Class projects provide local nonprofits with valuable benefits

When Zach Alig was contacted by students in School of Social Work faculty member Kristina Jaskyte’s class, the timing couldn’t have been better.

“I had recently been asked to create a survey and report on our volunteers’ build site experiences,” said Alig, public outreach coordinator for the Athens Area Habitat for Humanity. “At about the same time, I was contacted by a group from Professor Jaskyte’s class asking if they could do just that. It was fantastic. With little more on my part than a brief meeting and several phone calls, I was presented with a detailed and professional report. The group’s hard work saved Athens Area Habitat time and money and proved useful in improving our volunteer experience.”

The Athens Area Habitat for Humanity is just one local nonprofit organization that has benefited from the work of students in Jaskyte’s SOWK/MNPO 7106 class, Evaluating Community Initiatives and Institutional Practices. For three years, Jaskyte’s students have worked with local nonprofit and government organizations helping them design and implement program evaluations. Thus far the students completed program evaluation projects for 14 different area nonprofits.

Upon completion of the project every organization receives a program evaluation report that discusses the evaluation questions, methodology, and implications for the organization’s future programming.

For MSW student Regina Smalls who took the course fall semester 2008, Jaskyte’s class was a challenging but rewarding one. Smalls’ group completed an evaluation for the Clarke County School District Migrant Education Program.

“Completing research, designing a project from scratch, developing a measurement instrument, gathering and analyzing data, and presenting and discussing results has provided me with knowledge and skills that will prove useful in the future, especially since I want to embark on a research-oriented career,” Smalls said. “But in addition to the knowledge and skills I learned from completing a program evaluation, knowing that our evaluation project may make a difference in the lives of others-especially children-is one of the biggest benefits of all.”

The experience proved beneficial for the Migrant Education Program, as well, according to program coordinator Sabrina E. Godinez. Each year, the program is required to conduct a comprehensive needs assessment every year in order to engage their stakeholders in the design and planning of the services that they offer and to gauge the effectiveness of those services.

“As you can imagine, this can be a very daunting task,” Godinez said. “However, Dr. Jaskyte’s students proved to be of great assistance in every step of the process; from helping to create the survey to collecting the information and reporting the results in a very organized and clear manner. The information these students helped collect has not only given us insight into how our stakeholders perceive current program offerings, but also provided guidance for the design of future services. I was very pleased with our collaboration.”

Other organizations served by Jaskyte’s students include the Georgia Alliance for Drug Endangered Children, Good Will, Bike Athens, Emmaus House, Northeast Georgia Head Start, Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic, UGA Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Resource Center, Hands On Northeast Georgia, Carl Vinson Institute of Government, and the Clarke County Department of Family and Children Services.