November 5, 2007
Community-connected projects flourish with mini-grants
By kim urquhart
Nov. 19 is the next deadline for faculty to apply for mini-grants from the Office of University-Community Partnerships to support teaching and research projects that directly engage and benefit the community. The grants provide financial support of up to $2,500 for incorporation of service learning components into new or existing courses, and up to $5,000 for pilot research projects that provide a direct and tangible benefit to communities in the greater Atlanta area.
The OUCP mini-grants have helped Vialla Hartfield-Mendez, a senior lecturer in Spanish, launch several initiatives that over the years have flourished and multiplied. In 2001, she applied for her first mini-grant to support the creation of a new advanced writing, service-learning course, Spanish 317, that would connect Emory’s Spanish language students with the local Hispanic community.
To learn more about that community, she began her research in Mexico. “One of the places where I traveled with the help of the first mini-grant was Guanajuato, a state with high emigration rates,” Hartfield-Mendez said. “It was one of the areas I wanted to visit in order to understand the circumstances and culture of many of the immigrant families with whom my students would be working.”
Students enrolled in Hartfield-Mendez’ Spanish 317 serve as tutors and help in other capacities at Atlanta-area schools that have a high percentage of Hispanic students. Hartfield-Mendez recalls a story from the early days of a partnership with Sutton Middle School in Fulton County. Eighth-graders were required to pass Georgia history to continue on to high school. “This was a huge roadblock” for immigrant students, Hartfield-Mendez said. “We did some intensive tutoring about Georgia history and got a lot of students through that class. It made a big difference about who passed and made it to high school. So it was really pretty extraordinary, the difference that we made.”
In an expansion of Hartfield-Mendez’ effort to develop a strong relationship between the Department of Spanish and Portuguese and the Atlanta Hispanic community, she used another mini-grant as a supplementary fund to launch the Mexican Summer Cultural Immersion Program in 2004. The four-week program brought Hispanic students from a local elementary school to Emory’s campus to participate in activities such as tours of the Carlos Museum’s Ancient Americas exhibit.
Hartfield-Mendez now serves on the board of Project SHINE, which links Emory and Georgia Perimeter College students with immigrants and refugees who are pursuing greater fluency in English and full citizenship. Bringing this program to Atlanta was a result of Hartfield-Mendez’ connections with the immigrant community, first established with the help of OUCP funding.
“It absolutely points back to the mini-grant, because if I had never done the very first one I wouldn’t have had the relationships with the Hispanic community that I now have,” she said.
OUCP mini-grants are also helping nursing students provide care and health education at the Gateway 24/7 Center and educational studies students provide after school tutoring for refugee children at Refugee Family Services.
“These are all fabulous success stories from projects funded during their start-up phases that have flourished over a few years,” said Sam Marie Engle, senior associate director of the OUCP.
Mini-grant funds may be used to cover reasonable costs associated with the project, such as transportation costs, refreshments, supplies or equipment and childcare services. Mini-grants can also be used to provide supplementary funding for projects that already have grant funding assistance, if used to pay for things that a grant specifically cannot cover.
“That’s where we come in,” said Engle, “to close the gap in funding and to help great ideas become successful initiatives.”
To apply for an OUCP mini-grant, visit http://oucp.emory.edu.