Federal Work Study Program allows students to engage GR community

Photo+courtesy+calvin.edu

Photo courtesy calvin.edu

Approximately 1600 Calvin students are eligible for a program that few know exist: the Federal Work Study program, which provides funds to colleges and universities to help students fund their education by receiving minimum wage pay.

Karen Hollebeek, student employment manager in the career center, works with students to partner them with local nonprofit organizations through the Work Study program.

The money Calvin receives from the government for Work Study can be used to pay eligible students to work on or off campus, but at least 7-percent of the funds must be allocated to support students doing community service work as tutors or at nonprofit organizations.

About 25 organizations currently partner with Calvin to hire students in the Work Study program, and Hollebeek says she is always looking for more partners. Students can work as administrative assistants, accountants, interns, reading tutors or publicity writers, among other positions.

According to Hollebeek, the Work Study program is beneficial for all those involved.

“Calvin students not only gain work experience but earn money for it. The agency gets students to help administer their program, and the community benefits, too. I call it a win-win-win.”

For Hollebeek, the best benefit of the program is the chance for students to be exposed to the world of nonprofits. This is a good fit for Calvin students, she says, because “Calvin’s mission is for students to be God’s hands and feet in God’s world.” In this way, students who work with nonprofits are engaging that world and being a “support to the community.”

She cites Degage Ministries, a Work Study partner with Calvin, as an organization where students can live out this goal in helping provide shelter and assistance to homeless and disadvantaged individuals in Grand Rapids.

Other organizations that partner with Calvin for the Work Study program include Habitat for Humanity, the Boys & Girls Club, Bethany Christian Services, World Renew, and Lutheran Social Services.

Students become eligible for the Work Study program by filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and qualifying for a certain level of government assistance. According to Hollebeek, about 1600 students at Calvin are eligible, but many don’t know it.

However, eligible students can expect emails from Hollebeek to arrive in their inbox, featuring a number of different available positions every week.

Officially, Calvin College employs Work Study students, who receive their payroll through the Calvin system. However, 75-percent of their wages comes from the government Work Study grant, and 25-percent is provided by the organization.

“It’s an awesome program,” said senior Jess Koranda, a Work-Study student who interns at Roosevelt Park Ministries,“because the organization doesn’t have to pay as much.”

She added, “I don’t know why you wouldn’t do it if you have the chance.”

Hollebeek stresses her passion for the program, saying that organizations are always looking for students to join in their work.

“Many organizations are looking for the passion and enthusiasm that college students have.”