It’s a tradition. The week before the fall semester begins is when the Richland College staff and faculty gather for a “welcome back” convocation. The Innovation of the Year award was among the many awards presented at this annual meeting.
This year, the Sole Hope project was honored with the award. Richland’s Innovation of the Year award is designed to recognize and encourage creativity in teaching, on-campus service learning and activities that have a positive influence on the college.
“Sole Hope represents a novel, college-wide, collaborative approach to service learning and is a Richland Proud project,” said Dr. Sherry Dean, a speech faculty member and Sole Hope’s team leader.
Started in the spring of 2013, Sole Hope is a class service-learning project for Honors Speech 1321(business and professional communication). The project involved the creation of shoes fabricated from blue jeans donated by students who helped children in Uganda fight a painful foot parasite “tunga penetrans,” commonly known as “jiggers.”
Dean said one thing that made Sole Hope unique was the involvement of more than 200 students who made 800 pairs of shoes. The project gave students a great opportunity to be leaders by coordinating the project, giving speeches, participating in the blue jean drive and creating the communication materials.
“They learned a lot about group processes, how to work well in teams, how to be leaders in teams,” Dean said “From the student perspective, for the honors course, this is a very strong component.”
The Richland Sole Hope project was one of the biggest group projects ever on campus with the collaboration of multiple departments: Richland Collegiate High School (RCHS), Key Club, The Achieving Latina Academic Success Club (ALAS), Student Government Association (SGA), the Emeritus Program and more than 200 students and staff volunteers working together on this semester-long project.
Despite its large scope, Sole Hope was a remarkably cost-effective service-learning project because the materials and labor were provided by student clubs. For example, RCHS sponsored the purchase of supply materials, such as denim, scissors and cardboard patterns.
The ALAS club sponsored the shipment of the patterns to Sole Hope International in North Carolina at a cost of $500. ALAS raised the funds through bake sales. The Honors Program also provided storage space for the jeans and materials.
With an initial goal of collecting 600 pairs of jeans, this campus wide project had a great turnout. A total of 900 pairs of jeans were collected over three weeks and transformed into 800 pairs of children’s shoe patterns during three day-long cutting parties in the cafeteria.
Benjamin Briggs, an Honors Speech 1321 student, said, “When our class first started working on the Sole Hope project I for one never could have imagined how great the participation turned out to be. Students at Richland really rose to the occasion. We had so many donations that we managed to almost entirely fill our storage space with wall-to-wall bags of denim!”
Briggs worked as a communications coordinator for his class. He also attended, planned meetings and helped to orient volunteers when they arrived at the cutting parties.
“I really enjoyed my time working on Sole Hope. We were able to do more than just wring our hands or write a check. We made a positive and direct impact on peoples’ lives,” he said. “It’s our hope that we can make this a tradition at Richland.”
Creativity, collaboration and its global positive impact were the core components that helped make the Richland Sole Hope project this Year’s Innovation of the Year award winner.