Engaging students, changing the world

Photo: Willie Heggins, top, with children on playground equipment his classs purchased and installed (Photo by Robert Hubner, WSU Photo Services).
A leadership studies minor, revived in 2006, has developed such allegiance that students are working to create an endowed scholarship for it.

The program was created in 1994 at the College of Education, but activity faded after its founder, assistant professor Jack Burns, left WSU in 1997. From 2004 to 2006 Willie Heggins III, assistant professor of educational leadership and director of the minor program, worked to revive it and recruit students.  

He focused the interdisciplinary minor on civic engagement and in the fall of 2006 gave students their first big project: To create a local response to Hurricane Katrina by educating Palouse residents about the issues and raising about $3,500 in relief efforts.

Playground an epiphany
In spring 2007, his students discovered that a local playground was dangerous and dilapidated. In response, they created a plan to replace the equipment, raised $14,000 and organized volunteers to complete the project. The playground, located at the Bellevue Apartments, a housing complex for low-income residents in Pullman, reopened in June.

The 13 students who completed the playground project were enrolled in Heggins’ leadership and service class (EDAD 440), one of two required core courses for the minor.

“We had an orange ribbon around the playground, and when we cut that ribbon on June 7, all the kids — there must have been at least 30 of them, all ages — rushed in and started climbing, sliding and playing all over it,” Heggins said.
“This successful project was the turning point. It was a powerful learning experience and an example of what we could do in the future.”

Creating a legacy
“This semester, I have 18 students, including six from that spring class,” Heggins said. “We brainstormed what we should do. The playground project was the platform, the base line of what was possible.

“The students decided they wanted to create a legacy. They wanted to create an endowed scholarship for the leadership minor.

“They know there is a minimum of $25,000 for an endowed scholarship,” Heggins said. “They are determined to make this happen.”

To raise money for the Leadership Development Scholarship, the students have planned an inaugural banquet and auction on Nov. 16, featuring WSU President Elson S. Floyd as the speaker (see below for details). They have made presentations to dozens of academic groups and community organizations and have gained signed support from 85 businesses have given signed support.

“These students make a difference in the lives of others,” Heggins said. “They are studying and practicing leadership. It’s a fascinating experience for all of us.

“We do it together, and I am really enjoying the ride.”

Banquet Nov. 16
WSU President Elson S. Floyd will be the keynote speaker for the inaugural leadership development banquet and silent auction at 6 p.m. Friday, Nov. 16, at the Schweitzer Engineering event center. Proceeds will be used to create an endowed scholarship in leadership studies.

The dinner costs $50, or $350 for a table of eight. For reservations, e-mail Leadership.Studies@wsu.edu or call Willie Heggins at 335-4105.

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