From Handcycles to Mentoring

Tuesday, May. 27, 2014 11:08 am

Scott Porter ’80 and Laura Ruth Johnson ’92 are the winners of this year’s Joseph F. Wall ’41 Sesquicentennial Service Awards, which honor Grinnell’s commitment to social responsibility and public service.

Scott Porter, Adaptive Sports Clinics and Equipment-Lending

Scott Porter ’80Porter, who lives in Orlando, Fla., will use his award to expand adaptive sports clinics and an equipment-lending program there. He has been running both programs for two years, the former through Achilles Central Florida and the latter through the Greater Orlando Spinal Cord Injury Network.

“I understand the real-world experiences that can generate the feeling that the outside world is inaccessible,” Porter says. As a wheelchair athlete who has competed in 16 marathons, he understands that adaptive sports can improve quality of life for people with disabilities. The five handcycles that Porter plans to purchase will be used for both the adaptive sports clinics and the equipment-lending program. Without these programs, potential riders would have nowhere to go and try the equipment.

Laura Ruth Johnson, Intergenerational Mentoring of Young Mothers

Laura Ruth Johnson ’92Johnson’s proposed project, Proyecto Atabey, will mentor and support young Latina and African-American mothers through an intergenerational mentoring program in Chicago. The program will be based at an alternative high school that serves the largely Puerto Rican community of Humboldt Park.

Adolescent parents who are enrolled in this school and attend the Family Learning Center, a specialized initiative for parents, will be targeted for the mentorship program. The project will recruit graduates from the program, and other mothers in the community who were teen parents, to provide presentations to current learning center participants. In addition to these regular sessions, some current students will be paired with a mentor who can provide them with more individualized support.

The Wall Service Awards

The Wall Service Awards were established during the College’s 1996 sesquicentennial celebration to honor Grinnell’s commitment to social responsibility and public service. They are named in honor of the Wall, who was a professor of history at Grinnell who inspired an ideal of social responsibility in his Grinnell students. The College typically gives awards of $25,000 each to two graduates to carry out a service project that is of tangible benefit to others. Projects may be original or supplement existing projects or programs; they may be local, regional, national or international in scope; and may be carried out domestically or internationally.