If Universities Made This Course a Pre-Requisite, Campuses Would Be Safer for Female Students

Before Sandra Scott left home for college, her mother asked her to take a self-defense class — just in case she “encountered a situation where someone wanted to hurt” her. The 19-year-old Stanford University freshman from New Port Richey, Fla., did some research but never got around to signing up. When she got to Palo Alto, Calif., the sun-splashed campus seemed perfectly safe. Yet, when her resident assistant mentioned a new, student-run self-defense seminar starting the next quarter, Scott enrolled in it — partly out of a sense of obligation to her mom. In the company of 15 females, Scott says the class’s candid discussions opened her eyes to a different reality at the college.
“I had generally felt safe on campus. … I wasn’t exposed to anything — or to that much — but hearing from other women and how it had affected them, I realized sexual assault is a problem at Stanford,” Scott tells NationSwell. After taking the nine-week class, “I don’t know if I would say that I feel safer, but I definitely feel less naïve.”
Current student Daly Montgomery, a senior double majoring in aeronautics and African-American studies and rugby player, created “Protecting Your Bubble,” a self-defense course to empower female classmates to protect themselves. The class provides context about the prevalence and psychology for campus rape at large, explains the response systems in place at Stanford and teaches physical techniques to disable an attacker. Montgomery stresses that most participants probably won’t ever have to, say, knee a guy in the groin or scratch him, but that’s not the point. Rather, it encourages a woman to define her personal space — aka, her “bubble” — and to assert herself and feel she has the strength to back it up when someone tries to violate it. (In previous sessions, Montgomery also taught men and gender-nonconforming students.)
“If you are feeling unsafe, you are allowed to do something,” Montgomery tells her students. “That’s something they haven’t heard before. I realized through the class how important that was and how it’s not really emphasized anywhere else,” she says. “Much of what I aimed to do in my class was empower my students to realize they know more than they might think.” 

In both 2013 and 2014, 26 Stanford students experienced a forcible sexual offense.

As universities across the country revamp their sexual assault prevention education to comply with federal law, self-defense classes often aren’t included — despite strong evidence proving their efficacy. This student-led class at Stanford adds a new dimension to prevention on a campus that’s struggled with sexual violence.
In 2013, according to campus crime statistics made public by the Clery Act, the university disclosed that 26 students experienced a forcible sexual offense — equal to the total number of robberies, aggravated assaults and car thefts on campus, combined. (In 2014, the most recent year available, Stanford students reported another 26 rapes and four cases of fondling.)
Clery Act data can be problematic: A comparably high number of reports may be evidence that a school has created an environment where reporting is encouraged, rather than hushed up. (Or, it could indicate a real problem.) Conversely, a low number could underrepresent the number of criminal acts. An official campus climate survey at Stanford in 2015 suggests the former: 6.5 percent of female undergraduate seniors reported being raped, and 36.8 percent reported sexual misconduct.
Led by the provost and philosophy professor John W. Etchemendy, Stanford’s administration responded to the violence and student outcry by overhauling the school’s reporting process for rape survivors and by mandating students take an online module about “upstander” (Stanford’s preferred term for bystander) intervention before they arrive on the palm tree-lined campus. The majority of the 11 students NationSwell interviewed at length over a four-day visit to campus this January, however, felt Etchemendy’s response did too little too late. (A Stanford spokeswoman, Lisa Lapin, denied several requests for interviews.)
During a rally in 2014, Stanford students demand better protections for victims of sexual assault.

In response, student-led initiatives, including “Protecting Your Bubble,” began popping up across campus, centering their discussions on Stanford specifically. In Montgomery’s class, Scott says that hearing anecdotes from upperclassmen made sexual violence real for the first time, in a way completing the online course “from home on a computer” had not. Students in the course picked one session as their favorite: the fifth week’s module on “sticky situations.” In it, the group brainstorms hypothetical situations when someone else’s actions would make them uncomfortable (someone follows you home or touches you on a plane ride or public transit). In pairs, the girls act out how they would respond.
Thinking over a solution to each hypothetical dilemma made junior Esther Fan Melton realize that “self-defense is not about the other person, it’s about me and protecting my space.” Lex Schoenberg, one of Montgomery’s rugby teammates who took the class, echoes her, saying, “I think the most important lesson I’ll take with me is that I don’t have to feel powerless in uncomfortable or threatening situations.” She continues, “I now feel more confident in my ability to recognize and get out of certain sticky situations before they escalate too far.”
Schoenberg’s sense of empowerment aligns with clinical research on self-defense classes. A review of empirical studies shows that women who forcefully resist are more likely to prevent a perpetrator from completing a rape. In the past two years, a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine and one conducted by the University of Oregon found that a seminar-based university course like Montgomery’s could effectively reduce rates of sexual assault. With college campuses full of sexually active, young people, “there’s lots of opportunities for hooking up and partying,” says Martha McCaughey, sociology professor at Appalachian State University in Boone, N.C, and author of “Real Knockouts: The Physical Feminism of Women’s Self-Defense.” In that environment, “there is certainly a need for both sex ed and rape prevention education on campus,” including self-defense training.
Despite these results, self-defense itself remains a sticky situation, hemmed in by opposition from all sides of the ideological divide, McCaughey says. Offering self-defense classes seems to be a natural fit, so why are they excluded? Some feminists take issue with placing moral responsibility on women to fight off an attacker, rather than on the perpetrator himself, while other left-leaners emphasize a nonviolent approach. And then there’s the group of gender traditionalists who contend women aren’t strong enough to defend themselves (or don’t want them to be), perpetuating a damsel-in-distress narrative that underlies some bystander intervention trainings, adds McCaughey, who also runs the blog See Jane Fight Back.
Those concerns quickly fade away with properly designed classes that empower women, like “Protecting Your Bubble,” which situates self-defense strategies within a broader look at the forces that either facilitate or discourage sexual violence. Interestingly, both its instructor and its students also report wanting to participate in the larger movement to change Stanford’s policies and procedures. When NationSwell first spoke to Montgomery in January, she noted that she hadn’t been “hugely involved in the broader campus response, just my little piece of it with my class.” But three months later, halfway into her second quarter of teaching, Montgomery says she feels more invested. “Before, I would say, I felt kind of disconnected from the overall activism. Teaching the class made me realize I have a very real stake in this — this is something I can contribute — and I’m more interested in trying to fit my portion into the overall movement.” Kaelyn Varner, a junior studying the intersection of science, technology and society echoes her sentiments. “I feel like I finally have knowledge and a platform to speak from.”
Graduation is only one week away for Montgomery. She doesn’t know who, if anyone, will take her spot leading “Protecting Your Bubble” next year — a perpetual problem in the four-year cycles of campus activism. (SARA, the Office of Sexual Assault & Relationship Abuse, Stanford’s direct services for survivors, has asked Montgomery to develop programming they could teach.) Effective methods to promote self-defense are clearly in place; it’s up to underclassmen or the university to see that the benefits reach future students.
MORE: This Proven Method Is How You Prevent Sexual Assault on College Campuses

Can a College That’s Notorious for Sexual Assault Reform Itself?

The night after Rolling Stone magazine’s since-retracted story “A Rape on Campus,” hit the web, bottles and cinder blocks were hurled through windows at the University of Virginia’s Phi Psi house around 2:45 a.m., and its walls were tagged “UVA Center for Rape Studies.” The following day, in a Slut Walk, angry students marched past the frats on Rugby Road to the dean’s offices in Peabody Hall, chanting, “You can’t get away with this,” and, “One in four, let’s change the score,” a reference to a survey by the Association of American Universities which found that 23.1 percent of female college students experience sexual assault or misconduct while enrolled. Even faculty members held their own Take Back the Party march, tracing a similar route. “It’s shocking that it took an article by Rolling Stone in order to get this started,” Rita Dove, an English professor and former U.S. poet laureate, said in front of the Phi Psi house.
Dove’s comment spoke to the long-simmering outrage on campus, and the fact that almost a quarter of female UVA students experience sexual assault (a self-reported 2015 survey put the university’s exact number at 23.8 percent) marked an opening for an overdue conversation about what enabled rape to occur on school grounds, what could be done to limit further victimization and the role that men should play in the discussion.
Hoos (a nickname for UVA community members) put forward new ideas for policies and programs to prevent future rapes and to shift the conversation from scandal to solutions. Several students called for a thorough review of Greek life, a more robust bystander intervention program and stricter punishments when assailants are found responsible for sexual misconduct.
Inter-Fraternity Council members offered to ban hard liquor, place sober brothers as monitors and lock all downstairs bedrooms during social events. On December 1, 2014 in a university address, President Teresa Sullivan applauded the recommendations and announced that many would be implemented. The move likely was also prompted by an announcement by the U.S. Department of Education Office Rights that UVA had been under investigation since 2011 for violating federal law in its handling of gender-based violence — putting the school under legal pressure to ensure it remained compliant with Title IX.
One year later, has the school make progress in improving its campus climate and reducing incidents of sexual assault? During four days in February, NationSwell visited the university, which was founded by Thomas Jefferson in 1819 and is known as Grounds to its 15,700 undergrads, to investigate if there’s been a shift in student behavior that’s resulted in safer sexual interactions.
In interviews with 16 students (NationSwell reached out to several members of the UVA administration, but were denied requests for comment), a complicated portrait of the aftermath emerged. Most agree that awareness and candid discussion about sexual assault increased and unified the campus. On the whole, Grounds now feels like a safer place. That’s not to say the problem’s solved: In 2014, according to federal data, Hoos reported 44 rapes to the university administration, a significant increase from 2012 (when 16 forcible sexual offenses were reported). That spike could be considered a good sign — more survivors trust the university to handle the misconduct — but it is also hard proof that rape still occurs on campus. As school policies and initiatives aim to foster a safe environment, organizations like the all-male One in Four (its name a nod to the aforementioned sexual assault statistic) educate men and empower them to establish new norms about sexual violence against women, bringing welcome change to a community in need of it.
Before Hoos even start their freshman year, they receive education about nonconsensual sex through two mandatory online modules. But as soon as this official messaging ends and students arrive at their dorms, a different sense of accepted standards on drinking and hooking up can emerge. Those who are the most vocal about their weekend exploits can dominate the conversation, even if the majority is disgusted by the behavior — allowing a sexist norm to persist, says Alan Berkowitz, an independent consultant who advises colleges, the military and public health departments on preventing substance abuse and sexual assault. “My research, which is called the social norms approach, shows that most men don’t think it’s okay, but most men don’t know that most [other] men [also] don’t think it’s okay.”
For more than a decade, One in Four has elevated the discussion about what men can do, either as bystanders who can prevent dangerous situations or as friends who can direct rape survivors to the appropriate professional support. UVA’s chapter was founded by John Foubert, then a dean at the school and now an Oklahoma State University professor and president of the national One in Four network. In his opinion, there were few legal consequences for rapists and only by introducing social pressures — creating a new campus ethic that rejected the objectification of women’s bodies — could UVA’s culture begin to shift. (The university came under fire from student activists for not expelling a single student found responsible for an alleged rape between 2004 and 2014; UVA has reversed course and “recently expelled students responsible for sexual misconduct,” a university spokesperson writes in an email to NationSwell.)
The core component of One in Four’s work is a 45-minute presentation clarifying expectations for how women should be treated and addressing the role of masculinity in stopping campus rape. The class is delivered more than 100 times a year to male groups, including freshman dorms, new classes of fraternity pledges and sports teams. Deviating from Foubert’s original methods, today’s group of 50 members places emphasis on dispelling the notion that false reporting of rape is a common occurrence. One in Four is sticking with the message, “which is to trust survivors,” Yash Shevde, the group’s incoming president, says. “Our job is not to be an investigator.”
One in Four stresses that empathy is the crucial emotion necessary in preventing violence against classmates. At UVA, the presentation’s first exercise generally begins with asking the men in the room to close their eyes. The speaker presents a hypothetical scenario in which a close female relation — sister, girlfriend, best friend — tells the man she has been sexually violated. When the men open their eyes, the speaker briefly refers back to the statistic in the group’s name: chances are that a young woman close to them will experience some form of sexual violence, whether she tells them or not. “But the group doesn’t dwell on the exact numbers, which vary from one survey to the next. “The debate about the statistic is useless,” Shevde says, “because it is still one too many.”
Grounded in that imagery — thinking about how actions affect a specific woman the man knows rather than someone abstract — the conversation touches on definitions of consent and checks in on the group’s norms, which have often never been discussed explicitly. So, rather than delivering a preachy set of rules, One in Four uses indirect methods to get men talking about what is acceptable behavior. At fraternities, for example, they asked an incoming pledge class to rank actions on a continuum of acceptability, from flirting with someone you’ve just met to touching someone’s genitals without verbal consent, all the way to engaging in sex despite use of the word “no.” Next, pledges are asked to delineate which behaviors are unacceptable and which count as sexual assault. While the exercise seems simple, it gets the young men debating about their viewpoints in a new way. (“When the majority of men know that most other men share their discomfort, they are more likely to intervene,” explains Berkowitz.) From there, One in Four’s presenters give a clear explanation of affirmative consent, stressing that students should strive to hear “yes,” Shevde says, rather than “no” since social pressures, physical intimidation or intoxication can prevent someone from verbalizing an objection, while still not giving consent.
On the surface, it appears that One in Four’s ultimate goal is to make it explicitly clear to rapists that they are alone in their behavior, that the man who treats women as objects for his sexual pleasure isn’t respected by his peers. But that’s not exactly what the group is after. Knowing that only a very small number of men will commit sexual misconduct (6.4 percent are perpetrators), the organization doesn’t waste much time trying to ferret out the one potential rapist in the room with scare tactics, Shevde explains. One in Four doesn’t preach down to the audience or explicitly say, Don’t sexually assault people! “We’re definitely looking at our male audiences as allies, not someone who has to be taught anything,” says Shevde. Instead, the group trains men to be more thoughtful in all their actions, says Kevin Hare, the group’s vice president, as well as empowered to intervene when they see improper sexual advances, Shevde adds.
Shevde worries about men not engaging with the subject because they’ve heard it so many times. No matter how informative One in Four’s lessons might be, it doesn’t matter if the guy in the back of the room tunes them out, tired of hearing about sexual assault after taking the online module before getting to campus, listening to administrators’ speeches or watching his R.A. flyer the dorms with green stickers that mark those trained in bystander intervention.
It’s difficult to measure One in Four’s success. Men may offer respectful discussion while Shevde is in the room, but how do they act that night? Looking for a correlation with reducing violence is even more difficult. Rape, as a crime, is severely underreported: nearly two out of every three sexual assaults — 65 percent — went unreported, according to 2012 findings by the Bureau of Justice Statistics. So a decline in the number of cases doesn’t necessarily mean fewer women are being assaulted on campus.
Anecdotally, several female first-years told NationSwell that campus generally feels safe. “After being put under such a spotlight, I figured [UVA] would be better than other places because [the school was] so heavily scrutinized,” says Elizabeth Fadl. And a fourth-year student, Mark Lundy, said he could think of multiple times when he’s grabbed his buddies to separate a girl from a “sketchy” guy. He described the interventions as “a moral duty.” Maybe the situation just looked bad and nothing would have happened anyway, but at the same time, one wonders if Lundy’s small interaction might have prevented another rape on campus.
The problem with activism at the collegiate level is that students only have four years to make a difference before their work resets with a whole new crop of faces. After such a turbulent year, One in Four learned that one-time responses aren’t effective and that the norms it is helping to establish can quickly be unmade. Which is why an ongoing effort — spearheaded by men themselves — is clearly so essential for UVA to triumph at reforming its campus ethos.
Homepage photo by Wenhao Wu/PittNews

3 Colleges That Have the Formula for Making Higher Education Affordable

Just about every news story reporting on this country’s college debt climate uses the same word: crisis.
It’s an accurate descriptor — or so the numbers seems to indicate. Public college tuition costs have risen 250 percent over the last 30 years, while median family income grew only 16 percent during the same period. The average student is looking at $26,000 of debt when they graduate. Even President Obama labels the situation as a crisis, as the poorest students are saddled with more and more debt.
In an effort to combat the problem, the Department of Education created the College Scorecard, which provides students and families with a new kind of ranking by taking into account graduation rates, financial aid offerings, post-grad earnings — and most importantly — average debt. On it, these three liberal arts schools stand out as valuable options for low-income students, thanks to their high graduation rates, low student loan debt and the percentage of students eligible for federal Pell grants, which are available to those whose family incomes do not exceed $30,000 a year.
In stark contrast to many other universities, each of these colleges keep their students’ loan debt at least 50 percent lower than the national average. How do they remain academically solvent while not piling debt on their graduates?

Berea students hang out between classes. Courtesy of Berea College.

Berea College, Berea, Ky.

If you’ve never heard of Berea College in Kentucky, keep reading. It’s the only residential liberal arts school in America offering a completely free education to its nearly 1,600 students.
As President Lyle Roelofs explains, “nearly everything is different.”
Like other colleges with strong financial aid programs, Berea is selective, but it isn’t need-blind. It only accepts students whose family incomes fall beneath an income ceiling, providing a higher education opportunity — as Roelofs puts it — “to students wouldn’t get one otherwise.”
Berea is a very efficient educational experience, says Roelofs. Each student works part-time while on campus, holding jobs in numerous fields, from woodworking to hotel administration, to contribute to the $27,000 to $28,000 annual price of school. “We’re never interested in whether we can send some money to shareholders at the end of the year… We are much more like an entrepreneurial business with the idea that profits and successes get ploughed back into the enterprise,” he notes. To cover costs, 75 percent of tuition is handled by the endowment the college has accrued over its lengthy history. Only 15 percent comes from loan sources, primarily Pell grants (99 percent of students qualify) and similar state grants. A third of students don’t borrow anything at all, with the remainder receiving an average of about $6,700 in loans, almost 4 times less than the national average.
Perhaps more important is Berea’s graduation rate: 64 percent of its students receive a diploma. The average graduation rate for similar-income students nationwide is a dismal 9 percent. Roelofs attributes this jump to the focus that the school puts on each student and their families.
But can every college follow the Berea model? It would take something of a paradigm shift in approach, admits Roelofs. “Institutions are usually quite preoccupied with dealing with immediate challenges; they don’t consider radical changes,” he says. Still, other colleges could consider a more frugal approach. “If you don’t charge tuition, you can make much more sensible decisions on what the students actually need,” Roelofs notes. “People don’t look the gift horse in the mouth.”
“One of my favorite sayings is that just because an education is free doesn’t mean you can cut the corners. It still has to be first rate. Otherwise, our students would finish in four years and have nowhere to go.” Which would defeat the purpose of a place like Berea entirely.

The campus at WIlliams College. Courtesy of Williams College.

Williams College, Williamstown, Mass.

Williams College, located in western Massachusetts, is tiny and idyllic. It’s also the top-ranked national liberal arts college by U.S. News & Word Report, and it is one of the 50 most expensive colleges in the U.S., with an annual price tag of around $65,000. But it has a need-blind financial aid policy, making the average loan debt just over $13,000 (about half the national average), and many of the students who qualify for financial aid (more than 50 percent are eligible) are free of loans altogether.
How does Williams do it? By maintaining a strong endowment and an individualized approach to financial aid packages, says Paul Boyer, director of financial aid at Williams.
As one of the first schools in the country to make available a net price calculator for prospective students, Williams tries to evaluate each student, case by case, to ensure it’s offering the best plan. The school also makes a concerted effort to recruit students from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds, seeking out lower-income applicants. About 20 percent of current students receive Pell grants, double the amount at most other liberal arts colleges — and it’s increasing. “It’s been rising maybe 1 percent per year,” says Boyer. That may not sound like much, but it’s a far cry from most other schools (including Harvard, which hasn’t been able to crack a 10 percent ceiling).
Earning an average income of $58,000 a decade after graduation, students that receive financial aid, in general, have little trouble paying back their loans. The U.S. Department of Education even ranked Williams in its top 23 schools with low costs that lead to high incomes.

A spring day at Amherst College. Courtesy of Amherst College.

Amherst College, Amherst, Mass.

There must be something in the water in Massachusetts: Amherst, number two in U.S. News’s liberal arts ranking, also comes with a $65,000 yearly price tag. But just like Williams, its need-blind financial aid opportunities — which 58 percent of students qualify for — minimize its real cost. In fact, what students pay, on average, is actually half of the annual sticker price: $33,000.
Amherst is strictly anti-debt. “The most distinctive thing is our approach of not including loans, as we meet students’ full demonstrated need,” says Gail Holt, Amherst’s dean of financial aid. About 70 percent of students graduate with no debt whatsoever.
That’s an achievement that Amherst should be particularly proud of, considering that college costs and incomes aren’t rising at the same level in this country. As a result, more qualify for financial aid, and resources must be distributed among a wider number of students. At Amherst, Holt and her team try to serve a full spectrum of families and financial capabilities. “The hardest part is meeting the needs of such diverse populations.” With 24 percent of students eligible for Pell grants, it seems to be making headway.
Fortunately, for their students, these three schools earn As in crisis management. Will other universities be able to make the grade?

For New Americans Struggling with Paperwork, These College Students Are Helping Tackle It

Melanie Domenech Rodríguez, a multi-cultural psychology teacher at Utah State University in Logan, Utah, came up with an innovative way for her students to gain some hands-on experience with the topics they discussed in class: Every Tuesday night, students volunteer to help local refugees and immigrants at an employment and citizenship clinic they created.
Rodríguez and others initially trained the students, but now they run the clinic themselves.
Antonia Keller, a student coordinator, tells Lis Stewart of HJNews, “It’s been really exciting for me and really rewarding to meet all the people that move to Cache Valley. I think it really enriches the valley and makes it a better place to have people from all different backgrounds and experiences here.”
Keller and the other students help immigrants craft resumes, fill out job applications and complete the paperwork required for the naturalization test. While there are other organizations in the community that help immigrants study for the test, no one else was helping them handle the paperwork. “It’s really intensive,” Keller says, “and really a kind of big bureaucratic thing to tackle on your own.”
The clinic has been successful enough that Utah State students will continue to run it in the spring, surely resulting in more insights like the one college student Alecc Quezada had about how privileged he is to have grown up in the United States. “I knew that to become a citizen you had to take a test, and I knew what resumes and what jobs required, but it’s so much easier knowing the language especially and having that cultural background,” he says.
MORE: For More Than 100 Years, This House Has Been Welcoming New Americans

Being Severely Burned Didn’t Stop This Veteran From Hitting the Links

Before enlisting in the Army, Rick Yarosh of Windsor, N.Y., had taken up golf and was getting good at it. He planned to continue his pursuit of the sport when he returned from deployment.
But in 2006, while Yarosh served as a sergeant in Iraq, an I.E.D. exploded, burning 60 percent of his body and causing him to lose his nose, ears, a leg and several fingers. Since then, Yarosh has been continuing his physical therapy while also working at Sitrin Health Care Center, helping with its military rehabilitation program.
Yarosh was eager to try golf again, but he couldn’t find an adaptive club that worked with his disabilities. Luckily, two students from SUNY-Polytechnic Institute (near Utica, N.Y.) stepped in to help.
Nicholas Arbour and Adam Peters had a class assignment to solve a real-world problem and started meeting with Yarosh in January to design a golf club that would accommodate his needs. Arbour and Peters studied professional golfers’ swings and created three prototypes on a 3-D printer to develop their final design, which includes a wrist guard and a handle that Yarosh can hold while he swings the club.
On October 28, Arbour and Peters presented Yarosh with his new golf club at a ceremony at Sitrin Health Care Center. “I’m so happy,” Yarosh tells Syracuse.com. “I tried the club and I could hit the ball with it quite a distance. Now I can go out with my friends again and play golf. It’s an incredible feeling…I used to wrestle and play football, and I like to be competitive. It was another piece of my life that I lost, and these two helped me get that back.”
Arbour and Peters earned top grades from their professor for their project. “I would have written to their professor and protested if they didn’t get an A,” Yarosh says. “They worked really hard at this, and it means a lot to me.”
MORE: These Engineering Students Turned a Simple Assignment Into Two Years of Hard Work, Innovation, and Kindness

Heroes of the Gridiron Lend a Hand to a Battlefield Hero

Justin Adamson, center for the University of Notre dame’s famed Fighting Irish football team, doesn’t just work hard on the field. Like many other college students whose finances are tight, he holds an outside job — working at Whole Foods Market, demonstrating salad dressings.
While dolling out tasty dressings to shoppers one day at a store in Ohio, Howard Goldberg stopped by Adamson’s table. Goldberg works for the nonprofit Purple Heart Homes, which purchases and renovates affordable homes for veterans.
Goldberg must also be a smooth talker, because by the end of their salad dressing exchange, Adamson had agreed to help renovate a home for an injured veteran. Not only that, but he said he’d bring along some of his teammates to provide additional manpower. Adamson told Andrew Cass of the News-Herald that he and Goldberg “talk[ed] for about an hour just going on about what this project means to a lot of people and what it can do in the community.”
Adamson took the idea to his coaches, who in turn, presented it to the team. Thirty football players jumped at the chance to volunteer, but only 12 players were able to be transported to the project. On April 25, the dozen helped demolish a kitchen and renovate the basement of the Ohio home of Leo Robinson, a wounded Marine Corps vet. (The house had been purchased by Purple Heart Homes.)
Once the renovation is complete, Robinson will pay 50 percent of the mortgage’s value, as part of the nonprofit’s mission to give vets a “hand up, not a hand out.”
Sophomore wide receiver Dajuhn Graham said, “I love doing things like this. My dad, that’s what he does for a living, he builds houses, and I actually do things like this so it’s nothing new to me.”
Homeowner Robinson told Cass that seeing all the football players pitch in to fix up his house “feels great. When we get back after going through everything we go through, it’s like you think people don’t care anymore, that society’s dead…But there are still people who care and want to help the community out.”
MORE: These Veterans Rallied to Save A Fellow Vet From the Cold

One Unique Center Has Students Teaching Students. Here’s How It’s Paying Off

For some students, school can be nerve-wracking. But an ingenious school in Towson, Maryland, makes pupils feel at ease by having college students teach all the classes.
At Goucher College in Towson, M.D., immigrants come to the Futuro Latino Learning Center to learn English and computer skills. Most of the college students teaching at the center are Spanish-speaking or are Spanish majors; they are supported with work-study grants. These educators serve mostly Spanish-speaking immigrants, but the center also has some attendees from Iran, Brazil, and Syria (many of whom are parents).
Director Frances Ramos-Fontan, who was born in Puerto Rico, teaches Spanish at Goucher and runs the center. She told Carrie Wells of the Baltimore Sun, “You have participants who have never sat in front of a computer. We had one woman from Guatemala, her hands were frozen she was so afraid. It’s like learning another language from scratch, learning a computer.”
It’s not just the students at Futuro Latino Learning Center that receive an education–the college students benefit too. Fernando Parra, a freshman Spanish and international relations major at Goucher who teaches computer classes at the center, said, “It’s really great having the opportunity to teach them something that we take for granted.”
MORE: This Non-Profit Is Teaching Immigrants Much More Than Just Language

These Engineering Students Turned a Simple Assignment Into Two Years of Hard Work, Innovation and Kindness

In their first year as engineering students at Rice University,  Nimish Mittal, Matthew Najoomi and Sergio Gonzales were assigned to build a device that solved a local person’s problem. They soon learned about Dee Faught, a 17-year-old suffering from osteogenesis imperfecta, or brittle bone disease. And after meeting him at Shriner’s Hospital for Children in Houston, they began designing a mobile robotic arm he could use to do simple things that were impossible for his own hands, such as turning on a light or picking up an object. The project turned out to be a major challenge. “We hit a ton of roadblocks,” Gonzales told Joe Palca of NPR, but when the class ended, the team knew they couldn’t give up. Two years later, after working on the project in their free time, the students gave the robotic arm to Faught, who immediately began using it to perform simple tasks. After this success, the engineers plan to continue using their skills to help others. “This has definitely refined the engineering I want to do,” Gonzalez told Palca. “Because it’s an engineering focused on helping people.”
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What Started as Homework Turned Into a Life-Saving Medical Device

A young, eager mind is a powerful thing. A room full of them together, even more so. In Rice University professor Maria Oden’s undergraduate course, they’re striving to solve global health problems. Students in the Rice 360 program, founded by Oden and fellow bioengineer Rebecca Richards-Kortum, first learn about problems in rural hospitals  and then design simple solutions that can help. One of the class’s biggest successes is a student design for an affordable “bubble CPAP” (continuous positive airway pressure), a device that pushes air into the lungs of premature infants to help them breathe. The prototype was made from a plastic shoe box and two aquarium pumps. “One of the wonderful things about working with 18-year-olds is that they’re so creative,” Oden told Joe Palca of NPR. “They don’t have fixed ideas about what might not work.” After fine-tuning, the invention was tested at small hospitals in Malawi and is now ready to deploy throughout that country. Students even got to meet a baby  whose life was saved by their device. “It sent chills all the way down my entire spine, because I realized that while we’re teaching students, and we want them to leave here believing they can make a difference, this was the picture of a true difference being made,” Richards-Kortum told NPR.