Social work students win grants to support underprivileged children

Carolyn Hoffer (center) with members of the Boys and Girls Club of Peoria.

September 9, 2011

By Steven Johnson ’13

Many can recognize the wonders of being involved in social work, but it’s an exceptional few who dedicate themselves to bringing truly positive change. One of the most rewarding aspects for professionals in the field is caring for children and helping groom them for successful lives.

Carolyn Hoffer, a senior social work major, is already working tirelessly in pursuit of such rewards. In the last year Hoffer and classmate Jen Rieker secured two grants for organizations that help underprivileged or disabled children not just in the Peoria area but also in the Chicago suburbs – one for the Boys and Girls Club of Peoria and another for the Kohl’s Cares for Kids program, sponsored by Kohl’s department store. A writing class offered by Bradley’s social work department has been key to their success.

“We took a class with grant writing being one of the assignments,” Hoffer said. “I worked at the Boys and Girls Club here in Peoria the year before, so when we took the class we decided it would be best to write a grant that could actually be used for a real organization.”

In their response to the grant proposal, Hoffer and Rieker sought to address a challenge facing a local school district.

“We wanted to increase testing scores in reading and math for the kids of District 150,” Hoffer said. “The district has some of the lowest scores in the area and most of the kids in the Boys and Girls Club attend District 150. We were trying to boost their scores.”

Hoffer also spent time working for Kohl’s Department Store in Vernon Hills, where she learned about the Kohl’s Cares for Kids program. The program offered a $500 reward for creating a program that employed five volunteers.

“That was the grant for the camp that I worked at called ‘Camp Star,’” Hoffer said. “It is a research camp for kids who have ADD, AHDH and other behavioral disorders. All of the grant money went to help with art projects, sports and any other funding that we needed. This program is a seven week treatment program that is directed towards working with children ranging from 6-12 years old. It focuses on using positive reinforcement to shape behavior issues.”

Dr. Wayne Evens, chair of the social work department, has helped prepared Hoffer and others for different types of grant writing.

“We have a course in macro practice working with larger systems and a portion of that course is grant writing,” Evens said. “We go through the basic request for proposals and writing proposals or if they are volunteering or working at an agency, they can make an actual request for a proposal.”

Evens believes Hoffer will build on her success and has much more to contribute to the field of social work.