Taught by Jonathan S. Cullick
The study and practice of writing with attention to audience, purpose, and conventions appropriate to a specific writing situation. This includes the reading, writing, and analyzing of a variety of texts (which may be written, digital, or visual).
- Professor Jonathan S. Cullick
Our class was part of a nation-wide movement of student philanthropists. The Doris Buffett Learning by Giving Foundation generously funded our class with a grant of $3,500 to contribute to 1-2 northern Kentucky non-profit organizations of the students’ choice. The Learning by Giving network consists of 35 colleges and universities across the country educating more than 700 students each year.
Nearly every student at NKU completes a first-year writing course. After many years of teaching this course, I have experienced first-hand a basic truth: Helping students write effectively requires engaging them to care about what they are trying to communicate in writing. In my ENG 101 Mayerson/Learning-by-Giving class, I teach the same skills as other writing courses but in the context of community needs. For example, in all sections of ENG 101, students complete a persuasive research project. They do the same in my class, but the topics and research are focused on the needs in the northern Kentucky region, and the persuasion they do is to advocate on behalf of the nonprofit of their choice.
Ultimately, I want my students to discover that the ability to communicate effectively with writing is not only a personal good, leading to one’s own individual success, but also a public good, leading to the betterment of society.
This was a special year because our benefactor, Doris Buffett, passed away earlier in the year. She was an extraordinary human being who lived a life of caring for others. The Foundation created a 23-minute documentary film about her life. If you’d like to see something inspiring, I encourage you to view this film at dorisbuffettlegacy.com.
I thank Doris Buffett and the Learning by Giving Foundation for supporting our mission to teach in the context of community engagement.
ENG 101 student Eliza Eyman, on Child Focus: Improving a whole family’s situation also involves helping each individual in that family, and in reference to children, Child Focus offers before and after school programs to give kids a temporary safe place when their own home isn’t suitable; they also have a toy drive for children whose families can’t afford such luxuries. Fostering, adoption, and child welfare organizations work to give kids a second chance when their birth parents aren’t suitable to fit their needs. A major goal of Child Focus is the “preservation and reunification” of a birth family. The first step in this process is to help the parent or guardian get back on their feet, which Child Focus facilitates through their Workforce Development Program. In addition to the array of long-term programs this non-profit offers, they provide emergency services to people in dire situations.
ENG 101 student, Shawn Sullivan, on Child Focus: Child Focus intends to spend the grant money of two thousand dollars on their addiction counseling services. The money will go directly to specific individuals fighting to find sobriety. Child Focus shared humbling stories of those they have helped, the video showed us the story of Stephanie. Stephanie was addicted to pain medication, meth, and heroin; after nearly losing her life and family she found help through Child Focus to recover and become clean. The story highlighted in their application was a boy our age. He had fallen into the wrong crowd and found himself in quite a bit of trouble; he was detained at a juvenile detention center and then transferred to the helping hands of Child Focus. They were able to set his life back on track. He has been able to go back and complete school and has even broken his dependency on the drug marijuana.
ENG 101 student, Sequoia Hunt, on the Dragonfly Foundation: The Dragonfly Foundation was started by Christine Neitzke, the mother of a boy who had stage 3 cancer, who spent most of her time in the hospital by his side. In the Dragonfly Foundation Application for Funding, Christine talks about how some “families would live out of their cars and off of vending machine food.” Those families had “little to no support” from friends or family. She wanted those families to feel like they had some support and that they weren’t alone.
The Dragonfly Foundation provides free patient and family events that are safe and allow everyone involved to feel like they are living a “normal” life. Some of the events include places like the Zoo, Kings Island, the Newport Aquarium, the Great American Ballpark, and tickets to holiday light displays. This is a chance for the patients and the parents to get away from all the treatments, live free again without having to focus on anything at all, and a chance to feel less isolated.
The Dragonfly Foundation will be using our contribution to provide activities and events for more families in need. The foundation gives each family a Big Blue Care Bag filled with things they might need on the journey but haven’t thought about. There are some toys in the bag that kids can hold and squeeze when they’re getting their treatments done. There’s some candy, and there’s even a small flashlight so that when it’s dark in the hospital at night, the kids can see if their parents are still there.
Not only is the Dragonfly Foundation doing everything they can for these kids, but they’re also providing their whole family with support to get through this difficult time in their lives.
Remarks by Tara Keith, Marketing & Development Officer: I want to thank Dr. Cullick’s English Class and Mayerson Student Philanthropy Group here at NKU for this wonderful gift.
Child Focus is a nonprofit organization that strengthens the quality of life for 20,000 individuals in central and southern Ohio across 22 counties by developing thriving kids, strong families and successful adults. In operation since 1977, Child Focus serves at-risk children and adults who live in poverty, have family dysfunction, involvement in foster or kinship care, are impacted by the criminal justice system, and have experienced physical and verbal abuse, trauma, mental health and substance use issues.
Child Focus has worked relentlessly through COVID, never closing. Every day, I heard heroic stories about how Child Focus impacted the lives of those we serve: responding to 2AM crisis hotline calls and mobile crisis runs, placing traumatized children into safe, caring foster homes, delivering meals to combat food insecurity while schools were closed, providing support to law enforcement and individuals in the jails and juvenile detention and providing “just in time” emergency mental health treatment to individuals on the brink of suicide. There is a great need for these programs in our communities to help families who are struggling, and that need has only been exacerbated by the pandemic. Child Focus’ continued work is reliant upon having adequate resources to maintain these programs and to serve even more families.
Child Focus will use these funds to offset copays for families who cannot afford to pay for behavioral health services. No one should ever go without therapy due to inability to pay. These services can be life changing and life saving. Thank you and always remember there are helpers and resources for mental health and substance use disorders and you are never alone. Reach out to your local provider or Text: 4HOPE to 741741 for the National Crisis Text Line.
Remarks by Greg Vehr, Senior Vice President of Development: It was an honor to work with Dr. Cullick and the “Heart of Gold” team in ENG 101 to discuss specifics about The Dragonfly Foundation (TDF) and participate in the Mayerson Student Philanthropy Project at Northern Kentucky University supported by NKU and Learn By Giving. While we met, virtually, the students were graciously attentive and asked detailed questions to further clarify the mission of TDF and the services that we provide to families.
The Dragonfly Foundation is a 501c3 organization with a mission to provide support to the families of pediatric cancer patients throughout the region. Working closely with our partner hospital, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center (CCHMC), one of the top children’s hospitals in the world, we provide programs and services to families facing a cancer journey they did not choose and do not deserve. TDF was started in 2010, by Christine and Jim Neitzke and friends after they experienced the trauma of a cancer diagnosis to their son, Matt. In 2009, he was diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma (stage 3). During their time at the hospital, Christine and Jim noticed other families experiencing similar battles but living out of cars and eating from vending machines. While Matt’s cancer subsided, the family and TDF remain committed to supporting other families facing the arduous cancer journey.
The gift from the NKU Mayerson Student Philanthropy Project will help The Dragonfly Foundation provide activities and events for 25 to 30 families in Fiscal Year 2022 as they experience the grueling, yet lifesaving treatments that require them to adjust to frequent hospital visits and/or extended hospital stays for their children. Funds will be used to underwrite the cost of planning/producing events or providing tickets for activities throughout the 2022 fiscal year.
On behalf of the entire team at The Dragonfly Foundation, I express our, heartfelt, appreciation for your support and, on behalf of the many families that will be impacted by your generosity, thank you for the comfort and joy you will bring to them during a very challenging time in their lives.