Dozens of federal work study students are taking advantage of a special program at Virginia Tech that allows them to work off-campus with partnering community service agencies.

When the Community Service Work Study program began in 2012, eight students served in five community agencies. Last year, the program expanded to 29 students in more than 10 organizations. The program coordinator said they hope to continue the growth of the program to serve 20 agencies by the end of 2015.

“There is no better job than a community service job that exemplifies our university's motto, Ut Prosim (That I May Serve),” said Gloria Hoover, federal work study coordinator in the Office of University Scholarships and Financial Aid.

Cassidy Kees of Madison, Virginia, a rising senior majoring in animal and poultry sciences in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, has worked the last year at Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore in Christiansburg.

While Kees helps with a variety of projects, her main task has been to repurpose items in the store. “We had a bunch of shutters that were not selling on their own. We had to come up with a way to give people a different view of how they can use them,” Kees said. She adapted them into shelves. “I try to take something we have a lot of and give it a new purpose so that more people will buy it.”

Other projects Kees has worked on include adapting side tables to become chalkboard tables for children’s play, building cold frames to grow plants in the winter, and making furniture out of pallets. She also teaches some classes on Saturdays at the store, showing customers ways to repurpose items.

“I love working here because I get to come and be creative,” Kees said. “It’s nice after a stressful school week to come here and work on a project. Then to see that project have positive feedback is really nice too.”

Jasmine Wilson of Petersburg, Virginia, a rising junior majoring in international studies in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences and Corps of Cadets member, also works at Habitat for Humanity as well as two other work study jobs, including a position with Virginia Tech’s Human Resources and another community service agency, Micah’s Backpack.

Micah’s Backpack is a free program sponsored by St. Michael Lutheran Church that provides a bag filled with six meals and snacks every weekend to local children in lower-income families to make sure they have healthy food to eat over the weekend.

“I really like this program and want to continue helping them,” Wilson said. “All of the food we pack for the kids each week is donated or the church buys, sometimes using grants. It all goes to students who need the help and access to healthy food.”

Wilson enjoys both of her community service work study jobs as well as her position on campus – not to mention her normal studies and commitments to the Corps of Cadets – but she said it is worth it. “All three jobs are really flexible and they are understanding of all that I am trying to balance.”

Community service organizations that partner with the program provide 20 percent of the students salary, while the Virginia Tech-directed federal work study program covers the remaining 80 percent. Virginia Tech handles all employment processing and payment to the student.

Students and community service agencies interested in learning more about the program should contact the program coordinator, Gloria Hoover.

Students who have qualified for federal work study can search available positions through Hokies4Hire.

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