Students live together, collaborate to solve community issues

Owensboro sophomore Michael Shelton reads inside the $100 Solution House, where he lives. The purpose of the house is to find solutions that cost $100 or less and would make the world a better place. Shelton and his other team members and roommates plan fundraisers each semester and work on their solutions together. Abbey Tanner/HERALD

WKU Herald Staff

Nestled on Chestnut St. is a home where WKU students collaborate to find a solution to one question — “With this $100 bill, what can I do to enhance quality of life for others?”  

WKU’s $100 Solution™ House is home to five undergraduates and one graduate assistant who work with partners on and off campus to solve a community-determined need. This is all set to be done without exceeding a $100 budget. 

“The point of it is to provide undergraduate students a unique opportunity to live, learn and serve in an interdisciplinary, diverse environment while providing a means to positively impact their community,” Lauren Cunningham, community engagement coordinator for the WKU ALIVE Center for Community Partnerships, said via email.

The $100 Solution™ is a nationally recognized service-learning program that encourages global citizenship through civic and community engagement. At WKU, the program works in partnership with the WKU ALIVE Center, the Department of Housing and Residence Life and the $100 Solution™ National Board of Directors. 

In 2005, Bernard Strenecky, a scholar-in-residence at WKU, introduced the university to the program and it has since been responsible for dozens of service projects. 

“Service-Learning is engaging students in activities that meet human and community needs defined by the community together with structured reflection intentionally designed to meet student learning outcomes,” Strenecky said on the WKU program’s website.

Previous projects include teaching English to Hispanic parents preparing to take the GED, helping refugee families who have recently arrived in the U.S. and building a shelving unit for a local children’s home.

Brian Kuster, director of Housing and Residence Life, is responsible for the permanent home at WKU because of his commitment of service-learning and engagement of students, according to Cunningham.

The program is aimed towards teaching students how to handle issues with or without money. They teach that many social problems can be solved with only a small amount or no money.

“Our students are empowering local organizations and individuals to do the work they do so well,” Cunningham explained via email. “Service-learning isn’t about sharing. It’s about relationship building, working with others, and with a mindset that everyone in our community has value.”

Currently, there are just under 100 students working on projects for the $100 Solution™ at WKU. The ALIVE Center accepts project proposals each fall and spring that can solve an issue for $100 or less. 

Students do not receive a prize for the completion of projects, but the ALIVE Center hosts an “IMPACT EXPO” at the end of each semester to showcase the service-learning projects completed at WKU.

To get involved in the program, a student can contact Coordinator for Apartments and LLCs Minnette Ellis at Housing & Residence Life in Southwest Hall.