PADUCAH, KY (KFVS) - Dr. Peter Weber's NLS 305: Grantmaking and Philanthropic Foundations course recently awarded $3,000 to the Purchase Area Sexual Assault and Child Advocacy Center, located in Paducah, Kentucky.
Grant funding is made possible through the Student Engagement Initiative, a core pillar of the Giving Back Endowment, which was established by Dr. Bob Long, formerly a distinguished visiting professor with the College of Education and Human Services, and his wife, Patricia.
The Giving Back Endowment serves to grow programs of study in community and nonprofit leadership by applying service learning teaching methodology to support community-based organizations and to foster the strong history of community leadership development at Murray State.
More specifically, the Student Engagement Initiative portion provides students the opportunity to become decisionmakers in the distribution of grants through a core philanthropy course in the nonprofit leadership studies program.
Weber explained, "This process is a unique learning experience for students because they learn about local social issues they were not aware of and understand the difficulties of being strategic and conscious in the philanthropic process."
"We researched the needs of our community, developed a class mission and vision statement, sent out requests for proposals, reviewed them, conducted site visits and decided as a class who we would give our grant to," described Brett Eisenhauer, a student in Weber's NLS 305 course.
By providing crucial training to one of PASAC's therapists, the grant proposal showed potential for sustained impact, as it will allow the nonprofit agency to have a long-term influence on many individuals.
"The prevalence and consequences of sexual assault and child sexual abuse constitute a major public health problem," explained Amberly Walker, development director for PASAC.
She continued by stating that these are also "the costliest of all crimes for victims and communities."
"Research shows specialized intervention services can mitigate costs and consequences of violence, helping to prevent complex, long-term health problems. Access to trauma-informed intervention services offered by rape crisis and child advocacy centers is critical in the prevention of these costly health and societal consequences," described Walker.
Statistical data shows that PASAC will provide approximately 1,500 mental health services to 100 unduplicated clients in Calloway County and to their respective family members in 2017.
To expand their support services and provide an even greater impact to the community, PASAC's Murray office hired a new full-time therapist in December 2016.
Thanks to the funds provided through the grant, this therapist will receive the training and consultation necessary to complete Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR) certification. PASAC's clients of all ages will then be able to experience this specialized form of trauma therapy.
"EMDR is the most effective and strongly researched treatment approach for trauma therapy," shared Walker.
"Using bilateral stimulation (following light with eyes, alternating tapping, etc.) the trauma memories are targeted along with the negative beliefs about oneself, emotions and body sensations that correspond to that memory."
Walker explained that this approach is often combined with yoga, biofeedback and neurofeedback training, mindfulness training, and sensorimotor, play and expressive arts therapies to assist the brain with processing the traumatic information.
This semester, the NLS course received 13 grant proposals. Students focused on impact and sustainability in their analysis of the proposed projects.
"While all the finalist organizations aligned with these criteria," Weber explained, "students eventually gravitated toward PASAC because of the use of research and the evidence-based approach."
Long is also pleased with the result of this process, stating, "While the decisions about the grantmaking are entirely up to each class of students, we have committed our personal giving to improving the lives of vulnerable children and organizations that have a direct positive impact on the families and communities in which they live.
PASAC's mission is perfectly aligned with our commitments."
"The endowment," Long added, "ensures that this student philanthropy will continue forever and the legacy of all the founding donors who helped build the endowment will be sustained."
Though he served as a primary contributor to this fund, Long suggested that the endowment's success would not be possible without assistance from the community.
"While Patricia and I established the endowment with the benefit of matching funds from the Kellogg Foundation, we are thrilled that so many students, Murray State staff and faculty and community volunteers contributed to help grow the endowment to a point where it will generate excellent support for the NLS program in perpetuity.
We look forward to watching the great work students do with the Student Engagement Initiative in the years to come," Long said.
As for the students, Eisenhauer remarked, "All of this experience has made me more excited to enter the nonprofit sector and confident in my abilities to do so."
"This is truly an example of Murray State's strong connections with our community," reflected Dr. David Whaley, dean of the College of Education and Human Services. "We understand that we are unable to fulfill our educational missions without unifying with our community partners."
Those interested in learning more about the Giving Back Endowment and how to make a gift can contact Melanie Brooks with the Murray State Office of Development at email@example.com or 270-809-3026.