WVU Purpose2Action serves communities, helps students

BY MIKE NOLTING

The Purpose2Action program at West Virginia University gives Pell-eligible students the opportunity to gain experience working with nonprofits while completing their education.

Kristi Wood-Turner, director of the Center for Community Engagement, said the program immerses students in local problems that require real-world solutions.

“All students at West Virginia University have an opportunity to be engaged with the community,” Wood-Turner said. “So, they have an opportunity to get those ‘best practice’ outcomes that we know make for a better student and eventually a better worker in the career they choose.”

The program encourages an interface between students and local nonprofits with defined critical needs to solve issues. The program puts students in real-life situations to use their skills and what they’re learning to improve the community.

“There’s nothing more important than being able to take the lessons and knowledge you have and apply it in a way that is functional to meet real-life needs,” Wood-Turner said. “With that, you can have any career you want because you are able to find a problem and solve it.”

According to Wood-Turner, the students engage with the organization for about the length of a part-time job, but with a different schedule. During that time, students are encouraged to share their values and lived experiences with the community to ensure the interaction is respectful and authentic.

“Anywhere from 10 to 15 hours of service and really getting to have the engagement with a nonprofit locally to meet a defined need and a project, they have to gain that experience,” Wood-Turner said.

The program is also offered to Pell-eligible distance learners who can bring a need from their community for review by the university. If approved, the student can begin periodic work to satisfy the requirements of the program and search for a solution to the problem.

“We are not just placing students; we are meeting the true identified needs they have,” Wood-Turner said. “So, if a student comes to us with a community partner in their hometown and has a true identified need and would like support, we are happy to make that connection.”

Wood-Turner said the program pushes students into situations where they interact with agencies and use components of their education to help. Students not only engage in the practical application of their education, but they also learn about interacting with a wide range of people.

“It really gives students that kind of opportunity that they can dig deep into the course work and theories they’re learning in class and be able to apply in a way that will set them apart,” Wood-Turner said.

Students can sign up for the program at careerservices.wvu.edu/students/handshake-login.