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Students use mini-grants to make mega impacts

Students use mini-grants to make mega impacts

March 6, 2019 at 12:00am


Members of Minority Women in Medicine pose for a photo with children at El Hospital de Niño in Puerto Rico. (photo courtesy of Isma Nadeem)


What good can you do with $1,000?

The Center for Leadership and Service is asking this question to students. Wells Fargo funds Global Civic Engagement (GCE) Mini-Grants that can be used for service programs in the Miami community and beyond.

“The grants are for FIU students who are looking to develop projects in the community to address a social issue,” said Amanda McDole ’15, assistant director of the center and leader of the GCE Advisory board. “That can mean a lot of different things.”

Wells Fargo provides at least 10 grants a year to support student-run service projects. Projects last year varied from providing nature activities for people with post-traumatic stress disorder to providing everyday necessities to local homeless shelters.

Applications are rolling, but the last opportunity to apply for a grant for the spring semester is on April 9.

Izma Nadeem, a senior biology student and board member of Minority Women in Medicine, applied for a mini-grant on behalf of her organization to fund a medical service trip to Puerto Rico in December 2018.

The group raised enough for their travel fare, and the GCE grant they received allowed them to purchase scrubs to volunteer at the hospital, supplies to help improve parts of the island and to gift pajama sets to the children at Hospital HIMA in time for Christmas.

The group helped repaint a bridge and shadowed professionals at the hospital. Nadeem said the work doesn’t stop there.

The experience was valuable for the aspiring health professionals, Nadeem said. The experience opened their eyes to the importance of bedside manners — making patients feel comfortable and understood while they are being treated — despite the language barriers for some students.

“What’s really important, and kind of the hardest part of doing that when you’re a physician or P.A., is interacting with the patients,” she said.

The trip helped show members how they can apply lessons taken from service trips abroad, Nadeem said.

“We wanted them to see that there’s more to volunteering than just what’s here in Miami,” she said.

Through the connections the group made, they are hoping to plan another service trip to Puerto Rico or the Dominican Republic in the future.

“We can continue volunteering there because of the connections that we made,” she said.

Daniel Calzadilla realized the toolshed at MMC’s Organic Garden in the Nature Preserve needed some TLC when it hit him upside the head, literally. The door fell off, and the tools were disappearing and deteriorating — he knew it was time for an upgrade.

The toolshed has primarily been used to maintain the organic garden, run by FIU students and faculty. After applying for and receiving a GCE Mini-Grant to fix up the shed, Calzadilla said the shed has expanded its reach as a resource for students needing tools for garden-related projects and beyond. Calzadilla said he feels confident in leaving the space better than he found it. McDole said the toolshed even serves other grant applicants who apply for money to purchase tools. Now, she said, they can spend the money to further the reach of their projects.

“I mean this is the kind of issue we face in the ‘real world,’ this is why we came to get our degrees, to be proactive problem solvers, to take the initiative and support a better tomorrow,” said Calzadilla, who graduated in fall 2018 after completing his project.


Students work on upgrading the toolshed at the Organic Garden located at FIU’s Nature Preserve, funded by a grant from the Center for Leadership and Service. (photo courtesy of David Riera)

Grant recipients are paired with a mentor, often an undergraduate or graduate student, who works with the student to plan the budget, execute the project and brainstorm a long-term impact for the project.

Calzadilla used the grant funds he received to replace the dilapidated tool shed with a new one and buy more tools to share with the FIU community such as shovels and telescopic fruit pickers. He said his mentor, David Riera, a doctoral student in the School of Teaching and Learning, encouraged Calzadilla to think: “for students, by students.” Calzadilla said he hopes that new tools will be donated and old ones repaired in the future to decrease cost and waste.

“For a lot of students, this is just the beginning for them,” said McDole. She said some students go on to continue their project or work for nonprofits related to their field of interest.

The center rewards students with passion and the urge to roll up their sleeves and put in the work.

“What I hope students get out of participating in the GCE Mini-Grants is accessibility, to bring their ideas to reality and to know that they can make a difference in the community,” McDole said.