Six programs awarded community engagement grants

Virginia Commonwealth University’s Council for Community Engagement has awarded one-year grants of up to $20,000 to six university-community programs. The grants support interdisciplinary projects designed to enhance and increase university engagement with the greater Richmond community and to contribute to the research and teaching of VCU units.

Clark-Hill Institute for Positive Youth Development received the award for exemplary partnership in research and was honored with the “Currents of Change” award.  Representatives of the Institute, which is a partnership of the College of Humanities and Sciences, the Department of Psychology and Richmond Public Schools, were recognized during the ceremony.

Clark-Hill Institute for Positive Youth Development received the award for exemplary partnership in research and was honored with the “Currents of Change” award.
Representatives of the Institute, which is a partnership of the College of Humanities and Sciences, the Department of Psychology and Richmond Public Schools, were recognized during the ceremony.

Since 2007, nearly $600,000 in grant funding has been awarded though the program to support 50 projects.

This year, the community engagement grant awards were announced at a reception for university and community partners last week at the University Student Commons.

The six grantees were selected from a group of applicants representing programs on both campuses. Grants were awarded to:

“Agri-Culture”: Growing Food and Community with Richmond Refugees, which is a collaboration among the School of Social Work, the VCU Wellness Resource Center and ReEstablish Richmond (ReR) to promote healthy lives for food-insecure Richmond refugees and to build a cross-cultural community through gardening and food. Partners will expand ReR’s rooftop garden and provide culturally sensitive learning opportunities for those who are food insecure.

Beautiful RVA Partnership: Co-creating Livability in Richmond Communities, which is a partnership between theL. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs,  VCU  School of the Arts and the departments of fashion, graphic design and interior design, Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden, City of Richmond Office of Sustainability, Groundwork RVA and TMI Consulting Inc. to coordinate a community-based beautification program for the City of Richmond.

Crossing the River: Bridging the Education Gap – Enhancing the First Spanish GED Preparation Program in Richmond, which is a collaboration among the Office of Continuing Studies, College of Humanities and Sciences, Department of Physics and Sacred Heart Center to improve and extend the only Spanish GED (General Education Development) preparation program offered in the Richmond area.

Expanding Trauma-Informed Intervention for Preschoolers: An Inter-Disciplinary Best Practice Approach, a partnership of the School of Allied Health Professions, Department of Occupational Therapy, School of Social Work, Greater Richmond Stop Child Abuse Now (SCAN) and Circle Preschool Program (CPP) to improve care for children who have experienced early trauma and neglect by guiding students from occupational therapy and social work in assessment and intervention at CPP.

Social Practice in the Museum: A Service-Learning Course for VCU Students and Young People in the Museum, a collaboration among VCU School of the Arts, the departments of art history and photography and film, the Anderson Gallery, Church Hill Activities and Tutoring (CHAT) and the Valentine Richmond History Center to engage VCU students and CHAT high school students to learn about Richmond’s Church Hill neighborhood, obtain new technical photography and filmmaking skills, investigate the role of museums in community engagement and receive professional training in museum work.

A Welcoming Richmond, which is a partnership of the School of World Studies, the L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs, The Bridge Community Development Corporation (Bridge CDC) and the City of Richmond Office of Multicultural Affairs to help immigrants prepare services for their citizenship exam and identify resources to help pay citizenship fees.

Cathy Howard, Ph.D., vice provost of the Division of Community Engagement, said VCU and its community partners have helped communities in places as close as the neighborhoods surrounding the university to as far away as a remote village in Thailand.

“This celebration gives us the opportunity to acknowledge university-community partnerships over the past year and to look ahead with the promising projects that will receive community engagement grants,” Howard said.

VCU was recognized in 2006 by the Carnegie Foundation as a community-engaged campus and was one of the first universities to receive the distinction.

And since then, the university has made a great deal of progress in support of the Quest for Distinction strategic plan goal to be a “national model for community engagement and regional impact,” including: 
·  Incorporating community-engaged scholarship into the university’s promotion and tenure policies. 

·  Creating VCU ASPiRE, a community engagement-focused living-learning community. 

·  Offering 214 service-learning classes to 3,100 students. 

·  Completing 321 scholarly products from community-engaged research by faculty over the last four years. 

·  Providing more than 1 million hours of community service.

In addition, a pilot survey found VCU has 1,100 community partnerships. Also, university employees and programs have received national recognition. This year, the Gulf South Summit recognized Lynn Pelco, Ph.D., vice provost for community engagement, as an outstanding practitioner contributing to service learning in higher education and honored the School of Dentistry for outstanding service-learning collaboration in higher education.  

“I am excited to be associated with a university with a sustained track record of successful community partnerships,” said Marti K.S. Heil, vice president for development and alumni relations. “VCU is very unique in building interdisciplinary and sustainable partnerships that embrace community-identified needs.”

The Council for Community Engagement also recognized four outstanding university-community partnerships, including one that also was designated this year’s “Currents of Change” award winner.

The award for exemplary partnership in teaching went to the VCU Votes Campaign, a non-partisan election campaign to increase college student voter turnout during off-year elections. Through innovative social media engagement and advertising techniques, multimedia news reporting, voter registration and Election Day drives, VCU Votes Campaign increased 2013 voter turnout by 83 percent compared to the previous gubernatorial election in 2009. The project was a partnership of the Richard T. Robertson School of Media and Culture, the Virginia Campus Election Engagement Project (CEEP) and WTVR-CBS 6.

The award for exemplary partnership in research went to the Clark-Hill Institute for Positive Youth Development, which develops and evaluates evidence-based practices to promote healthy, safe and positive development of youth, especially those of middle school age. The institute, which is a partnership of the College of Humanities and Sciences, the Department of Psychology and Richmond Public Schools, is currently implementing the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program to reduce levels of aggressive behavior and associated risk factors among students.

The award for exemplary partnership in service went to the VCU Mini-Economy Market Day in which students interact with students from other school divisions to learn about the economy and international trade. At the most recent event, students from 10 school divisions set up 380 businesses and cultivated a lively market to culminate weeks of participating in their own classroom economy projects. The project is a collaboration among School of Business, Department of Economics, Center for Economic Education, School of Education,  Martin’s, Union First Market Bank, the Virginia Council on Economic Education (VCEE), public school districts in Henrico, Richmond, Chesterfield, Hanover, Lunenburg, King George, Steward, Charles City and Amelia and the Steward and Blessed Sacrament Huguenot schools.

The award for student-initiated exemplary partnership went to Student Initiated Food Landscapes, which addresses the scarcity of access to fresh, healthy food in some communities. The School of Social Work is partnering with the Neighborhood Resource Center and Transitions Day Support Center to teach youth at the Neighborhood Resource Center about nutrition and to provide lessons in cooking. The youth then share what they’ve learned with disabled adults at Transition Day Support Services.

The Clark-Hill Institute for Positive Youth Development also received the “Currents of Change” award for overall excellence.

The “Currents of Change” winner received an autographed and framed limited-edition print of a watercolor by W. Baxter Perkinson, D.D.S., a School of Dentistry alumnus, who is the president of VCU Alumni and has served as rector and member of the Board of Visitors and vice president of the VCU Health System Authority Board of Directors.