Community support helps experiential learning thrive
The COVID-19 pandemic forced countless changes across campus. However, what remained steadfast was the Lynn University community's commitment to creating local and global positive change.
In the spring of 2019, the Christine E. Lynn University Center opened, dedicating its third floor to providing a place for the campus community to collaborate on social impact projects.
It also contained flexible workspaces that local businesses with a social impact focus could rent. As a condition of their membership in the coworking spaces, the companies needed to engage students in meaningful ways, like through mentoring or providing internships.
The Kannico Agency and Scholar Career Coaching are two tenants that do just that.
Students gain grant knowledge through virtual coaching
Kirsten Stevens began working with Jerry Hildebrand, Lynn's director of the Center for Social Impact, two years ago. She founded The Kannico Agency in 2005 to provide coaching and consulting for people looking to start and run their own nonprofit.
Stevens relocated the company to South Florida from North Carolina in 2015 where it experienced significant growth following its partnership with Bound for College, a Delray Beach-based nonprofit that provides ACT/SAT preparation for low-income students.
Soon afterward, Stevens discovered the Social Impact Lab through two Lynn graduates, and she contacted Hildebrand to explore partnership opportunities. Since 2019, she's offered information, resources and tools to help Lynn students become successful.
"I want to make resources available for students to learn at no cost to them or the nonprofits they want to help," said Stevens.
When COVID-19 shut down in-person gatherings last March, Stevens pivoted to offer Lynn students free virtual coaching programs. Her December webinar-based workshop focused on grant writing and research and, to her delight, had 66 students attend it.
Sara Arippol, class of 2021, and Avery O'Rourke, class of 2022, additionally landed Stevens as their mentor.
"[They] write the grants, and I provide screen captures that provide edits and explanations on how they can improve their proposals," said Stevens about the process.
At the end of their programs, Arippol and O'Rourke will receive a Certificate of Completion in grant writing and content for future grants. The accolades will help the students prepare grants for non-governmental organizations in Ghana as part of their involvement in Lynn's Virtual Intern Partnership program.
Stevens hopes to continue opening students' minds. "I want to give students the infrastructure to be good global citizens and to be as informed as they can be. I want to keep doing this until I'm 80," she added.
Stevens' next virtual webinar takes place this month. It will address establishing a 501(c)(3) registered nonprofit with the IRS to qualify for foundation grant funding. The Social Impact Lab plans to record the webinar for ongoing student access.
Scholar Career Coaching also provides Lynn students invaluable growth opportunities and support. This semester, Scholar Career Coaching hired two Lynn student interns, Cinthia Campos, class of 2024, and Sara McManus, class of 2021.
The company provides college prep services to high school students in South Florida Title I schools. They focus primarily on English as a Second Language (ESL) students and welcome all who are interested.
"I love that the company helps ESL students," said Campos. "Back home I was a Saturday English teacher. [SCC] makes an impact by providing mentors. Not all people have the opportunity to go to a school that helps them with college prep."
Campos was born and raised in Nicaragua and came to Lynn as a freshman during Session C of the Fall 2020 semester.
"Starting remote was hard, but I knew I wanted to find a job when I came to Lynn," said Campos.
Both Campos and McManus found their internships through the Lynn Career Connections app, Connected Knights.
Sara McManus, a multimedia journalism major, notes the internship has taught her skills she'll take with her after graduating.
"I feel even more confident applying to jobs. When I see certain skills on applications, I am reassured that I can now say, 'I have that. I can do that'," said McManus.
Campos credits the internship for helping her realize her passion for graphic design.
"I switched my major. I realized I love the creative part of designing promotional materials," said Campos.
The company currently rents a conference room and desks from Lynn's third-floor coworking space, which works perfectly when the girls have class on campus after their internship.
"I can complete my internship and go directly to class after. No commute or rushing," said McManus.
Both students plan to use the tools and resources they've gained through Scholar Career Coaching to further their careers.
After Lynn, Campos hopes to become her own boss and to manage brands someday. McManus plans to complete a post-graduation workshop at the New York Film Academy and hopes to become a reporter or news anchor.
Corporate sponsors keep Comfort Cases alive
Each January, first-year students take part in Lynn's honored tradition, the Citizenship Project, which connects students and local organizations through service during Lynn's January Term (J-Term).
Although the three-week-long classes looked a little different this year, faculty and students remained enthusiastic.
Thanks to two community members' generosity, Comfort Cases was one of three classes to take place in-person on campus. In its fourth year at Lynn, the national nonprofit helps Lynn students give children a sense of dignity and safety when entering foster care by providing them with backpacks filled with essential items like blankets, stuffed animals, pajamas and books.
Students packed the cases in socially distanced classrooms, and the university delivered the finished bags to Lynn's organizational partners, Best Foot Forward and ChildNet.