In early May, 18 Wofford College students discussed their work in the Spartanburg community with hopes of winning funding to continue supporting the growth and development of 10 community-based programs.

Each of the 10 projects discussed walked away with at least $250 and the grand prize winner, Determined Minds, which serves Camp Croft Courts and Prince Hall Apartments, earned $1,250.

“Having these funds next year will help our program be sustainable,” says Margaret Chandler ’24, a sociology and anthropology major from Montgomery, Alabama, who volunteered at Prince Hall Apartments. “It is my hope that we will have more students who are excited to come and attend the program each day and that they talk about how fun it is with their peers at both Camp Croft and Prince Hall apartment complexes.”

The United Way of the Piedmont, Spartanburg Academic Movement, ReGenesis Health Care, Northside Development Group and the Northside Voyagers made donations to support the students’ programs. Three anonymous donors also stepped in to ensure that each project received funding. In all, $6,785 was given to support the students’ work. 

“If we want our work to be community-driven, we have to create opportunities for dialogue between students, partners and neighborhood residents,” says Dr. Alysa Handelsman, assistant professor of sociology and anthropology, who taught the students through her community sustainability course. “We have to create spaces to share our work, receive feedback, conceptualize collaboratively and promote investment and participation.” 

Students pitched their ideas for programming to community leaders last fall and received feedback. A month later, they hosted a gallery walk with their neighborhood mentors and community partners to share their proposals for community programming. Half of the programs started in the fall and the other half started in the spring. Three of this year’s 10 programs are new, and the others were developed by students from previous cohorts with many familiar community partners, including the Cleveland Academy of Leadership and Spartanburg Housing. 

Handelsman and her students were able to engage more deeply in neighborhoods where students led programming and were able to create new partnerships with the support of mentors Tony Thomas and Wanda Cheeks from the Northside, Freddie Smith and Thomas Hargrove from Highland, Toni Sutton and Brian Cohen from the Southside, and Sharon McFalls, Kenneth Anderson and Renee Collins from Una, Saxon and Arcadia. 

The seminar’s new mentorship branch will continue next year, when a new cohort of students starts to run the programs in the fall. Those students will receive presentations and guidebooks from the previous cohort as well as notes on how the program ran, what worked and what areas need improvement.  

“Assessing and adjusting with clear action steps is critical work in developing programming,” Handelsman says. “This will allow the new cohort to get started more quickly with their projects and allow us to have clear start dates and expectations for our students and partners. In addition to the benefits for the programming, students are gaining important skills in their community organizing tool kit by designing oral and poster presentations to inspire community investment and to find donations to support community-based programming.”

$250 awardees

Mark Endler ’25, a finance major from Arona, Spain, and Pierson Fuller, a sociology and anthropology major from Winston-Salem, North Carolina, pitched We are College Bound, an after-school program based at Macedonia Missionary Baptist Church.  

Georgia Jenkins ’23, a biology major from Boiling Springs, South Carolina, and Isabel Harlow ’23, a biology major from Summerville, South Carolina, pitched the STEM Club that serves fourth graders at Cleveland Academy of Leadership. The previous cohort of Wofford students started this program with first graders at Cleveland during the 2021-22 academic year.

Tunde Balogun ’24, a finance major from Lugoff, South Carolina, and Morgan Roddy ’23, a biology major from Pauline, South Carolina, pitched the Homework Club and Teen Outreach program based in the Highland community and Victoria Gardens. 

Thomas Cuttino ’23, a government major from Columbia, South Carolina, and Danika Muller ’23, a psychology major from Denair, California, discussed Inspiring Youth Leadership at the Bethlehem Center, which reinforced the leadership qualities possessed by all people through exercises and discussions. This was the community sustainability seminar’s first program in partnership with the Bethlehem Center.  After their presentations, an anonymous donor came forward to fully fund this program for the 2023-24 academic year. 

$500 awardees

Arnise Wright ’24, a biology major from Goose Creek, South Carolina, pitched the Queens’ Club at the Cleveland Academy of Leadership, which helps fifth-grade girls prepare for middle school through activities to build self-esteem.  After her presentation, an anonymous donor decided to fund the program for the 2023-24 academic year. This program partners with the school’s guidance counselors and began with a cohort of Wofford students in 2021-22.

Chuck Smith ’24, a sociology and anthropology major from Suwanee, Georgia, and Kate Wolcott ’24, a sociology and anthropology major from Charlotte, North Carolina, discussed CHEFS Club at the Cleveland Leadership Academy, which includes students participating in Kids Clubs at the school. CHEFS Club began in 2018-19 at Cleveland as a partnership between Wofford students and Spartanburg School District 7. In 2019-20, the program received a grant from the Rotary Club of Spartanburg. The club expanded to Mary H. Wright Elementary School and completed its first year there.

Nathan Faulstich ’23, a biology major from Lake City, Florida, and McKenna Szemly ’24, a psychology major from Summerville, South Carolina, pitched the STEM Club at the Salvation Army Community Center. This was the community sustainability seminar’s first-time partnering with the Salvation Army. Their presentation led an anonymous donor to offer full funding for the program for the 2023-24 academic year. 

Callie Henline ’23, a double major in government and sociology and anthropology from Statesville, North Carolina, and Noel Tufts ’23, a double major in biology and Spanish from Charleston, South Carolina, discussed the Little Chefs Club at Mary H. Wright Elementary School. This was the first year CHEFS Club extended beyond Cleveland Academy. 

$750 awardee

Emma Skelton ’24, a triple major in history, psychology and sociology and anthropology from Greenville, South Carolina, discussed the Queens’ Club at Mary H. Wright Elementary School and the 50+ Club at C.C. Woodson Community Center. Queens’ Club began at Mary H. Wright in 2021-22.  

$1,250 grand prize

Margaret Chandler ’24, a sociology and anthropology major from Montgomery, Alabama, and Isaiah Franco ’23, a double major in international affairs and Spanish from Newtown, Pennsylvania, discussed Determined Minds, an after-school program based at Prince Hall Apartments and Camp Croft Courts. Determined Minds began in 2019 in partnership with Spartanburg Housing at Victoria Gardens. Spartanburg Housing supported the program expanding to Prince Hall and Camp Croft. The Rotary Club of Spartanburg provided a grant for the project in 2022.