Today@Sam Article

Grad Student Gets 'Scrappy' With Service Project

Feb. 19, 2016
SHSU Media Contact: Chelsea Keller

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Family and consumer sciences graduate assistant Paige Loft assists students in the Bearkat Scrappy Quilts project. Loft created the project for the FACS "Intro to Soft Textiles Construction" class to benefit the Huntsville Head Start. —Photos by Brian Blalock and Brynn Castro 

Even something as simple as a handmade quilt could impact someone’s day, and with guidance from a graduate assistant, students used their Sam Houston State University Family and Consumer Sciences 1330 class, “Intro to Soft Textiles Construction,” to do just that.

Paige Loft, who co-teaches the class with associate professor Janis White, has a passion for community service, and through her work with the Huntsville Junior Service League, she had become familiar with the needs of Head Start, a local preschool.

“Head Start is a preschool that provides care and education for children from low-income families,” Loft said. “The Junior Service League works a lot with Head Start and I really admire the service coordinator, Maria Dooley. 

“When I heard about the academic community engagement courses here at SHSU, I immediately thought of Head Start,” she said. “I met with Ms. Dooley and noticed that some of the kids were napping on beach towels, blankets that were too large for their cubby or nothing at all, so we knew we could help.”

When Loft first started as a graduate assistant in the family and consumer sciences department, she had re-organized the lab she was working in by cleaning out closets and creating new bulletin boards for her students.

“When I was going through the closet I found a bunch of fabric from different eras,” Loft said. “I knew we had most of what we needed right there to start an ACE project with the students that would help the children at Head Start.

“They would use the basic sewing skills they learn in the class and make a ‘scrappy’ quilt from all the leftover fabric in the lab. Then, as a class we would donate them to Head Start.”

Loft proposed the “Bearkat Scrappy Quilt” project to Dooley, who was more than thrilled. 

“I thought the scrappy quilts were a great idea. I knew that there was a need for quilts here with the children and I appreciate that Paige would have thought about us for this,” Dooley said. 

With support from Dooley and the university, Loft set her students in motion, and when the project was complete last year, 63 quilts were sent to Head Start.

Because of the success of the first year of the “Bearkat Scrappy Quilt” project, Loft was awarded the Reba Bock Fellows Experience this year. The fellowship is awarded to two SHSU students who embody the university’s motto, “The measure of a Life is its Service,” by demonstrating a passion for community engagement and leadership.

With such positive feedback from both the university and Head Start, Loft is teaching the class again this semester and having her kids participate in the project once again, but with a few minor changes.

Students were given the choice of using the donated fabric or purchasing their own, ensuring that each quilt would be unique and show a little of the students’ personality, and 48 of the 58 who made quilts chose to contribute. 

“These students really take our SHSU motto to heart, and are very invested in our project,” said Loft.

Zavieone Pirtle, a senior fashion merchandising major, learned more from the scrappy quilt project than just sewing and pattern techniques. 

“I think the project was really eye-opening. I think it’s a good cause, if we were to keep the quilts, what use would they get?” Pirtle said. “This project showed me that sometimes you wouldn’t think something like this would help other people. Sometimes it’s the little things that make a difference.” 

The quilts are important for more than comfort; according to Loft, research has linked a good nap with the ability to produce better cognitive skills for preschool aged children.  

“There is research out there that shows when students get a good nap and feel safe and secure, they perform better in school, which is one of the things we hope these blankets will do for them,” Loft said.

Another requirement of the fellowship is to give presentations around the Huntsville community. Loft will discuss the “Bearkat Scrappy Quilt” project at the American Association of Family and Consumer Sciences Texas Affiliated conference. She also has presented the project to the Huntsville Junior Service League and the Tall Pines Quilt Guild. 

“I’m hoping that I can let different groups in the community know about this project. Most of our fabric is donated, and I want this project to continue even after I graduate,” Loft said. “With the help of donations, I think this is a project that could benefit the children of this community for years to come.”

For more information on the project or for donation information, contact Loft at pla001@shsu.edu.

 

 

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