As the crowdfunding campaign for the Pay It Forward Project makes its way towards its conclusion, we can gladly state that the target goal of $2000 has been achieved, with further donations encouraged right up until the official end of the campaign on February 28th.
With that being said, however, it seemed appropriate to take some of the time available to us and take a look at the person responsible for the Pay It Forward Project. Professor Amy Tibbals, the creator of and instructor responsible for the program, was willing to take some time out of her busy schedule to answer some questions, about herself and the overall development of the program since its inception.
How did you initially envision the class and the Pay It Forward Project?
I first had an idea after watching an episode of Oprah, that it would be cool to give each student $25 and then have them see how much good they could do in the community with that money. They would write about their experience and show what they did. When the opportunity arose to apply for a federal grant that allowed us to have students oversee a grant process, I felt like this was exactly the same type of goal I was hoping to achieve just in slightly different way. I like this model better, actually, because it means that students have to make very difficult decisions and be good stewards of a larger sum of money all while researching and writing.
What obstacles did you face in making this program a reality? How did you deal with these obstacles?
The only obstacles have been; 1) securing funding after that initial grant went away 2) enlisting more potential non-profit applicants each grant cycle 3) raising awareness of the project itself and the good it is doing for our students and the community
How long has the program been going on for now?
The first ever PIF grant cycles ran in the 2010-2011 school year.
How has program evolved and changed over time?
It has evolved in lots of ways. First, there are now two courses engaged in the PIF project. English 2367.01S oversees the grant cycle itself, while English 3304 (Business and Professional Writing) students oversee a crowdfunding campaign to raise money for the PIF grant. Those students will also apply to the Marion Community Foundation for funds that will support an added grant cycle to an autumn 2367.01S course. The United Way and The Marion Community Foundation have increased their partnership roles and finances, and our own Dean Greg Rose has increased our financial partnership. The crowdfunding campaign means that our students also have a higher level of investment in the project as well.
Do you find the Pay It Forward Project especially useful as a source of funds for the local non-profit organizations?
While the PIF project does supply some much needed funding, I think the organizations would argue that having the opportunity to show students what they do and how they help is one of the more priceless aspects of taking part in the process. This also provide a way to attract future volunteers.
Do you think the Pay It Forward Project works well as a student-led grant distribution program?
Yes, I think it works very well, which is why I’m excited to be able to add another course section of PIF next year.
How has this affected you personally?
Every time we offer Pay It Forward it is an amazing experience for me, both personally and professionally. It aligns with everything I believe in as an educator and as an engaged citizen. I look forward to reading students’ papers as they have to argue which organizations should receive funding. The debates at the end of the semester are always very serious, and students become passionate about their decisions. As a teacher, I couldn’t ask for more. As I see students’ emotions and their compassion for these organizations, I feel very hopeful for our communities and the kind of people that will be working in them, giving to them and leading them one day.
What would you like to say to a potential donor or a future grant recipient?
When you support Pay It Forward, you are not only offering monetary support; you are supporting innovative education, civic engagement, and goodwill building. Give to ensure that this Pay It Forward Project continues and to show your support for the students at OSUM and the community of Marion.