William Smith Seniors Kate Ustach and Jane Erickson have teamed up with Muta Maathai '96 to form a Hobart and William Smith Colleges chapter of the international non-profit agency Summit Educational Outreach that will assist under-funded schools in Kenya.
Ustach (right), who has been conducting presentations on campus this month to announce the effort, said they aim to raise $1,000 by the end of the semester, a donation that will be matched by James Truitt, co-founder of the national organization.
An advocate of children's literacy, the individual studies major says these funds can make an important difference in the education of Kenyan children. “Beyond crayons and coloring books, we hope to significantly upgrade facilities and capabilities in a selected primary school,” said Ustach, who wants the $2,000 gift to fund a small capital project such as repairing a school roof. “We want to create a better environment in which the children can learn.”
The SEO chapter is being formed with the backing of the Laurel Society, the honor society for William Smith sophomores and juniors, of which both Ustach and Erickson are members, as well as the Public Service Office, where they have been heavily involved since their first year at HWS. With this backing, Ustach trusts the efforts of the project will continue after she graduates. “I hope I can leave the campus and the world a little better than when I came,” Ustach said.
As this is SEO's first outreach to Kenya, Erickson contacted Maathai, a staff member of the Green Belt Movement in Nairobi, Kenya, to assist with targeting a school, facilitating the implementation and confirming that the money reaches the school. The HWS chapter intends to raise funds each semester.
Working with the internationally renowned Green Belt Movement, founded by Nobel Peace Prize winner Wangari Maathai Sc.D.'94 (Muta's mother), SEO will ensure that donations are wisely spent to make a real difference in the lives of Kenyan students.
Ave Bauder '81, director of public service at the Colleges, said this effort is a wonderful example of the emphasis that Hobart and William Smith Colleges place on service and international education. “They are two gifted women leaders who have given much to the community, not only on campus but in Geneva and now, globally. I am confident that they will be graduates who will make a difference in the world and am proud that the Public Service Office has been a part of their development while here at William Smith,” Bauder said.
SEO is an all volunteer non-profit organization dedicated to advancing education locally and internationally. The agency guarantees that at least 90 percent of contributions will go directly to outreach programs.
Those interested in details on the HWS effort should e-mail Ustach at firstname.lastname@example.org.
More information on the national chapter can be found at Summit Educational Outreach.