SouthArk Foundation Annual 9.11 Day of Service and Remembrance

WINNER: $25,000 Challenge Recipient

            The South Arkansas Community College Foundation, Inc. proposes a 1) series of annual community service-9/11 memorial events, 2) an on-going educational program at the site of a new memorial honoring 9/11 victims and volunteers, and 3) an organized service-learning program at the college.   

1)    The 13th Annual SouthArk Foundation Outdoor Expo fund-raiser is being held on the college campus on September 10, 2011.  Because community service has been an important part of the college’s mission since its inception in 1992, the Outdoor Expo has been organized from the beginning around involving as many volunteers as possible from the college and community (19,000 population) in a day of fun and fund-raising to provide scholarships. The Expo includes a duck-calling contest; an outdoor photography contest; a rib cook-off; a variety of nature-related exhibits, lectures, and demonstrations for outdoor enthusiasts; and fun and educational activities centering around the outdoors for children. It has also allowed student organizations to raise money through selling food and drink, money they use for attending educational conferences during the school year. Community-based organizations also set up at the Expo and provide learning and service opportunities for attendees.  For example, the LifeShare Blood Center collects blood donations (over 200 units last year).  Last year, we added our first 9/11 observance.  Thus far, the Expo has generated approximately $237,000 in student scholarships and attracted 300 volunteers annually. 

     With grant money from the Corporation for National & Community Service, SouthArk leaders will have a permanent 9/11 memorial component to the Expo event every year and emphasize in new ways the importance of community service.  This enhancement of an ongoing service project coincides with the acquisition of a 700-pound piece of twisted steel that was recovered from World Trade Center Tower 1.  This sacred relic—the only one of its kind within 250 miles and the only one in Arkansas—will become the centerpiece of an enduring memorial to be located on the grounds of the newly constructed El Dorado Conference Center and SouthArk Student Services Building, a joint project of the college, city, and a local corporation.   This monument to those who lost their lives in the 9/11 attacks and to those rescue workers who risked their lives to save them was designed by Polk Stanley Wilcox Architects—the company donated the design work—and will be dedicated at this year’s Expo on September 10.  The memorial service will become a regular part of the Expo in years to come.  This year’s memorial program will include the singing of the National Anthem by Phil Stacey—a finalist in the sixth season of American Idol, the Pledge of Allegiance, the unfolding of a large flag by boy and girl scouts of America, a U.S. Air Force flyover, and the dedication of the memorial, where the names of the four Arkansans who died in the 9/11 attacks will be engraved and in which family representatives will be present.  The projected attendance at this year’s Expo is 4000, and participants will be asked to donate canned goods as they enter the grounds.  This food will be given to Interfaith Help Services, which provides free food to families in need.  That same evening after the Expo is over, the soldiers and their families from the 39th Infantry Brigade of the Arkansas Army National Guard will be honored at a dinner sponsored by Project South, a volunteer support organization for military families headed by Dr. Sterling Claypoole, a psychology professor at SouthArk and the man who helped procure a portion of the steel beam from the World Trade Center that will form the centerpiece of the 9/11 monument on SouthArk’s campus.

2)    In addition to the memorial observance at Expo on September 10, 2011 and the canned food donations, we would like to begin promoting the college campus as a destination for student field trips from area schools so that students may tour the 9/11 memorial, view an educational/inspirational video about the 9/11 attacks, receive printed materials, and participate in learning activities designed to encourage community service.  This component would provide a year-round program that would carry on the memory and spirit of the 9/11 victims and volunteers from generation to generation.  Senior citizen groups, service clubs, tourists, and others would be welcome to take advantage of this educational program. Volunteers would be recruited to conduct the tours and lead age-appropriate learning activities.

3)         Finally, we would like to use the grant to organize and promote service learning projects   among our students and faculty as an on-going way of honoring the 9/11 heroes and   encouraging our students to make community service a way of life when they leave our campus.  We propose using the standards and guidelines of the National Service-Learning Clearinghouse to involve at least 20% of our students in at least one service-learning project before they graduate.

            The organizations that will be involved in carrying out this proposal are South Arkansas Community College, the SouthArk Foundation, the 40+ businesses and 30+ community-based agencies that participate each year in the Outdoor Expo, Interfaith Health Services, service-learning students, and Project South. 

At the Outdoor Expo on September 10 (component 1), we expect 300 volunteers. During the three-year life of the grant (components 1, 2, 3), we expect to involve over 2000 people in doing volunteer work that will directly support the program components outlined above.  These volunteers will work at the Outdoor Expo, operate the 9/11 memorial educational program, or participate in service-learning projects.  Volunteers will be tracked by the SouthArk Foundation, which requires that community volunteers register for service and college employees sign up via email. Service learning students will be tracked and evaluated by their instructors.

            The three components of the proposal will be promoted via one or more of the following: public service announcements, radio and television ads and interviews, news releases, the SouthArk web site, Facebook, and the distribution of posters throughout the region.