Scholars active in community

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Staff Writer

Anyone who receives a scholarship to support their education may be hard-pressed to think of a way to say “thank you” loudly enough.

Malissa Ayala, assistant director of financial aid and scholarships at IU South Bend, started the Scholars Give Back program three years ago. She describes it as a tangible way for scholarship recipients to give back to the community that’s provided the scholarship opportunities for them.

“It’s also a way for students to realize what’s happening in their community,” Ayala said. “A lot of times even though we live here, we may not realize the different needs in the community.”

For the month of February, Ayala invited scholars to serve meals at Hope Ministries Rescue Mission each Friday, and held a donation drive to collect toiletries and cleaning supplies, which were taken to Hope.

Scholarship recipient Aleshcha DeWitt served meals at the homeless shelter on Friday, Feb. 28.

“Malissa puts a lot of work into it, setting up these opportunities,” DeWitt said. “These donors all over give us scholarships, and it allows me not to work so that I can just focus on my studies and my classes and everything. It’s really neat to have an opportunity just one day per semester to give back to the community because they support me.”

Each event is accompanied by a short educational session for the participants.

“It’s not intensive, but just so that students can understand why we’re doing it,” Ayala said.

On Oct. 4, Scholars Give Back partnered with Junior Achievement and helped provide college students to teach kindergarten through fourth graders about economics and financial literacy.

“When I did Junior Achievement last semester it was something I didn’t know much about, and I learned a lot,” said student Kristina Turpin. “Especially because I’m an education major. It was real life application while serving the community, so it was really cool – I loved it. It was a blast.”

Turpin was also part of the group that helped serve meals at Hope Rescue Mission. Until that moment, an experience like that was foreign to her, she said.

“It was really awesome to get to know people in the South Bend community that I probably never would have interacted with otherwise. It was just a really eye-opening experience that I’m glad I got to be a part of, and a way to give back,” Turpin said, “because I have been so fortunately blessed with scholarships here.”

Student Hannah Van served meals at Hope on Feb. 14.

“It was great just to interact with those who are less fortunate within South Bend,” she said.

She appreciated the bonds created between her and the people she attended with, she said.

While the Scholars Give Back program is grant-funded and doesn’t have the resources to be constantly active, Ayala tries to “do something different each semester” and embraces any opportunity to get scholarship recipients volunteering.

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