Honors Academy students from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln College of Business initiated a new project to give back to the Lincoln community and encourage reading habits of young children. Working with the Malone Community Center, which provides educational, cultural and advocacy programs for all people with a mission of strengthening the local African American community, the academy students provided 88 books for 44 children.
Phoebe Lockhart, a junior economics major from Ogallala, Nebraska, coordinated the project on behalf of 35 academy students who participated, along with workers from the Malone Center. She explained how the initiative was a culmination of activities from throughout the year.
“At the end of each semester, we have a combined event which includes our philanthropy committee, enhancement committee and social committee,” said Lockhart, who is also president of the Honors Academy Council. “We like to organize something that combines the best qualities of those three committees, and includes both a learning opportunity and volunteering component.”
Honors Academy students visited the Malone Center on April 21 with the 88 books in tow purchased through funds raised by the various academy committees. After distributing the books, they paired up with children to read to them.
“The books are personalized based on the child’s reading level and interests. The children will do book reports this summer to encourage continued reading. There’s also a business component because one of the two books for each student had a business angle. We passed out books like Bunny Money
for the younger kids to teach them how to save, and for the older kids we have things like an entrepreneurship chapter book that teaches kids how to start their own business,” said Lockhart.
After reading to the children, Honors Academy students stayed for a diversity workshop, led by Dewayne and Jareldine Mays of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). The unique opportunity allowed students to broaden their knowledge of diverse communities.
“We held leadership workshops in the past, but did not have one specifically on diversity. Courtney Van Hoosen, an international business major in the Honors Academy, gave a great workshop on global leadership this semester. Her topic spurred interest to combine this book project with a workshop from diversity experts,” said Lockhart.
As final exams approached, working with children helped the academy students rejuvenate, according to Lockhart.
“Toward the end of the semester we get stressed, so this is an outlet to give back to our community and understand where these children come from,” said Lockhart. “It also gives us a way to have some light hearted fun.”
Rebekah Neary-DeLaPorte, Honors Academy coordinator, pointed out the benefit of business students stepping outside the traditional business realm.
“Making connections with community partners and non-profits is important,” said Neary-DeLaPorte. “It enhances their education and growth. Many of our students want long-term involvement with non-profits, either in their careers or by giving back to their local community. Both the book distribution and diversity workshop contributed to those ends.”