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STANFORD GETS HEAD START ON PUBLIC SERVICE
STANFORD -- During most of her time at Stanford University, senior Heidi Gilman earned federally subsidized work- study aid in the usual ways: filing forms in campus offices, doing paperwork in the library.
This year, however, she heard that she could earn the same money for something she considers far more rewarding - teaching adults how to read at a local public library - and she jumped at the opportunity.
"I had gone through training to be a reading tutor a year ago, but I couldn't volunteer because I have to work 10 or 12 hours a week to help pay my tuition," said Gilman, a linguistics major.
Now, she's running the computer lab for Project Read in Menlo Park, Calif., two afternoons a week, writing an honors thesis on reading instruction methods and getting paid as well.
"This program is just a blessing; it's amazing," said the Columbus, Ohio, native. "It's given me opportunity to do what I've always wanted to do, and was interested in academically, without having to worry so much about finances."
Gilman is one of the first students in the country to benefit from a new provision in the 1992 Higher Education Act requiring all U.S. colleges receiving federal work-study funds to set aside 5 percent for community service jobs.
Although the law does not officially take effect until the fall of 1994, Stanford - a national leader in college public service efforts - decided to try the program out a year early.
"We were worried that it was going to be much more complicated to administer than the regular work-study program, but so far it has worked out fine," said Mary Morrison, assistant director of Stanford's Financial Aids Office.
She credits Stanford's Haas Center for Public Service - the campus clearinghouse for community service opportunities - with playing a key role in its success.
"The Haas Center already had the contacts in the community, and we were able to match students up with jobs fairly quickly," she said. "Other college financial aid offices probably will have to go out and hire someone to handle this."
So far this year, about 60 Stanford students have signed up for service positions paying about $7.40 an hour. The government pays 75 percent of their salaries, Stanford pays 15 percent and the community service agencies pay just 10 percent.
Several of the students are receiving work-study funding for their work with Barrio Assistance, a campus-based Saturday- morning tutoring program for East Palo Alto young people.
Others work in county agencies for the homeless, at the Palo Alto office of the American Red Cross, at the California School for the Blind in Fremont, Calif., and at the Boys and Girls Club of the San Francisco Peninsula.
"This is a wonderful opportunity for local service organizations - I must have had notices for 70 job openings on my desk," said Sue Gray of the Haas Center, who helps to match aid- eligible students with jobs.
Stanford students appear to be equally enthusiastic about the opportunity to trade service for pay.
"Instead of raking leaves or working in other make-work positions, scholars enrolled in the new program will be able to help themselves and others," said a recent editorial in the Stanford Daily student newspaper.
"While a student may be able to pay his or her bills working at Tresidder [Stanford's student union], he or she is unlikely to earn the personal satisfaction or make the real and lasting differences in others' lives that come with public service opportunities."
The main difficulty with the new program so far has been transportation: Most of the public service jobs are off campus, and many work-study students cannot afford to keep cars.
Still, with a growing number of Stanford students requesting financial aid (about two-thirds currently receive some type of assistance), the government's new work-study opportunities come as a welcome change of pace on the government aid scene.
"This program really helps us address the financial disincentives to community service," said Gray of the Haas Center. "It's important that we find ways to make public service opportunities available for all our students, not just those who can afford it."
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