Being connected to the Fox Cities community while also earning the all-important paycheck is a win-win for Johanna Kopecky ’21.

The junior from Appleton and a part-time employee of the History Museum at the Castle is one of 13 Lawrence University students working for area nonprofits through a Federal Work Study program directed by the school’s Financial Aid office.

The program aims to increase student involvement with the community by allowing students who qualify for Federal Work Study in their financial aid packages to apply for a job with participating local nonprofit organizations. Students who hold positions at nonprofits through the program are provided with essential work experience in an intimate community setting while the nonprofits receive financial assistance in paying the students’ wages.

Kopecky began her job at the History Museum through the program at the start of her freshman year. Working at the front desk, she handles admissions, gift shop sales and various other projects as needed. She believes this job opportunity has strengthened her already firm ties with her community.

“Working in the museum has really connected me with the local businesses on College Avenue because sometimes we all interact,” she says. “I’ve gotten to know the people who run these things. It definitely has a strong sense of community and I feel very involved in the downtown Appleton enterprise.”

Financial aid at Lawrence

Since applying through the program two years ago, Kopecky recognizes its positive influence on the community. She also appreciates what is perhaps the most rewarding aspect of the program — the ability for students to make a difference outside of the Lawrence campus. 

“The benefit I see comes in the small businesses downtown — that they get more work, but we get the opportunity to have some income and become involved with the community,” she says. “It just seems ideal that everything we do isn’t always on the Lawrence campus, that we can work with the community rather than just with ourselves.”

The program stems from a mandate in the 1992 Higher Education Act, which states that 5 percent of a university’s work study funds must be allocated to community service. Lawrence’s subsequent work study program went into effect in the 1993-94 academic year. Today, there are 13 students aiding 12 different participating nonprofits.

“The purpose is to get students working but also help the community at large,” says Lawrence financial aid counselor Dan Erickson, pointing out how the program fosters mutually beneficial relationships. “On our end, it helps us build better relationships with different organizations around the area.”

From a community perspective, participating Fox Cities nonprofits gain hardworking employees who contribute to their efforts and aid the local economy.

“Through the program, we have a committed employee who can walk across the street to work,” says Sheila Ploekelman, business manager at the History Museum at the Castle. “As a nonprofit, we also benefit from the partnership, allowing us to offer a more competitive wage by receiving reimbursement for part of the student’s wages.”