Jenna Ward, Katie Woods, and Clayton Singleton, all first-years at Clark University, are finishing up their spring 2022 courses this May but one course, in particular, has made a lifelong impression on the trio as well as on many others. A new course, ENT110 Innovation through Sustainable Development, taught by Jessica Grupposo, adjunct professor in the School of Management’s Entrepreneurship and Innovation Program, involves the implementation of community projects based on the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals.
All citing different reasons for taking ENT110, Jenna, Clayton, and Katie never imagined their chance class meeting would create lifelong friendships and produce $2000 in donations for a sustainable school supplies project. As Katie likes to say “it was a happy accident” that resulted in the trio starting the Community Classroom Collective (CCC), an organization with a mission to keep the magic of new school supplies going throughout the year for Worcester Public middle school students.
How did this trio get here?
While looking over her spring course options, Jenna’s dad, Dan Ward, suggested she take an entrepreneurship class. Not convinced that entrepreneurship was her best option, her dad pointed out that this particular class would help her continue her work on community sustainability issues. Jenna’s interest in sustainability started with her membership in the Girl Scouts of Eastern Massachusetts, which led to her earning the prestigious Gold Award. Additionally, the course offered a continuation of her interest in community outreach and service that she gained as a member of the Aldersgate Methodist Church in her hometown. This parental nudge made the difference and she registered.
Katie’s journey to ENT110 started after graduating from high school in Idaho in 2020. Katie found herself, like many other students, in an unexpected conundrum due to COVID. Initially, her plan was to travel to Sweden and nanny for extended family. However, after continuous travel delays, Katie decided instead to stay home and get a job, taking a gap year before starting college. After working 40+ hours a week for almost a year as a hostess, Katie was ready to begin classes at Clark and dive back into her passions – international development, public service, and community development. Describing Clark as the best decision she ever made, Katie researched classes and came across a course description excerpt that caught her eye, ‘“the principle of “think globally, act locally” and would implement a local project that supports SDGs”, and she knew it was the class for her.
Clayton was a little more pragmatic in his decision to take ENT110. He needed to complete the required Global Perspective (GP) in the Program of Liberal Studies. Clayton’s passions include music and technology, and he thrives in a creative atmosphere. So, his first thought about taking an entrepreneurship course wasn’t positive. Entrepreneurship conjured up thoughts of a corporate world devoid of ethics and morals and he was not impressed. However, the prospect of completing his GP by implementing a community project related to the UN’s SDGs was highly appealing. In high school, his teacher, mentor, and Model UN advisor, Sara Dziedzic was a monumental role model in his interest in SDG implementation, he took a deep breath and registered.
Clayton, Jenna, and Katie had many amazing ideas when they first started brainstorming their innovation project. While it took them some time to settle on the Community Classroom Collective, their focus and determination were more than apparent. I remember a point when they voiced concern about if they could achieve the goal of the course. Watching them grow from being so uncertain to developing such a solid foundation of confidence has been rewarding for me as a professor. With every obstacle, they pushed forward and, in the end, developed something very meaningful, forming a bond along the way – which is exactly what this course is intended to do! I am very proud of the work they’ve done and their sheer determination. I hope they continue to visit my classroom to share their journey with the CCC over the next few years. – Professor Jessica Grupposo
How the CCC was born
With all the players now together in ENT110, Professor Grupposo knew these three could create something world-changing, and placed them together in a group. The assignment: implement an innovative community social venture that revolved around one of the SDGs. The three found a common interest in SDG #4, Quality Education. All fondly remembered the excitement of the new school year with shiny new school supplies and the ever-popular Scholastic Book Fairs. They all agreed on the excitement of those times either wore off because the supplies inevitably got used up, or, for some, never existed because there wasn’t any money for shiny extras. Reflecting on the chronic lack of supplies faced by schools across the country, the inequities of acquiring school supplies, and the elitist undertones of extracurricular activities that require extra cash, the three put their heads together to come up with a plan.
They quickly focused on students’ needs and wants, and complied with an interest list of traditional supply needs such as tissues, pencils, hand sanitizer, but also, backpacks and notebooks. Then came all the questions, however: what exactly do the students want? Where would they get the money to buy the materials, and where would they buy the supplies? How can they get them to Worcester students, and how should they ensure the CCC is sustainable? It was a bit dizzying, but they pushed on.
Supplies and Funding
The trio decided the best place to start was with local schools and teachers. Unfortunately, their initial excitement was met with a dead-end, as reaching out to schools and teachers did not bring the response they were hoping for; only one teacher responded.
Undeterred, the trio then reached out to Splash, Clark University’s Educational Studies Program (ESP) student volunteer-run organization that hosts two events during the school year for local students in grades 5-12. Splash was holding an event in March, and they were ready to help. Splash allowed the trio to administer a survey to the students in attendance at the Splash event. The information gathered from the survey was invaluable, and clearly showed the trio what the students of Worcester needed most.
Next came the search for funding. Splash generously donated $900 to the team, and after a meeting with Student Life and Programming (SLP) the CCC team was able to secure a grant for $800 from the Clark Student Council. And in the usual Clarkie style, the Clark community came together and donated $300! With $2000 in hand, Katie put her savvy shopper skills to the test and partnered with SLP to create an Amazon Wish list. The team was then able to purchase needed supplies in bulk and maximize their budget. Additionally, donation boxes were positioned throughout various dorms for Clarkies to add to the CCC’s collection.
Time to deliver
Delightfully, the donation draw was more than the trio expected but was a bit overwhelming. Where would they store all these materials? At the moment, Katie’s Subaru is being used as storage, as well as Jenna and Clayton’s dorm rooms – a worthy sacrifice in the name of community giving, and one they plan to solve in the coming months. They are actively working to divvy up all the donations into boxes so they are ready for delivery to each school by April 29th. However, with Worcester’s spring break taking place this past week, confirming delivery dates with the schools has been slow.
What’s still on the horizon for the CCC
The whirlwind of moving this innovation forward is only half the project. The CCC is still in the midst of developing a plan to continue school donations after their class ends, most importantly in the spring when many materials bought at the beginning of the year run out. The three have discussed ensuring their project’s sustainability by making the CCC a campus club, reaching out to the community, and working with alumni and other organizations on campus. But for now, however, the three Community Classroom founders treasure their newfound friendship and know that what they started will remain a passion they will share, and together they can proudly make this a sustainable reality for their four years of college.
Though Jenna, Katie, and Clayton never imagined entrepreneurship as a thrilling option for their liberal arts studies, they all have a new view: entrepreneurship supports the development of one’s passions for the benefit of the greater good.
How you can contribute, support, or get involved with CCC
You can contact the Community Classroom Collective at Email: Communityclassroomcollective@gmail.com or Instagram: @communityclassroomcollective
Or Donate via Venmo: @Katiewoods1 or Paypal: firstname.lastname@example.org
Jenna intends to major in Environmental Science and Policy at Clark.
Clayton intends to major in Music and minor in some area of creative tech at Clark.
For more information on all entrepreneurship courses offered by the E&I Program, as well as activities, events, and programming contact Teresa Quinn, Entrepreneurship and Innovation Program Manager at email@example.com.
Story by Teresa Quinn