Students use engagement grants to benefit communities in need

This summer 50 students received the Student Engagement Network’s (SEN) Remote Innovation Grants, and many of them are using those grants as a means to improve their communities and the lives of others.

In April, SEN announced it would offer $2,000 grants to students from any campus or academic field to support a virtual summer engagement experience. With the pandemic disrupting many planned engagement experiences such as internships and research opportunities, SEN leadership said they wanted students to continue thinking about their academic journey and be engaged learners.

“We were very impressed with the applicants in this new grant program,” said Michael Zeman, SEN director. “We have 50 students doing amazing work to help their peers and communities at a time when the whole world is experiencing an upheaval in their everyday lives. I also believe the Engagement Coaches, who are volunteer faculty and staff, deserve credit in helping students make the most of these experiences.”

Below are just four examples of the work being done within the SEN Remote Innovation Grant program.

Katie Walters — Adapting to a digital transition: The prevention of child maltreatment in crisis

This summer Walters is continuing her work with the Safe and Healthy Communities Initiative as a research assistant, which will also help her complete an internship to earn a child maltreatment and advocacy studies minor.

Walters is earning a bachelor’s degree in biobehavioral health and is a candidate for a masters of public health.

SHCI works to prevent child sexual abuse using evidence-based programs and methodologies in five Pennsylvania counties (with two counties participating as one applicant to the project). It is a cooperative project between Child Maltreatment Solutions Network and the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency. The SHCI Penn State team is led by Jennie Noll and Kate Guastaferro, and consists of Kathleen Zadzora and a number of undergraduate researchers.

Originally, Walters planned to only stay with the SHCI lab for a single semester.

“I chose to stay on the project throughout the rest of my undergraduate career (and now into my masters!) as I realized the impact that our work was having on child sexual abuse prevention efforts across the state of Pennsylvania,” she said. “While child sexual abuse is a topic that makes most people uncomfortable to talk about, it’s an incredibly important topic to educate parents, teachers, community members and children on. We cannot prevent or protect children from abuse without having the conversation about it, so that’s why this project has become so important to me.”

So far this summer, Walters said she and others at SHCI have been working to adapt pieces of the study to an online format since much of it was based upon data collected from classrooms. In the five counties that SHCI works in, they have been able to reach more than 10,000 adults, nearly 14,000 second graders and 80 parents.

Read more here.