Education Now, Opportunity Forever
The opportunity to receive an education is often taken for granted by American students. In places like the Central American country of Belize, education is desired and respected, but isn't a realistic possibility for many children. A project that was proposed in Dr. Sean Williams's business writing course has evolved into a Creative Inquiry called $60 Scholarships.
The idea driving this non-profit social enterprise is "education now, opportunity forever," and the students involved in this Creative Inquiry are committed to and passionate about creating such opportunities for children in Belize. Unlike America, Belize does not have a fully government-funded education system. While the Belizean government does finance half of students' yearly educational costs, families are responsible for the other half. And, in a country teeming with poverty and unemployment, many families cannot afford to send their children to school. For $60, a student can attend school, receive books and supplies, as well as a uniform.
The team behind $60 Scholarships is made up of both English and business majors, with students taking various roles in finances, operations, communications, marketing and social media. At the beginning of the fall 2012 semester, the team set a goal of raising $5000 for Belizean children. In just a few short months, the team was able to meet a third of their goal, giving 30 children the gift of education. The $60 Scholarships team partnered with the University bookstore at the end of the fall semester during textbook buy back weeks. Students set up tables to promote the organization and also to ask students to donate the money they earned from selling their textbooks to help send a Belizean child to school.
Although the team has seen success in their endeavors so far, senior English major Kellie Hawkins describes one main challenge the group has faced: "Clemson already has so many philanthropic organizations that it's hard for our small group to squeeze in there. It's really hard to ask college students to become part of it because everyone is struggling for money. Our team immediately fell in love with the concept for the project, and we just want other people to share in that passion with us." The group has promoted their cause through a strong social media presence, tabling on the library bridge and fundraisers, and the results have been positive.
The team also partnered with crowd funding organization SponsorCraft in order to raise funds for a spring break trip to Belize, during which they visited the children and teachers at Unity Presbyterian School. The team produced a documentary of their trip, which includes footage from the school, the Burial Grounds area of Belize City and the part of the city where many cruise ships dock. "We wanted to portray the view that tourists get of the area versus the reality of what goes on beyond the cruise ports," said Hawkins.
On the final day of the trip, the team presented a check for $1800 ($3600 in Belizean dollars) to Pastor Ernest Betson, the principal of the school. The children expressed their gratitude with thank you cards, bracelets and songs for the team. The team was also able to include several interviews with teachers, parents and faculty members in their documentary, which will give viewers a chance to see firsthand the poverty in Belize.
Dr. Sean Williams is the faculty leader of this project, and he explains that students in this Creative Inquiry are "Our team immediately fell in love with the concept for the project, and we just want other people to share in that passion with us." gaining knowledge of the important role that writing and communication play in a business context. "The students have learned that if you can communicate an idea really well, you can have an impact. They've seen that in action."
While this year has been devoted to raising awareness for the project's cause and receiving donations, Williams points out that next semester phase two of the project will begin. "We want to be a sustainable operation and not rely on donations which means we have to develop an enterprise that supports that." The group will begin plans for a business model that supports their philanthropic activity in the fall of 2013 with hopes of taking their Creative Inquiry project to the next level.