Empower Wayne County teams students with area non-profits to create a better place to live

Five area non-profit organizations connected with teams of students at Indiana University East to develop new programs or tackle projects to help their organizations to move forward.

The Empower Wayne County Challenge was won by the Richmond Art Museum student team.

The connection stems from a new internship program at IU East, Empower Wayne County, offered through the Office of Career Services. The program began this September with a grant from the Wayne County Foundation.

Sixteen students worked in collaboration with the non-profits, as well as with a faculty or staff member and a liaison from Career Services.

The non-profits include LifeStream Services, Inc., Neighborhood Health Center, Richmond Art Museum (RAM), Wayne County Food Council and Wayne County Historical Museum.

On December 13 the student teams presented their projects to the participating non-profit organizations, community leaders, and members of campus during a luncheon.

Students present team projects for Empower Wayne County.

The presentations were judged by a review panel including Don Benziger, executive vice president and CFO at First Bank Richmond; Judy Willet, director of Marketing at Reid Health; Denise Smith, dean of the IU East School of Business and Economics; and TJ Rivard, associate vice chancellor for Academic Affairs at IU East.

Empower Wayne County connected five area non-profit organizations with a team of students.

  • LifeStream Services: Students focused on the Dementia Friends Indiana initiative. Students created a 12-month outreach plan, including marketing, to accelerate the awareness of the program.
  • Neighborhood Health Center: Students developed a full branding, marketing, and communication plan to improve awareness and community understanding of services. Short-term and long-term recommendations were considered, along with the population the organization serves.
  • Richmond Art Museum: Students assisted in the planning of a new educational program targeting middle school students titled “RAM Van Go.” The goal is to increase outreach and offset decline of school field trips. Students looked at the educational curriculum, transportation and design, as well as a communication plan for spreading awareness among area schools.
  • Wayne County Food Council: Students focused on determining how a centralized food hub might best meet the needs of stakeholders, to investigate potential locations that would be ideal for a food hub, and identify potential funding streams that might support the creation and longevity of a food hub.
  • Wayne County Historical Museum: Students created interactive elements for the museum exhibit spaces and assisting with the marketing plan to inform the public of new additions. Target ages of focus are 13 – 25 years of age with attention on using the Android tablets the museum purchased.

The Empower Wayne County Challenge winning team was the students who worked with RAM. This group will have an opportunity to implement their project solution during the spring semester, which begins January 13, 2020. Each of the non-profits receive the work of the student team and have an opportunity to use the work in whatever manner they wish.

Dumi Kumwenda presents on one of five projects student teams developed for Empower Wayne County.

Lance Crow, education director for RAM, worked closely with the student team as they developed plans for the potential new outreach program. He added RAM was pleased to have been part of the first Empower Wayne County grant cycle.

“We are always looking for concrete ways to engage students and community partners and, upon discussing this opportunity, we agreed that our vision for a mobile art program, RAM Van Go, would be a natural fit,” Crow said. “The IU East students asked good questions in our preparatory meeting and their final presentation was polished and complete. Everyone involved felt like it was a valuable experience.”

Crow added the findings will be presented to the RAM Board of Trustees to further pursue bringing RAM Van Go to life in the future.

Beth Evans, director of Community Services for LifeStream, said all of the student team projects were impressive.

“LifeStream was privileged to be one of the non- profit agencies to work with students to develop a marketing strategy for Dementia Friends,” Evans said. “I was impressed with my team that I worked with, they developed a marketing strategy that included an event on campus to educate the students, and online strategy for the community.  I am in hopes that IU East and LifeStream can partner to carry out the plan the team developed, to make an impact.”

IU East Dean of the School of Business and Economics Denise Smith said, “I was impressed by the professionalism and creativity demonstrated by all our student teams. The panel of judges was asked to select a ‘winner’ and it was a difficult task, as each team’s project and presentation was so impressive,” Smith said. “I know our community partners were appreciative of the work and commitment of the students assigned to their nonprofit organizations. We are proud of our students and were delighted to showcase their talents through Empower Wayne County.”

Empower Wayne County students include:

  • Montell James, Roseau, Dominica, business administration major with a concentration in finance
  • Fitz Jolly, Roseau, Dominica, business administration major with a concentration in finance
  • Santiago Barragan, Colima, Mexico, business administration major
  • Kevaray Gillette, Orange, New Jersey, criminal justice major
  • Daniel Sims, Fairfield, Ohio, business administration major with a concentration in marketing
  • Pablo Munoz, Santiago, Chile, business administration major with a concentration in finance
  • Max Faundez, Santiago, Chile, business administration major with a concentration in marketing
  • Mary Parrett, Lynn, Indiana, secondary education major
  • Aaron Gipson, La Quinta, California, communication studies major
  • Josiah Free, Richmond, Indiana, fine arts major
  • Johanna Oswalt, Hartford City, Indiana, pre-nursing student
  • Brooke Perreira, Greenville, Ohio, nursing major
  • Claire Marker, Charlestown, Indiana, business administration major with a concentration in marketing
  • Dumi Kumwenda, Blantyre, Malawi, business administration major with a concentration in computer information systems
  • Jaleel Gilliam, Indianapolis, Indiana, business administration major with a concentration in computer information systems
  • Natthamon (Tan) Chaisakhon, New Castle, Indiana, biochemistry major

IU East Vice Chancellor for External Affairs Jason Troutwine agreed Empower Wayne County provides a unique opportunity to benefit students and non-profit organizations while also enhancing the community for residents.

“The Empower Wayne County project provides a great opportunity for students, faculty and the community to engage in a rich learning experience,” Troutwine said. “We appreciate how our community partners embraced this program and championed their student groups. This program was a great demonstration of how our campus and community can work together.”

Sally Saydshoev, director of Career Services, said Empower Wayne County addresses the growing needs for non-profit organizations in the community. She added students from across academic disciplines are teamed to work together, allowing them to meet new peers and to converse on new and different ideas.

“Students were provided an opportunity to learn more about the wonderful non-profit organizations in our community and were able to connect what they are learning in the classroom to real world projects,” Saydshoev said. “This provided an immersive learning experience that students can talk about in future career interviews and helped students gain a better understanding of the employment opportunities here in Wayne County.”