Business students, Vigo high schools team up in fundraising efforts

January 23, 2013

It seemed like just another start to the month when Adam Gaunt paid a visit to his landlord to pay his rent.

While there, the Indiana State University senior couldn't help but notice something peculiar: loose change was sprawled out over his landlord's floor. When Gaunt asked about it, his landlord informed Gaunt of the penny wars project at Terre Haute North Vigo High School: students were competing on their teachers' behalf to see who could collect the most pennies, though any other coins collected (such as nickels, dimes and quarters) would count against the teacher's final tally.

Gaunt already knew about it; he was part of a team of Indiana State students who helped organize the project that the team hoped would generate about $400 for a charitable cause.

The landlord's two sons who are Terre Haute North students had gone through his loose change because their teacher - one of more than 150 fundraiser participants- had collected only $59, and they wanted their teacher to win.

"At that point, I sent an e-mail to the ISU team thinking this might be a lot bigger than we thought, because that's just one teacher," Gaunt said. "They raided all of their dad's change that last day, and took it to put it in as part of the program."

Indiana State students partnered with several Vigo County high schools for community service projects to learn more about the curriculum in a business management class. The projects included several ISU students who partnered with West Vigo High School to organize a sock collection for the Terre Haute Women's Club annual sock drive, along with the penny wars at Terre Haute North to benefit the Vigo County School Corp.'s weekend backpack program, which provides food for some Vigo County families.

"The way the projects are built out really allowed me to help teach those course concepts through the students doing these sorts of activities," said Art Sherwood, associate professor of management at Indiana State. "They learned all of that and they did it very well, but then they also got this other side of things in terms of learning about the community, their role in the community and their ability to have an impact."

Though the Indiana State students co-organizing the penny wars with Terre Haute North students received an indication that the project likely exceeded their expectations, they were stunned to learn that the high school's student body had raised more than $4,000 through the project -10 times the original goal.

"This really speaks to the staff and student council of Terre Haute North, because if it weren't for them, it wouldn't have been as big a success as it was," Gaunt said. "They really knocked it out of the park."

Another Indiana State team worked with students at West Vigo High School to collect socks for the Women's Club of Terre Haute. In the project, each class year competed to see which one could collect the most socks. In all, the West Vigo students collected 276 pairs of socks through the project.

"I believe that this was a great collaborative effort between the college students and West Vigo High School students," said Tom Balitewicz, principal at West Vigo. "This was a great opportunity for my students to learn how to plan during a meeting and the ISU students assisted them with the coordination of the organization of the event."

The high school students were receptive to working with the Indiana State team, which contributed to the project's success, said Lauren Callaway, an ISU senior accounting major from Hutsonville, Ill.

"We were very pleased with how everything turned out," she added. "The Woman's Club was more than thrilled about our donation."

The Indiana State students worked with Stacy Mason, executive director of secondary education for the Vigo County School Corp., to coordinate with the high schools on the projects. Mason supported, and she also suggested the ISU teams collaborate with the respective high schools' student councils.

Within the span of a few months, students at Indiana State along with West Vigo and Terre Haute North high schools identified the community service projects, then planned and implemented the initiatives.

"Luckily, both high schools' student councils were so willing to help us and jumped on board," said Rachael Johnson, a junior financial services major from Fort Branch who managed the ISU teams on the projects. "They were a huge help as well."

The councils were vital in not only organizing the projects, but also in implementing them in both high schools, Callaway and Gaunt said. The Indiana State teams provided equipment (which was donated) needed for the drives and also talked with council members on some of the lessons they had learned in the class.

"I felt like the collaborative effort between the ISU students and the VCSC students was one that was a benefit to all involved," Mason said. "Service learning while giving back to our community is a valuable lesson to students of any age."

By introducing real-world projects to teach the classroom, Indiana State students' commitment level to coursework increases tremendously, Sherwood said.

"I am detecting every year an increased level of belief among students that contributing to the community and community strength matters," the professor added. "When we go through one of these projects, that increases those beliefs tremendously."

Other ISU offices got involved as well, as the Office of Diversity donated some school supplies, including more than a dozen backpacks for the penny wars fundraiser. The project's success reflects the efforts of many people, from high school students and the Vigo County School Corp. to the Indiana State team working together, Gaunt said.

"We involved a lot of people," he added. "Everybody got together and really put 100 percent of their effort into it."

Photo: http://isuphoto.smugmug.com/photos/i-Hqs5xjH/0/L/i-Hqs5xjH-L.jpg (Submitted photo)Several Indiana State University business students talk to students at West Vigo High School as part of a community service project. The ISU business students partnered with West Vigo students on a sock drive for the Women's Club of Terre Haute. Another group of ISU students worked with Terre Haute South Vigo High School to raise money for the weekend backpack food program by the Vigo County School Corp.

Photo: http://isuphoto.smugmug.com/photos/i-sgX5bqp/0/L/i-sgX5bqp-L.jpg (Submitted photo)An Indiana State University business student works on the sock drive project at West Vigo High School. A group of students in a business management class worked on several community service projects to gain experience implemented what they were learning in the classroom.

Contact: Arthur Sherwood, associate professor of management and co-director of Sycamore Student Ventures, Scott College of Business, Indiana State University, 812-237-2094 or arthur.sherwood@indstate.edu

Writer: Austin Arceo, assistant director of media relations, Office of Communications and Marketing, Indiana State University, 812-237-3790 or austin.arceo-negrich@indstate.edu