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Student’s nonprofit work pays it forward

With support, junior begins to help Detroit area’s unemployed

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Posted: Friday, February 11, 2011 12:00 am | Updated: 11:18 am, Fri Apr 5, 2013.

College students can do a lot to help others. Charlie Cavell, a Wayne State junior majoring in social work, is attempting to do just that.

Cavell is one of many students who are working with Blackstone LaunchPad to get their ideas up and running.

Cavell had an idea to establish a program to aid with the growing unemployment in the Detroit area. His nonprofit program, Pay It Forward, focuses on connecting people who need help with those who can provide it.

This program is unique because there is no age limit and it does not deny paroled felons.

The program works with existing organizations such as the Salvation Army, Society of St. Vincent de Paul, Franklin-Wright and Job Corps to get these individuals internships. Jackets for Jobs aids with providing appropriate attire.

Cavell’s goal for the end of the internship is for the participants to have two letters of recommendation, a job opportunity or be seeking higher learning.

The program starts with a phone interview, then Cavell or other WSU volunteers from WSU School of Social Work’s masters and undergraduate programs have a face-to-face meeting.

Then a contract is signed, and the participant receives a bus pass to aid with transportation needs.

After the internship, an exit assessment is given to see if the person was aided by the services they received.

Cavell discovered there is a program similar to his in Pittsburgh. He said they conducted a pilot program in which seven out of the 10 participants finished their internships without pay or a bus pass.

The services for those seven individuals are complete, Cavell said.

“There always has to be a termination point,” he said. “The purpose is to get them off the ground and then aid others; we want to help as many persons as possible.”

Pay It Forward has been IRS certified since last Thanksgiving. With this certification, the program is eligible for federal investments including the Venture grant, which could give the program $3,500.

“It’s not about how long the money will last but how many it helps,” Cavell said in regards to the potential funds.

This will aid five interns; each intern earns $600 along with a bus pass that costs about $100.

“If the number was above $600, the participant would have to fill out a 601/1099 form,” Cavell said.

He said he has learned a lot about tax laws through this program.

Cavell said he hopes his program will last with the help of generous partners such as Blackstone LaunchPad.

“Because I am a WSU student, I get to talk to (William H. Volz, executive director of WSU’s Blackstone LaunchPad),” he said. “I don’t have to pay money or be a part of an organization.”

Volz said, “Getting the word out that the LaunchPad is for all students — in any major, with any ideas — will be an extremely difficult task.”

Student entrepreneurship has been found in WSU’s School of Social Work.

“The Blackstone LaunchPad is excited about the opportunities created by nonprofit ventures like Pay It Forward,” Volz said. “We enjoy supporting Wayne State students developing these programs every bit as much as those seeking to make a profit.

“The interns benefit, the employers benefit and the community benefits. Charlie Cavell’s Pay It Forward program is precisely the kind of initiative the Blackstone LaunchPad is here to support.”

Cavell sees Blackstone LaunchPad as an opportunity. He wants to learn what he can and perform whatever work is necessary.

This is what he sees as his purpose in life.

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