Each semester, Missouri Southern State University celebrates Service Learning with two awards.  The Spirit of Service Award is given to the student project that best exemplifies Service Learning’s process, impact, and quality.

The Spirit of Service Traveling Trophy is awarded to the MSSU Department that contributes to MSSU’s culture of Service Learning by providing innovative, exciting and impactful programs for students while benefiting the community.

Spirit of Service Ceremonies took Tuesday, May 14 near the fireplace on the third floor of Spiva Library.

Spring 2013 Awards:

The Spirit of Service Award winner for the Spring 2013 semester is the “Stars of HOPE Drying Rack” from the Engineering Technology Department.

Travis Coffee, Goodman,  Michael Moritz, Carl Junction, and Kenneth Paylor, Joplin, built a prototype star drying rack for the Stars of HOPE project.  They worked with Dr. Fran Bartholet, associate professor of Computer Aided Drafting and Design,  industry leaders and their peers to complete the project.  Several ideas and designs were tested in Computer Aided Design programs before the project was built.  The schematics for this prototype will be provided to seven existing Stars of HOPE Workshops across the country.  Stars of HOPE empowers people impacted by disaster or tragedy to heal their spirit and to unite their community through art projects.

The Star Drying Rack solves several logistical issues. Previously, Stars of HOPE were laid out to dry on long pieces of heavy plastic or paper on the ground.  The drying time was high due to the nature of these materials, and this method required a lot of space.  The new Star Rack is inexpensive to construct and provides compact drying space for 315 stars at one time.  The unit, which is on wheels, weighs around 30 pounds completely loaded with stars.  These factors will allow Stars of HOPE more flexibility in their star painting events and anyone will be able to move a large quantity of stars fairly easily.

The Spirit of Service Traveling Trophy winner for the spring 2013 semester is  Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) from the Accounting Department.

Supervised by Dr. Dave Smith, professor of Accounting and head of the Accounting & Finance department, sixteen students spent several weeks in the classroom studying for IRS certification exams.  Passing the exams allowed them to prepare tax returns for people who make less than $55,000 per year.  The students volunteered for over 530 hours and completed 260 returns totaling $137,181 in refunds. The Accounting Department is awarded the Spirit of Service Traveling Trophy for the impact of the project not only on the community, but for the extraordinary efforts in preparing MSSU students for the workforce by providing valuable real-world experience through Service Learning.

Lindsay Kubicek, Joplin, volunteer for the VITA program, said “VITA for me was an opportunity to be involved with the community and get experience.  There were a lot of people who came in who couldn’t believe we’d prepare their taxes for free; they were so thankful.  As students, we got to work together and deal with real-life situations that we’d never see if we had regular classes.  Some students had little previous customer serve or tax preparation experience so they benefited a lot.”

Honorable Mentions

Spirit of Service Award Honorable Mention certificates were presented to the “Gateway to Autism Awareness” student project from the Sociology Department.

Students Laticha LaVallee, Webb City, Willie Chapman, Panola, Miss.,  Lillian Kassab, Joplin, and Halli Todd, Stella, worked together to design a program where at-risk, high school age students learned about Autism and then helped with a community awareness campaign.

Dr. Ree Wells-Lewis, professor of Sociology, teaches Social Problems as a Service Learning course each spring.  She has enriched the Service Learning program at MSSU through this course over the last several years, and her efforts earned the Sociology Department the first Spirit of Service Traveling Trophy.