In April 2000 AU senior Kimberly Williams initiated a campus-wide project to build a playground at 6th and Mississippi Avenues in Southeast, DC. Williams recognized the way AU students were drawn towards service and community engagement, and she wanted to organize a project that would bring students and community members together to build something significant.
A group of AU students came together and formed Project Playground 2000 (or PP2K for short). Over the course of eight months students worked diligently to design the playground, mobilize the AU community, set up a website, develop relationships in the local community, establish a tutoring program in the surrounding schools, obtain food donations and supplies, find ways for the children to be involved, solicit support from businesses and organizations, apply for grants, coordinate fundraisers, set up musical entertainment, share with the media, create promotional material, enlist volunteers, and of course get ready for the build day. The playground project enabled students to utilize the tools they were learning in the classroom and apply them to their world in a very real and practical way.
On April 15, 2000, National Youth Service Day, 400 volunteers from American University and the local community came together to build the playground. While the playground was being built there was a Children’s Carnival for all the young people in the neighborhood. By 4:00 that afternoon the structure was up and the ribbon for the playground was ready to be cut.
From all of their efforts PP2K raised about $45,000 in In-Kind donations and over $50,000 in cash. After everything was paid for there was $12,500 in cash left over from the project.
Williams graduated in December 2000. During her commencement speech in January 2001 she donated the money left over from the Playground Project to the University. She asked that it be used to start an endowment from which other AU students could receive seed money for service initiatives that they wanted to take on.
Other students took up the cause to raise the Endowment to $50,000. One student in particular, Rick Evanchec, started the momentum for this fundraising challenge. Multiple forms of fundraising took place, including the Founders Day Ball in 2002, a fundraiser at the President's house, and large donations from graduating classes. Over $58,000 was raised by the spring of 2002 and the first grants were awarded during the 2002-2003 school year.
Ten years later, in May 2012, the Endowment has a total of $104,337. The interest generated from the Endowment provides the money for the student service grants, which are granted three times a year. The original vision to build something significant started with a playground, but through the Eagle Endowment has become a way for AU students to continue to educate, serve, and engage with the world they live in.
WHAT IS THE EAGLE ENDOWMENT?
The endowment supports American University's central commitment to public and community service by providing grants to students/organizations annually to turn their visions into action for the public good.
While many student groups formulate thoughtfully developed ideas for public and community service, few actually have the funds to put them into action. The Eagle Endowment for Public and Community Service will address this challenge and empower students by providing annual grants of $100 - $1,000 to groups that propose such initiatives. These one-time awards are intended to support groups in their earliest planning and implementation phases, providing them with seed funds to launch visions for service. Read more about our past grant recipients!