Four Clarke students brought new opportunities for community involvement to campus and Dubuque this spring, thanks to the university’s Clarke Compass Award. Funded by alumna Jenifer Westphal ’84, the Compass Award grants individual scholarships of $3,500 to students dedicated to making a difference. The program was previously known as the Activism and Values-Informed Education Award.
Seniors Alex McClelland and Skylar Culbertson worked alongside junior Curtney Germaine and sophomore Drew Fox to bring this year’s Compass project to life. At first, the group had hoped to develop a club focused on volunteering with organizations throughout Dubuque. However, as it became apparent that area organizations had differing needs and communication styles, the scope of the project shifted.
“Our first plan was very broad. As we started to look at some of the local nonprofits, we realized their schedules were so different, it would be impossible to have one approach that fit them all. So, the first lesson really was ‘be able to adapt,’” said Alex. “We focused our efforts on the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Dubuque because they were responsive and shared our goals. Clarke has worked with them in the past, so it was a great way to deepen that relationship.”
The Clarke students led events with the Boys and Girls Club throughout the spring semester. First, they volunteered their time to coach, referee, and run the clock at the organization’s 3 v. 3 basketball tournament. Middle school students were especially excited to have Skylar take part, as she played starting point guard for the Clarke Women’s Basketball National Championship team.
“I love working with kids — even if you’re with them for just an hour or two, it can make such an impact,” Skylar said. “I am going to earn my master’s degree in education counseling, so to be able to work with kids, especially those who may not have opportunities like this open to them very often, is rewarding, important work.”
Beyond the basketball tournament, the Boys & Girls Club members were invited to Clarke’s campus for a tour and to enjoy some one-on-one time with Clarke students. The Compass cohort also led the middle schoolers in a dream board activity.
“One of my professors modeled dream boards as a positive visualization tool for me in my Compass class, and I wanted to share that with the kids,” Drew said.
“Originally, we wanted to do a more encompassing project, but this experience made me realize that no act is too small. Many of these kids had never thought about college being a path for them, and I’m happy I can be a part of opening that door.”
Not only did we help other people, but this whole experience was really eye-opening for me.
As the Compass project came to a close for the 2022-2023 academic year, the four Clarke students were able to have a video call with Jenifer to summarize their experience. For Jenifer, their insights aligned well with her original intent behind the program.
“I have been in the world of filmmaking and philanthropic giving for 40 years now and so often you have people come to you claiming they have an idea that will change the world. It took me a long time to realize that there’s no one thing that will change the world, but there is so much we can do to change one person’s world,” Jenifer said. “My hope is that the Compass Award helps Clarke students learn that lesson sooner and find the joy in making an impact.”