A study in service

Alyssa Luczak

Biochemical engineering sophomore Alyssa Luczak has been volunteering at All God’s Children Daycare through The Community Partnership for her humanitarian engineering and science minor. Photo by Sam O’Keefe

Although they come from different places and backgrounds, the first students to minor in humanitarian engineering and science at S&T have at least one thing in common – a desire to change the world for the better.

Founded in fall 2014, the HES minor offers a multi-disciplinary approach to improving the well-being of the underserved in the community and throughout the world through volunteer work and service learning.

Before the semester, Curt Elmore, professor of geological engineering and leader of the program, put a call out to interested students, inviting them to a presentation about the new minor. “He said he could only pick five students,” says sophomore Alicia McCabe, one of the students chosen.

Fellow sophomores Danielle Sheahan, Brianna Works, Kataryna Kraemer and Alyssa Luczak joined McCabe as the first to pursue the minor.

Elmore says that the students were a good fit for the program based on their previous volunteer work and their desire to make a positive impact on the world.

The minor requires at least 60 hours of formal experiential service learning; 20 hours a semester for three semesters. Each student is partnered with a campus, local or regional organization, and fulfills her volunteer hours through them. Elmore says he tries to match students up with organizations that have projects they are interested in or have a passion for.

Luczak, a biochemical engineering student from Chicago, works with The Community Partnership. Through The Community Partnership, Luczak has been volunteering at All God’s Children Daycare on North Olive Street.

Danielle Sheahan, Alicia McCabe, Kataryna Kraemer, Alyssa Luczak and Brianna Works

Left to right: Danielle Sheahan, Alicia McCabe, Kataryna Kraemer, Alyssa Luczak and Brianna Works are the first S&T students to minor in humanitarian engineering and science. Photo by Sam O’Keefe

She says she has always enjoyed working with children, but a young boy at the daycare center, in particular, touched her heart. He was shy and had social anxiety, and grew up in foster care, she says. “I knew he really liked bugs and insects, so I brought him a small microscope and some toy insects one day, and showed him how to view them,” she says.

“He has really taken to it,” Luczak adds, fighting tears.

Kraemer, a geological engineering student, is helping organize Phelps County Bank’s 2015 Take a Stand Against Child Abuse event. During the event, which takes place every July, children and their parents sell lemonade from stands set up throughout the community to help raise funds to prevent child abuse in the area.

A native of Barnhart, Missouri, Kraemer mentored troubled students in high school. “Kids that had just gotten out of rehabilitation, mostly for drug addictions or problems with parents,” she says.

McCabe, an environmental engineering student from Creve Coeur, Missouri, is also working with Phelps County Bank. Knowing her interest in computers, PCB assigned her to a project repurposing old computers for households in need.

Sheahan, an environmental engineering student from St. Louis, is partnered with Missouri River Relief, a nonprofit that holds community cleanups of the river and its tributaries. And Works, a geological engineering student from Ozark, Missouri, is developing strategies for poverty alleviation for the Phelps County Faith Distribution, a local, volunteer-based organization that serves the area needy with groceries and other items.

The students say they’re grateful for their service experiences so far, and look forward to further helping the community through the HES minor.

“I’ve always wanted to help people,” says McCabe. “Through this minor, I can help people and get college credit for it.”

By Greg Katski