondary education and English major. “Just as much as it’s about leadership, it’s about the people we are helping.”
Besides the impact the students made on a developing country’s drinking water supply, the students gained a perspective on water as an underappreciated resource.
“I never really realized how much we use water and how much we take water for granted,” said Sara McDonald, freshman elementary education major, who was on the promotions committee. “People don’t realize how big of a difference the littlest amount of money can make and how much we use water without even knowing it.”
Students discovered from their research of Generosity Water that $10 will provide water for someone in a developing country for 20 years.
The class also learned a lot about what it really means to be a leader, especially when two of the events they had been planning for all semester had to be rescheduled due to weather.
“I think it was a learning experience for us all when Tuesday and Wednesday [activities] had to be canceled. To just let it go and realize it was out of our hands,” said Chris Beaman, junior middle and secondary education major. “I think that was hard for us as students because sometimes we want to be in control, but it was a learning experience and one that will definitely benefit all of us in our career goals.”
ED403 will continue to be built upon and improved for next spring, but, overall, Lecklider is very pleased with the way things turned out for this course’s pilot semester.
“I see the efforts and the learning that took place along the way, and I think the students’ experience from this course will last them a lifetime,” Lecklider said. “I think it’s changed their minds about how to contribute as a citizen, not only in the United States but in the world.”
Mary Ellen Stephenson