In the fall of 2019, the ASC Community Leader Scholars program will accept its 20th class into the program.
Rosemary Niedens, program director and associate vice president for Academic Affairs, said the origins of the ASC Community Scholarship go back to 1992 when five sisters were martyred in Liberia. The sacrifice of these Martyrs of Charity moved many people to contribute to a fund that was given to the university in honor of the sisters.
Niedens, who is an ASC associate, said that a process came about to find the most effective way to distribute these funds.
“Faculty, staff and sisters came together to discuss how it would be best to use that money in order to not only honor those sisters but also the efforts of all people of goodwill who wanted to serve throughout all of time,” she said.
It was through those discussions that the ASC Community Leader Scholars program came about, which was named as such both to honor the Martyrs of Charity and to show the consistencies with the sisters’ mission.
After running a successful pilot of the program in 2018, Niedens was hired in 1999 to help its growth. The first class of ASC scholars started the program in 1999 and graduated in 2003.
Every year since that first class, the program has accepted one or two classes every semester. Though class sizes can fluctuate, the program usually accepts approximately 20 scholars.
To apply for the scholarship, students must have a 3.0 GPA and a distinguished history of service. The application process is two-fold.
First, applicants must submit a resumé that includes the service they have done throughout their high school and grade school years.
Second, the applicant will have an interview with Niedens, an ASC sister or a staff member who has worked with the program and current ASC scholars about their record of service, their potential to keep serving and their overall fit.
If chosen for the scholarship, scholars will be required to maintain a 2.75 cumulative GPA, to complete 45 hours of service per semester and to participate in an ASC scholar-based semester-long course each academic year.
In a scholar’s first year, they will take Service and Volunteerism, a class focusing on the Martyrs of Charity and the beginning of a commitment to volunteerism.
Niedens said the goal of the first class is to continue moving students onward.
“If you think of service as a continuum, you might have someone that says ‘I think I might go pick up trash’ under the clear blue sky and on the other side you might have people going to the Peace Corps,” she said. “There is a continuum all across the board of how committed people are and how much work people do. We say that it doesn’t matter where people enter into this continuum. It is our job to move them down that road so service becomes a way of life.”
During the second year of the program, scholars take a class called Civic Responsibility, which moves them down the road through being faithful citizens regardless of their belief systems.
In the third year of the program, students take the Service for Life Stewardship class, which provides guidance on the roles that leaders play and how leaders most effectively use their skills.
During the fourth year of the program, scholars participate in Service for Life: Discipleship, which focuses on service being a calling that they can participate in the rest of their lives.
Also during the fourth year, students do a senior capstone project.
Niedens said the goal of the capstone is to be transformational.
“The element that connects all the projects is that when they are done, the world is a better place than it was when they started,” she said. “We’ve had students do fantastic things and little things with great love and everything in the middle.”
One of Niedens earliest scholars, who is now a doctor, was volunteering in a pediatric oncology unit when she realized that preschoolers didn’t have the language to express what they were going through.
“So, she recruited art students from Newman and they created coloring books that showed little kids having a CAT scan or getting IVs so that the kids could have some normalcy with the things that were happening to them. Then, she figured out a way to distribute them through the hospital,” Niedens said. “It may not have changed a big part of the world, but for those children, it made their world better.”
Other senior capstone projects have featured students creating an art exhibit to bring awareness to various diseases to assembling hundreds of blankets for kids who were taken from bad situations to playing piano for elderly residents.
For Niedens, these kinds of projects set the ASC scholars apart.
“I tell the students all the time — when I die, if I am so fortunate to get to meet St. Peter at the pearly gates and he says to me, ‘What do you have to show for your life?’ First, I’ll say my children and then right after that I’ll say the ASC scholars,” she said. “They are very special students and they do tremendous things with great love and make the world a better place all the time while they’re here and afterward.”