A new campus partnership will help West Virginia University students with financial need gain real-world experience through an innovative, grassroots community service program.
Initially launched with startup funding from the WVU Academic Innovation Summit, the Purpose2Action, or P2A, program is designed to provide Pell-eligible undergraduate students opportunities to engage with their communities, explore career pathways and find their purpose through meaningful work. Housed within the WVU Center for Community Engagement, the program places students in paid positions with nonprofit and public sector organizations to participate in mission-driven projects while they work to discover their own purpose and values.
“The P2A program is a part of our larger vision to provide community engagement opportunities to all students at WVU,” said Kristi Wood-Turner, director of the Center for Community Engagement and one of the original creators of the P2A program. “This program empowers financially constrained students with the opportunity to engage in the valuable experiences gained when working alongside our community members. Our collaboration not only facilitates these experiences, but also sets an example for others to unite resources, align missions and collectively achieve a greater impact.”
A multidisciplinary team of faculty and staff members from across the WVU Morgantown Campus created the program with the goal of improving academic retention, enhancing career skills, promoting mental health and fostering a sense of belonging among the University’s most vulnerable, low-income student population.
Quinn Reid, a sophomore intermedia and photography major from Beckley, has completed both the P2A and P2A+ programs. They currently serve as a P2A mentor and recently helped community partner Human-Animal Bond launch its first community newsletter. Reid said they have felt a drastic shift in their sense of belonging because of the program.
“Being in Morgantown felt very alien to me for a long time,” Reid said. “And being in P2A helped me contribute to the community in the ways I could best — utilizing the skills that were already in me and amplifying them.”
Since its official launch in spring 2023, P2A has supported more than 40 undergraduate students who have worked with upwards of two dozen different community organizations, including Project Healthy Kids, Inc., Scott’s Run Settlement House, Habitat for Humanity and Milan Puskar Health Right.
Within the new Federal Work-Study framework, the program will expand from an eight-week to 12-week placement for each participant, providing more financial stability for students while also better serving the needs of community partners.
Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Maryanne Reed said programs like P2A give students a sense of belonging and purpose, which makes them more likely to stay at the University.
“An additional bonus of this program is that it is helping community organizations with limited budgets achieve their goals while giving students valuable real-world skills,” Reed said.
In addition to the 10-15 hours per week with community partners, P2A participants attend development training sessions, including a CliftonStrengths® assessment with the WVU Purpose Center, complete reflective journal exercises and meet weekly with P2A mentors.
While all students with a Pell Grant are eligible, P2A does have a competitive application process. Find more information about the program and the application.
The P2A program was originally conceived as the Community Engagement Collaboration during the University’s inaugural Academic Innovation Summit in October 2021. Sponsored by the Office of the Provost, WVU Health Sciences, the Research Office, West Virginia Department of Education and private donors, the competitive hackathon-style event ultimately provided more than $400,000 in funding and planning grants for projects and programs designed to address challenges facing rural Appalachia.
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