Successful Students

Columbus, Ohio students becomoe small-scale philanthropists and donate thousands of dollars to local non-profit organizations.

Student Volunteers Become Non-profit Donors

This article was written by the Ohio Education Association.

In the third year of a collaborative project with Ohio State University and NEA, Columbus school students have become small-scale philanthropists, designating $8,500 in contributions to select non-profit organizations where the students also worked as volunteers.

It’s all part of a service-learning project called “Bringing Learning to Life,” supported by a $550,000 grant from the Corporation for National and Community Service. More than 55 community-based organizations are actively involved with the grant beneficiaries – the Columbus City Schools, the Ohio State University College of Education and Human Ecology and the Columbus Education Association (CEA).

Service-learning is a multifaceted approach to integrating classroom instruction and academic research with meaningful community service. Such projects have the potential to enrich learning, teach civic responsibility, shape educational policy, and strengthen partnerships within schools, universities, and communities.

In Columbus, the service-learning program emerged as the result of community conversations about the lack of connections between Linden-McKinley High School and its surrounding neighborhoods.

“Clearly, we needed a way to show students that they can get involved and make a difference in their community. We found that deeply committed teachers can help young people participate in worthwhile service projects directly related to their learning,” said Rhonda Johnson, President of CEA.

“I see this work as powerfully invigorating, exciting, and crucially important in ongoing conversations about the educational achievement and success of students,” said Dr. Valerie Kinloch, PhD, an associate professor in Literacy Studies in the College of Education and Human Ecology at The Ohio State University. Kinloch also said that the service-learning projects benefit teachers, students, and community partners, as they are all able to work in a robust educational partnership that centers students and their learning.

CEA gave its 2012 Innovator in Education Award to Dr. Kinloch for her role as a vital partner with CEA in service-learning projects.

In an inventive combination of community service and professional development, the grant has enabled 76 teachers to earn three graduate credits and implement service-learning projects in their classrooms. More than 2,700 students have participated in the program, from pre-K through high school, and 70 Columbus K-12 teachers, all members of CEA, took the OSU course on service-learning. 

One service-learning project, “Water, Water Everywhere,” helped students learn how improper disposal of hazardous materials affect water quality. Using what they learned, Linden-McKinley students made proposals to improve nearby water supplies.

Other projects focused on preventing concussions and brain injuries in sports, housing, conservation, senior citizens and international human rights concerns.

On Capital Day, October 19, the in-service learning day for Columbus teachers, OSU and the CEA began a two-day Service-Learning & Community Engagement Conference at the Columbus Convention Center to review progress and explore more opportunities for student participation in community work.

“Columbus Education Association members and leaders have seized on the service-learning concept, building on a longstanding partnership with Ohio State and creating deeper relationships with the non-profit community,” said Roberta Hantgan, Senior Policy Analyst with NEA’s Priority Schools Campaign.

Teachers participating in the three-year program are eligible to apply for mini-grants that support hands-on community projects with students. But student volunteers themselves have a role now in channeling grant funding to non-profit organizations, too.

More information about service learning projects and grant opportunities is available at, and on the OSU website.

Students as grant-givers honor Columbus-area non-profits: The students honored 15 local non-profit organizations with $8,500 in philanthropic gifts at a ceremony October 29 at Columbus Downtown High School. Below are the organizations that received the awards.

  • National Church Residence Permanent Housing Services
  • National Parkinson Foundation: Central and SE Ohio Chapter
  • International Center for the Preservation of Wild Animals – (“The Wilds”)
  • Capital Area Humane Society
  • Eldon and Elsie Ward YMCA
  • Montana de Luz
  • United Negro College Fund
  • St. Stephen’s Community House
  • CCS Special Olympics
  • Columbus Speech and Hearing Center
  • Partners in Conservation @ The Columbus Zoo
  • Church of the Good Shepherd United Methodist Church
  • Creative Living, Inc.
  • Rwanda Women in Action
  • The Sudan Clinic Project

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