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Center for Ignatian Service Receives $1.3 Million Grant to Expand Service Learning at Saint Louis University

by Maggie Rotermund
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Maggie Rotermund
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ST. LOUIS – Saint Louis University’s Center for Ignatian Service has received a one-year $1.3 million grant from the Thomas R. Schilli Foundation to build upon the work the Center has done in its inaugural year. The Center was established in 2022 by a $612,495 pilot grant from the Schilli Foundation.  

Clavious Jamboree

The Center for Ignatian Service hosted the 2023 Clavius Jamboree at St. Louis University High. More than 500 middle-school students completed robotics challenges during four hours of competition among teams from over forty schools. Photo by Madisen Neal.

Housed in SLU’s College of Philosophy and Letters, the Center directs a service-learning program designed to provide a networked educational pathway for students enrolled in grades 1-8 at under-resourced schools in St. Louis and to offer SLU students community engagement options that will fulfill requirements in SLU’s core curriculum. The Center’s vision is to enable these diverse student populations to work together as part of their educational journeys. 

The new grant enables the Center to increase the number of SLU students in the program and to expand by including St. Louis area high school students. The growing program answers the call to be a good neighbor in SLU’s community, and to help students discern what it means to serve and to lead in ways that foster a lifelong commitment to serving others.

“We are thrilled to receive this grant which will enhance SLU’s already strong service culture,” said Randall Rosenberg, Ph.D., Dean of SLU’s College of Philosophy and Letters and the administrator of the TRSF grant. “My hope is that colleges and schools across the University see the Center as a hub for finding creative and coordinated ways to help them and their partners use service learning to deepen the educational impact on their students as well as their impact within the St. Louis community.” 

The Center manages all the logistics for running the pathway including scheduling, student-background clearances, service-learning onboarding and related training, recording service attendance, and transportation to/from service sites.

“We hope that this grant will allow more SLU students to form relationships with students in the city and learn the practice of discernment while experiencing the realities that they see and share,” said Sr. Jessica Kerber, aci, academic coordinator in the Center for Ignatian Service.

Currently the Center runs two service-learning, after school programs - Kick & Code and The Clavius Project.

Kick & Code is for elementary students. It exercises students’ minds and bodies through play. With hands-on, age-appropriate activities, students learn computer science and design engineering concepts while developing their reading, math, social-emotional, health and athletic skills. 

The Clavius Project is for middle-school students. It offers fun, hands-on, and challenging STEM activities in robotics, coding, and 3D printing that also engage students’ reading, math and team building skills.

“I’m overjoyed to provide even more impactful learning experiences for the elementary and middle school students we serve,” said Eric Moody, service coordinator in the Center. “I’m eager to see the positive impact our programming will have in their lives by igniting their passion for learning.”

This Schilli grant enables the Center to integrate both programs into a 1-8 grade networked educational pathway. The Center is also working to expand its programming via strategic partnerships within SLU and externally with community partners.

By the end of the current grant window, Center leadership hopes to have built a solid infrastructure for scaling a coordinated network of STEM and health programming throughout the St. Louis region. 

“We are excited to receive a second grant from the Thomas R. Schilli Foundation. The ‘Infrastructure Buildout Grant’ supports our work to build a mission focused service-learning program that provides innovative, inclusive, and sustainable solutions that help end cycles of poverty in our St. Louis communities,” said Jay Hammond, Ph.D., Director of the Center for Ignatian Service. “Supplying the infrastructure enables our students and partners to focus on their shared work, instead of logistical problems.” 

The Center’s service-learning program is informally known as iServ@SLU. For more information about the Center and its service-learning courses and community engagement programming, visit the Center for Ignatian Service.

Center for Ignatian Service 

Guided by the Jesuit Universal Apostolic Preferences, the Center for Ignatian Service strives to help end the cycle of poverty in St. Louis by managing a networked educational pathway where Ignatian Service students accompany students at under-resourced schools with engaging educational projects throughout the year. Collectively, the Center enables diverse student populations to help transform their city as the city transforms their education as they work together toward the integral human development for all.

Thomas R. Schilli Foundation

The Thomas R. Schilli Foundation was founded in 2021 to support local Jesuit schools and their partners in providing collaborative, integrated, and coordinated educational opportunities for disadvantaged children in the St. Louis region.

Saint Louis University

Founded in 1818, Saint Louis University is one of the nation’s oldest and most prestigious Catholic institutions. Rooted in Jesuit values and its pioneering history as the first university west of the Mississippi River, SLU offers more than 15,200 students a rigorous, transformative education of the whole person. At the core of the University’s diverse community of scholars is SLU’s service-focused mission, which challenges and prepares students to make the world a better, more just place.