OSU students Adam Aguilar and Kasra Azizian say they get as much as they give working for KidSpirit, the popular program in the College of Health and Human Sciences that provides year-round educational and activity programs for area youth. They serve as teachers and activity leaders, and also become mentors to the children they work with. Adam is getting ready to graduate with a degree in English and Kasra is a sophomore in New Media. Several months ago, they learned that KidSpirit program director Karen Swanger gives $15 each month out of her paycheck to support the program. They had also been hearing about a movement on campus to encourage current students to start giving back to the university. And when they talked over lunch at the MU one day, their plan took shape.
“Because Kasra and I have grown so much through the KidSpirit program not only as professionals but as young men, we decided that we would like to give back to the program that has given so much to so many,” says Adam. “As well as watching each other grow throughout our summers and school years with KidSpirit, we also get to see first-hand what the program does and the positive impact it has on Corvallis youth. We each decided to give back $10 a month out of our paychecks to help KidSpirit grow. Once we announced this at a staff meeting dedicated students were jumping on board.”
The two received approval from Karen to start the challenge and worked with the OSU Foundation to make sure they were doing things by the book, and so they could set up a site on-line where students, as well as OSU staff and faculty, could make donations.
Although they’re just in the early stages, Adam says “We already have 21 ‘KidSpirit Heroes’ donating $10 a month to KidSpirit. We set a goal of 80% of the staff giving and we’re already at 40%!” They’ll now be reaching out to former KidSpirit employees to see if they want to participate. Decisions about how to spend the money will be made by a group of the students and program administrators whose goals include updating basic office equipment, upgrading equipment for art, cooking, and sports programs, maintaining paid positions for students, and offering year-round scholarships for Corvallis youth.
“I can’t express how cool it is, especially in these economic times, to have students initiate this, and to understand, ‘Let’s be part of the solution'”, Karen says. “It’s a testament to the kind of kids who work with KidSpirit.”
Swanger said $10 a month is a big chunk of money for students, and she made sure that those who donate are doing so not by putting it on their credit card or charging it to an account that parents might pay off, but are actually budgeting the donation into their monthly financial plans. “It’s a life lesson,” she said. “You have to give something up to give.”
“KidSpirit needs to see growth,” explains Adam. “We need to take the program to the next level. The KidSpirit program has touched so many lives, from kindergarten to college students and we all want to see this program continue into the future. Although KidSpirit has become the master of getting by with what we have, we have all decided to lead the way to bring KidSpirit to a new point, giving programs the opportunity to grow in appropriate directions. We have adopted the slogan ‘be more’, inviting current staff and KidSpirit alumni to join our vision in seeing KidSpirit be more.”
Each month, the students celebrate their growing fund and encourage others to join the program with a Peanut Butter and Jelly Lunch. The next lunch will be held Feb. 12 in Langton Hall Room 125.