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USF students gather donations for Afghanistan students

In an effort to raise donations for students in Afghanistan, one USF class of 12 students has created a project this semester to reach individual goals by helping overseas.

The class, Social Media, Social Change: One Pencil Can Help Bring Peace, taught by Liisa Temple, began this semester. Temple said the goal for each student is to get enough supplies to fill 10 large boxes and raise enough money to ship them overseas. In total, students hope to fill 120 boxes and raise about $1,500.

So far, the class has filled 43 boxes with supplies like pens and raised about $90 in monetary donations, which is enough to ship about seven boxes.

Temple is the wife of Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Rex Temple, who started his own philanthropy efforts through his award-winning military blog, Afghanistan – My Last Tour, which he wrote while stationed in the country from May 2009 to April 2010.

The purpose of his blog was to stay connected to family and friends, but it sparked the campaign after he wrote about a little boy who asked for a pen instead of candy because he did not have one to use at school.

This service-learning class uses social media sites and blogs, such as its Facebook page called “Afghanistan My Last Tour,” to help spread awareness of the education problems in Afghanistan and to collect school supply donations.

Zoe Stiling, a junior majoring in English professional and technical writing, said she was excited to take this class because students learn through service.

“There is no other class that I know of that combines service into learning, and I do not regret taking it,” Stiling said. “It doesn’t feel like a class (but) more like a hobby now.”

Dean of the Honors College Stuart Silverman said the class is designed to help students think critically about different cultural issues and to enhance problem-solving skills.

“I am so excited about students having this opportunity to problem solve to benefit poor kids. To me, this is absolutely ideal,” he said. “They will develop skills – marketing, business plans and learn to sell concepts – (and) all at the same time help kids who need help, want to learn and need to learn, (but) who don’t have supplies.”

Liisa said she wanted to introduce students to the humanitarian side of the military.

“This class is an opportunity for students and their extended social media networks to get a different view of military service and allows anybody who wants to support the troops in a hands-on way,” she said.

Liisa said the 12 students in the class have either dropped off boxes or reached out to their former high schools, churches, student organizations, the USF Greek Village and different dorms on campus for supplies.

The class is trying to make USF students more aware and involved in their cause and have set up a drop box for supplies in the Honors College Lounge, located in the Student Services building. The class will also have a booth at Bulls Market on March 30 to collect school supplies such as folders, spiral notebooks and markers. Table visitors can donate money to help support the shipping fund in exchange for a slice of pizza.

Stiling said the class meets Monday mornings for about two hours to provide updates on the project’s progress. However, students do most of the work for the course outside of the classroom.

They have also discussed keeping their efforts going even after the semester ends with some of them planning to continue their blogs and keep donation boxes at certain locations. Recently, the class decided to start a student organization to continue its efforts and reach out to more of the USF community to get its support.

Mohammad Ali Ismail, a sophomore majoring in biochemistry, said he would support starting a student organization to continue their efforts.

“I want people to like and accept the project as much as we have,” he said. “It is very beneficial. We want them to help and get involved as well.”