The Foundation established the Phillips Scholars Program at the Minnesota Private College Fund in 1994 to perpetuate the legacy of service to others reflected in the lives of Jay and Rose Phillips, and to support and encourage students who have the potential for community leadership and may be inclined to dedicate a portion of their personal and professional lives to improving our society. In 2014, we celebrate 20 years of the program and over 100 Phillips Scholars. Here is one Scholar’s story.
WRITTEN BY JICCARRA HOLLMAN, PHILLIPS SCHOLAR
To me, being a part of something larger than myself is fulfilling. I believe if you have the opportunity to give back, you should. I am fortunate to have been granted this scholarship which awarded me the space and financial support to conduct a community service project that I am passionate about. My decision to work with older adults was an easy one. I feel they are a gift to our society and they should be valued. From a young age I have helped others. At times this can be required of students. But I am that student that stays on and goes beyond what is expected. I have experimented with a range of service activities including working with people with special needs, helping inmates write resumes, and volunteering at food shelves. Older adults are a group that I feel has been underserved, which is why I created a project for them.
This summer I had such a wondrous experience between my Leadership Development Assessment Course in Seattle and implementing “Sparks,” my Phillips Scholars summer project or as my mom says, “Jiccarra’s gift to the world.” I gave my service project “Sharing and Bridging Cultures Across Generational Relationships” the nickname “Sparks” because that is just what we did. We ignited sparks with older adults by experiencing with them mind-stimulating, innovative, and fun activities. Through this community service project, it was my intention to build relationships and return a feeling of being in control of an element of their lives to residents. I wanted to treat them as equals and provide a positive outlet in their lives that was reliable and consistent with their interests.
Once awarded this scholarship, I made it my business to make Ebenezer Senior Centers, the sites at which I would spend my summer, my new home. My first objective going in was the creation of “Ignite Your Spark,” an informative commercial about my program and to highlight the talents of individuals the program served. It featured the site, residents that participated, and a fun trip to The Science Museum of Minnesota. I continue to show the video today because not only am I very proud of the video itself but because it is a reminder of my service as a Phillips Scholar.
This program was for the residents and by the residents. Yes, they had a lot of say. Within that vision, the objectives of the sites we served, and the residents themselves, we were able to tailor the activities. The events were then something the residents looked forward to being a part of. To this day I keep in contact with my site supervisor at Ebenezer. We are discussing ways in which my family and the family of “Sparks” can stay active and facilitate more great times together.
For cultural experiences we had Hmong representatives conduct a performance. We brought a live concert to the nursing home, with the powerful voice of one brave high school student and dance moves that brought the house down. This escapade received a standing ovation both times it was performed.
We also had DJ Mickey Breeze, a multi-talented, 12 year old African American DJ with the skills of a pro. In addition, we were graced with the poetry and great music of some Ethiopian community members as well as our Caucasian friends. We also brought two talent shows to the nursing homes that integrated all cultures and backgrounds of the residents with whom we interacted.
Our shared meals progressed into something amazing. It started off with my mom’s chili and cornbread, which also received a standing ovation, and continued on to residents preparing and sharing their traditional recipes. For each site we compiled a book of shared experiences from our time together. This book includes photos, recipes, poems, and many more “Sparks” we ignited together.
One thing that came as a surprise while completing this project was the amount of support I received from my own family. I never imagined sharing this project with my mom nor did I ever ask her interest. But she became a key player. She, along with my sister, was very valuable in making this project a success. There was not a day they missed. My sister, age seven, thought this was her job and she loved her work. My mom seemed at times more enthused than I. As we were leaving a site, I was trying to settle my mind, while hers was just running. She was thinking about the next meal and she wanted to help plan the activities. I loved every bit of it and the residents loved every bit of my little sister. They raced to hug her first. Many residents prepared a place for her near them. I had to continuously discourage any of them from giving her gifts. They spoiled and showered her with affection and she them.
This project redefined my life. This experience has brought my resume that much closer to perfection. It became a learning tool for my sister, a seven year old girl, who now knows the importance of service and giving back. For the residents, relationships were made and community fostered. The volunteers received valuable skills and knowledge. I and the individuals that served will always have that connection.
Although maintaining a double life between being an Army Officer in training and a project manager as a Phillips Scholar was a challenge, I would not trade or have passed up either experience for anything. I am very grateful to The Jay and Rose Phillips Family Foundation of Minnesota for affording me this opportunity. I commend the Minnesota Private College Fund and their staff. They were very flexible with my military obligations and never made me feel guilty. Now I have been selected as this year’s Phillips Fellow. I find this position to be an honor and a blessing. I am grateful to be able to remain active within the organization and to serve as a mentor for our current scholars. I love what I do and every day I feel inspired.
Jiccarra Hollman will graduate in December 2014 from St. Catherine University with a B.A. in Psychology and Communication Studies. In addition, she will be commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Army. Her mom has been very supportive and instilled in her from a very young age to never settle for good enough. She was taught to be independent, determined and to always go after all that life has to offer. As a result, she has had many outstanding experiences, believing you should try just about anything at least once. She believes that regardless of whether an opportunity was a success or failure there is some learning that can come of it. Jiccarra was a 2012-2014 Phillips Scholar.