Last year, NIU students brightened the holidays for a group of adolescents who often goes forgotten during the season of giving.
The students, who were enrolled in group-communication classes taught by Department of Communication professor David Henningsen, collected about 400 gifts for teens in the foster care system as part of an engaged-learning project.
Students in the class this year nearly doubled that amount, acquiring 760 gifts for Lutheran Child and Family Services (LCFS) of Illinois to distribute to young people ages 12 to 17.
“The credit for doubling the amount goes solely to the students,” Henningsen says. “Working as a team, they develop a business plan that some of them choose to enact. This year, they just really developed some impressive plans.”
Henningsen created the assignment as a way for his students to study their own group communication.
Their plans must detail ways for LCFS to address a problem it faces in its annual efforts to collect gifts for children in the Illinois foster care system: Generous souls are more likely to give gifts for younger children than for teenagers in the system.
“Everyone wants to donate gifts aimed at younger kids,” Henningsen says, “but the foster system runs through age 17.”
“We have a pretty big selection of gifts,” he says. “We have a number of books and games. Lots of ear buds. Somebody donated a thesaurus. That struck me as unique.”