UTK initiative students are pushing fundraising for Cleveland projects

By JOYANNA LOVE Banner Senior Staff Writer
Posted 4/11/15

Cleveland has new opportunities to give to community projects thanks to some University of Tennessee students.

As part of the Smart Communities Initiative partnership between the university and …

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UTK initiative students are pushing fundraising for Cleveland projects

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Cleveland has new opportunities to give to community projects thanks to some University of Tennessee students.

As part of the Smart Communities Initiative partnership between the university and the city of Cleveland, students have created online giving opportunities for Imagination Library, a summer feeding program, a community garden, Learning Trails and a playground renovation in the Blythe Oldfield neighborhood.

Students from English 255 Public Writing used the crowdfunding site Indiegogo to craft text and video messages urging people to donate.

“The topic of the course is rhetoric and persuasion and … strategies to get people to think like you think,” freshman Cameron Turner said.

The project gave the students a practical application for these skills.

“My students’ work is simply amazing. One of the groups has already exceeded their goal, raising over $1,000 for No Child Hungry and their Summer Feeding Program,” professor Dr. Robin Nicks said.

The student group was surprised by the success.

“Our site has now been live for about six days and we are speechless with the progress the campaign has made. In less than a week, our Indiegogo has successfully raised $1,144 for No Child Hungry,” Laney Stephens said on a class blog.

“With the support from people like you, Cleveland, Tennessee is going to grow and support many people through No Child Hungry. We are extremely pleased with this success and are eager to see how much more support and money we will raise over the course of this campaign.”

Donors are offered ”perks” such as a virtual high five, thank you notes or a social media shout out for donating.

Some groups offer thank you gifts at different giving levels. Recess Renovators, raising money for the playground renovation, has partnered with locally owned Hip-E-Beads to create crystal pendants as a thank you to those who donate $35.

Two groups have chosen to raise funds for the Imagination Library.

Imagination Library provides a free book each month to children ages 0 to 5.

Turner of the “Literature for Little Ones” group said students were given a list of community projects from which to choose.

“When they mentioned Imagination Library me and my two group members gravitated toward that,” Turner said.

It takes an average of $13 a year to provide the books for one child.

“It’s been cool to learn more about the Imagination Library,” Turner said.

He said the project appealed to them because it addresses a child’s need to be able to read to be successful later in life.

“We figured that giving kids the tools to read at an early age could really help them and benefit them the most,” Turner said.

Each group received input from Cleveland leaders working on the projects in order to determine the fundraising goal.

Two groups of students are working to raise funds to renovate the playground in the Blythe Oldfield community.

“Our group chose the playground at the Blythe Family Support Center in Cleveland, Tennessee mainly because it was listed as the top priority project by the community leaders and Impact Cleveland. We saw that there was much need for a new playground, and wanted to witness the change we could make in the children’s live,” UTK student Sydni Wilkinson said.

Plans for the project include a new pavilion and new playground equipment. Wilkinson said specific plans are still being developed by the community.

The Learning Trail group is working to raise funds to have three trails similar to the Learning Trail at Greenway Park constructed in the community. One trail will be at Black Fox Elementary School. The other locations are yet to be determined.

The campaigns are set up in such a way that even if the full amount is not raised, donations will go to the projects designated.

The Garden Group is working to raise money for a community garden in the Blythe Oldfield community. The plans are for the garden to consist of raised flowerbeds picnic tables, a gazebo and and personalized stepping stones.

“It's been terrific to see them putting the rhetorical skills and concepts we’ve covered to work in trying to persuade others to give to these causes. It's really amazing to see what a young person can do with the right motivation and the right tools. They're all inherently savvy in terms of multimodal compositions (video, audio, text, images, etc), and combined with what they've learned about rhetorical theory and its practical application, I've received some of the best work I've ever had from this class,” Nicks said.

The campaign ends at the end of the school semester.

“I think it’s important that our students see the real-world applications of what we do in our classes. I love that so many classes are doing so many different projects to help the city, and I'm excited that my own students are able to participate,” Nicks said.

The projects can be accessed on www.indiegogo.com under the following titles: Recess Renovators, Renovate Blythe Park, Summer feeding Program, Literature for Little Ones, Imagination Library, The Garden Group and Learning Trails.

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