How COVID-19 Has Affected the JPP Grant Awards Ceremony

Every year, BW’s Jacket Philanthropy Program funds a fantastic opportunity for students—the chance to write grants for a series of non-profits in hopes of winning real dollars for said organization. It’s a great way to not only learn a lot but to give back to the Cleveland community in a significant way.

Usually, the end of the semester means the Awards Ceremony will be taking place when all the students and organizations find out who won five thousand dollars for their non-profit. It is an evening of celebration that students look forward to all semester.

This year, COVID-19 put a dent in everyone’s plans.

The awards, which occurred on April 28th, took place over a virtual platform. While it certainly was not what everyone had hoped would happen, it still proved a success for the students involved.

Emily Hutlock, the Course Assistant for the English-based version of the class within the program, felt the ceremony still went well despite the challenges.

“Our new digital life is a blessing and a curse,” she said, “Though I missed seeing everyone’s reactions and cheers, it was still great to hold a virtual ceremony to celebrate the students and their hard work throughout the semester.”

Christy Walkuski, Director of the Brain Center for Community Engagement and one of the leaders of the Jacket Philanthropy Program, provided some insight into how this year’s proceedings are different from any other year.

“This semester, we obviously had to go about presenting the awards differently than usual,” said Walkuski, “We had all the students pre-record their presentations, which actually worked out really well. We all were able to go listen to them as many times as we wanted before the ceremony, and they were really thoughtful and exciting to watch.”

She went on to say that BW President Helmer was in attendance and gave a speech congratulating the students on their efforts. Around 160 people logged into Collaborate Ultra for the event, a number that Walkuski wasn’t expecting.

“There were so many people that logged on to the virtual ceremony, and I was really happy about it. The Course Assistants from both classes got to announce the grants and because we had a little more flexibility, the community partners got to speak as well,” said Walkuski.

The checks, Walkuski said, were virtual as well, and the money will be given to the organizations just like they would have been if the ceremony were in-person.

“I had the checks up on the screen with virtual confetti and balloons and things, I really wanted to make the ceremony fun still. I hardly talked about COVID-19 at all. While I had to acknowledge it, I think we all felt grateful we could still be there together, and that was what really mattered.”