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The Sharpe Community Scholars Program

  • Sharpe Offers Service Learning Options to W&M Students
    Sharpe Offers Service Learning Options to W&M Students
    Four Sharpe Scholars present their community action project. From left Christopher Pascal '09, Genny Mak '09, Jessica Stepp '09 and Sarah Goldman '09.
    Photo by Jeree Harris '08

Created in 2001 through a gift from the late Robert Sharpe and his wife, Jane, the Sharpe Community Scholars Program extends the College's community-service tradition by offering approximately 75 students the opportunity to connect their academic studies with social action. Originally offering only one course exploring academic concepts and theories each fall, the program now offers five or six courses that are followed by service projects in the spring, which allow students to apply their learning to real-world concerns.

For example, students under the supervision of Associate Professor of Modern Languages Jonathan Arries taught English as a second language in local schools. Others worked with Chris Howard, the Sharpe Professor of Civic Renewal, on improving middle and high school students’ study skills and their awareness of what college could do for them.

“Right now the Sharpe Program is a ‘freshman thing,’” says Monica Griffin, director of the program. “But freshmen move onward and upward, and they want to learn more.”

To that end, the program hopes to expand its student initiatives, create new community partnerships and provide more opportunities for upper-level Sharpe and non-Sharpe students. Additional funds are needed for faculty training, summer research, term professorships and alumni involvement.

“We’re bursting at the seams with student interest,” says Griffin. “Any creative outlet for the service-learning bug that bites them in that first year would be a wonderful addition to the program.”

That was the case for Angela Perkey ’08, who as a freshman received a Sharpe Community Scholars grant to conduct a service-learning project in Nashville, Tenn. The experience inspired her to found Students Serve, a non-profit organization that provides service-learning grants to students at other colleges and universities.

“Service-learning projects allow students to use the academic knowledge they are learning in classes and apply it to benefit their communities,” Perkey says. “Both communities and college students will benefit from receiving the grants. For example, a student majoring in engineering may apply for a grant to build flood resistant buildings for nonprofit organizations, homes, schools, and community areas that were destroyed by Hurricane Katrina or an education major may design an after-school curriculum and teach inner city children in New York how to start and manage a business.”

Learn more about the Sharpe Scholars Program.