Sociology Students Raise $10,000 for James R. Ludlow Elementary School
Wednesday, May 10, 2017
by Elizabeth Krakoviak '17 and Molly Grab '17
Seventy students in the spring 2017 sections of the Social Problems course have raised $10,000 for the James R. Ludlow Elementary School in Philadelphia. The course, which analyzes contemporary issues such as homelessness, unemployment, poverty, policing, and incarceration, tasked students to organize campaigns to raise awareness and funds for the school.
This is not the first time that sociology students have embarked on such a fundraising effort. Maria Kefalas, Ph.D., professor of sociology and instructor of the course, taught a section of the introductory class last semester with a similar project. Thirty students raised over $2,500 in school supplies, hygiene products, food items and monetary donations for two nonprofit organizations, with $1,475 worth of those donations going directly to the Ludlow School.
This semester, Kefalas decided to change the approach after receiving a request for a donation of new computers from the Ludlow School principal Carol Williams. The public school, at which 100 percent of students are living at or below the poverty line, currently has 30 computers for a population of over 300 pupils.
“For such a high-impact gift, we knew we would need considerable funding to purchase them,” says Kefalas. “This meant we would have to pivot our fundraising away from an in-kind effort to money. I knew this would be much more challenging.”
Teams of students, the majority of whom are not sociology majors, competed to raise the most money throughout the semester, employing different methods to reach their goals. Several groups created videos to fundraise online while others held bake sales or sold clothes and sports equipment online. One student donated the proceeds of his own cell phone repair business, amounting to $1,200, to the project.
“Social Problems was the most eye opening and inspiring course, which provided a necessary flash of reality that every single one of us sitting in that classroom needed,” says Julia Rizzuto ’17, a healthcare and pharmaceutical marketing major. “It was an honor to raise money for the Ludlow School and to help these awesome children work toward getting the education we all deserve to have. As Professor Kefalas taught us from day one, even the smallest effort to fix a social problem can make a huge impact in the long run.”
Chemistry and mathematics dual major Jordan Butt ’20 similarly expressed his enthusiasm for the project.
“When Professor Kefalas told our class about the Ludlow School, she didn’t need to ask me to try to raise money,” he says. “When all is said and done, I hope there will be some benefit from my actions.”
The SJU students enrolled in the class will visit the Ludlow School on May 12 for an event at which the check will be presented and the gift will be announced. The fundraising effort will make possible the purchase of 24 new computers, an 80 percent increase over the number of computers currently used in the school.
“As professors, we hope our students will take what they learn and change the world one day in the future,” says Kefalas. “In this class, they actually changed the world while they were still in the classroom.”