The University of Georgia Parents Leadership Council (PLC) is committed to making a better future possible and empowering the next generation to continue that tradition. Since 2012, the council has enhanced the student experience on campus by funding $3.8 million in grants for approximately 70 student organizations as well as the President’s Venture Fund.
The funding for these grants comes from donations to the Parents Fund, and the grants are awarded after the PLC evaluates applications from student-serving organizations. PLC grants have been used to address a variety of needs across campus, including scholarship support, hunger relief, diversity and mental health to the benefit of programs and organizations like Campus Kitchen, the College of Engineering and Student Care and Outreach.
Parents equip students for community service
Athens has a significant aging population and other groups who face economic challenges that make three meals a day an ongoing struggle.
Typically, individuals experiencing food insecurity visit food banks or rely on deliveries from local service organizations. In 2020, though, the COVID-19 pandemic turned the tables on food-sharing operations. It was time for innovation. If hungry Athenians couldn’t safely venture out for meals, maybe it was time for meals to come to them.
Supported by a parent-funded $38,270 PLC grant, UGA’s hunger relief program will soon serve Athens in a new way. The student-powered Campus Kitchen will use its grant funding to purchase a mobile kitchen trailer–similar to a food truck–to deliver free breakfasts around the community and serve as a dedicated space for fresh produce processing and preservation.
“The PLC has historically given our group about $5,000 per year, but when the pandemic hit and Campus Kitchen wanted to step up in a big way, the PLC stepped up too,” says Andie Bisceglia, Campus Kitchen coordinator in UGA’s Office of Service-Learning, which oversees the program.
“This initiative, including the upcoming food trailer, is fully run by UGA students and provides them an amazing opportunity for servant leadership and community service,” adds Shannon Brooks, the director of the Office of Service-Learning.
Parent leaders foresee rewards in a more diverse College of Engineering
The College of Engineering may be just nine years old, but its supporters see generations into the future.
“We don’t yet have the luxury of a long history and a large alumni base,” says Jan Blaine, senior director of development for the college. “We greatly depend on outside resources to help us meet our mission and provide the best experiences and opportunities—professionally and academically—for our students.”
Among those important outside resources are generous UGA parents, whose $62,500 contribution to the College of Engineering through the PLC Grants Program addresses a key developmental aspiration: supporting academic success, especially among diverse student populations.
“The College of Engineering scores higher than average on all the national diversity data points,” says Kim Brown, the college’s stewardship coordinator. “But we’re not resting on our laurels.”
Blaine stresses, “Engineering is one of the most challenging disciplines in the world. When you have the ability in a tough curriculum to be around like-minded people and people with a shared cultural experience, it’s a valuable grounding.”
Without the hundreds of donors to the Parents Fund, this transformational support would not be possible. The College of Engineering has 10 initiatives, three of which focus on diversity and inclusion, that received parent-funded grant support in 2021.
Sunshine Fund brings rays of hope
The need for community care is growing.
“College is tough enough in normal times,” says Dr. Carrie Smith, assistant dean of students for UGA’s Student Care & Outreach (SCO). “During a global pandemic, I think students probably feel the weight of the world more than ever.”
Smith and her SCO colleagues coordinate assistance for students who run into hardships or face unexpected personal problems. The team tailors interventions to support individuals in their own unique circumstances.
SCO provided services to 10,000 more students in 2020 than in 2019. With this year’s return to in-person learning, adjustments to independent living, advanced academics, mature relationships, approaching adulthood, and a lingering pandemic, demand is likely to stay high.
Fortunately, help is coming from a welcome source: the Parents Fund.
“The fund allows SCO to support students’ mental health treatment or to alleviate circumstances that may be negatively contributing to their well-being,” Smith says. “The Sunshine Fund also provides support for suicide prevention initiatives.”
The involvement of parents in creating a healthier student experience underscores a hallmark of UGA’s approach to assistance–making a student feel supported.
“It’s not just about awarding money and walking away. It’s about developing relationships,” says Smith. “Students are resilient. We get the opportunity to support them before they go out into the world to do amazing things with their UGA degrees.”