As the academic year finishes up, student organizations have come and gone. However, a few new groups have become increasingly prominent in the last couple years. At the Student Leadership Awards on Wednesday, April 16, these organizations and their student leaders were recognized for their contributions to the St. Olaf community.
One such up-and-coming organization is the Meditation Club, which won the Emerging Organization of the Year award. The club began last year and now has a room of its own in the Boe Chapel Undercroft.
This year, Meditation Club added around 100 new members. Between ten and 20 members attended their daily meditation sessions during chapel time. This attendance reflected a significant increase over last year’s participation.
At the end of last year, before they knew about the Boe Chapel renovation, club leaders Brian Plante ’14 and Andrew Wilder ’15 collected signatures on a petition to establish a meditation space in one of the Boe Chapel classrooms.
Soon, College Pastor Matt Marohl heard about the petition and expressed interest in the idea, intending to add it to the remodeled space. Club members were excited to hear that their dream room would become a reality.
“Upon completion, we helped Pastor Matt order the meditation cushions and design the space,” Plante said. “We’ve seen new members every day since we moved from the [Larson Hall] Burrow to the new Prayer and Meditation Room.”
The new room, located in Boe Chapel 010, is outfitted with pouffes and pillows, lamps and even a bathroom, making it perfect for the club’s daily meditation and also for individual prayer and reflection.
Meditation club is looking forward to getting its name out through the Emerging Organization of the Year award. Plante sees the club as a resource for stress relief, spiritual development, learning and making new friends.
“As college students we all need this, and so we want the club to be accessible to anyone who needs it, whether it’s to calm down, get to know oneself better or to heal from deep wounds,” Plante said. “[We want students] to know that we are a community sharing a journey together.”
For many people involved, meditation is more than just a student organization; it is also a way of life. Both Plante and Wilder have learned from meditation, from religious development to healing depression and anxiety, and they wanted to share that with the St. Olaf Community.
“Personally, I love meditation because it slows me down and allows me to develop an open, honest relationship with my mind and my emotions,” Plante said. “Really I find that relaxing with ourselves in this way opens up the possibility for profound surrender and developing a loving acceptance of ourselves just as we are.”
Another up-and-coming club to watch is Oles Combating Poverty. The group started at the end of last year and will be receiving the funds from this semester’s Caf Fast. Oles Combating Poverty is a club dedicated to focusing on solutions to poverty, in addition to raising awareness about the issue.
“Although there are multiple campus organizations promoting social activism, up until now there has been no organization focused entirely on fighting poverty while raising awareness of the issues which accompany it,” said Mudassar Sandozi ’15, a leader of the group. “Oles Combating Poverty aspires to fill that void. In fact, we are the only campus organization that has the word ‘poverty’ in its name and mission.”
The club sends money to impoverished countries through microfinance loans. Microfinance delivers financial services in the form of credit, banking or insurance directly to individuals. These individuals often lack the finances needed to get their business ventures off the ground or to expand their current sources of income.
Oles Combating Poverty currently uses organizations such as Kiva, a San Francisco-based organization, to distribute the money. Kiva gives donated funds to local organizations based in poverty-stricken areas of the world. These organizations actually distribute the loans.
All of the funds Oles Combatting Poverty receives from the Caf Fast will go to providing loans. Jack Frederickson ’15, another club leader, is excited for the funding from the Caf Fast because of the potential it provides for growth.
“One of the reasons we are so excited about this model is that 99.7 percent of the money given in microloans is paid back, enabling us to build a sustainable fund which will continue to grow and be distributed over time,” Frederickson said. “Therefore, the money we raise from Caf Fast will not be loaned out once or twice but will continue to be loaned out indefinitely, continuing to help individuals long after this year.”
The leaders are excited to continue to raise money, raise awareness about poverty and the resources available to fight it and expand membership at St. Olaf and in the Northfield community.
Amnesty International was also recognized at the Student Leadership Awards as the Student Organization of the Year. They are currently hosting Human Rights Week with events ranging from letter writing to a speaker from the Hope Center talking about human trafficking in Rice County.