Lipscomb University’s Starts With Soap chapter is on a mission to improve educational opportunities for local Nashville schools. On Thursday, March 30, from 8-10 p.m. the chapter will hold the first annual Starts with Soap Charity Concert. The concert will feature Lipscomb students Briston Maroney, Daves Highway, Nordista Freeze and Grant Parker. The concert will be held in Flatt Amphitheater and tickets can be purchased for $5 at the door.
Starts With Soap, a nonprofit focused on meeting the basic public health needs of students in underprivileged schools, has chapters at colleges across the nation, including Lipscomb University. Caleb Reagor, a junior molecular biology and applied mathematics major in Lipscomb’s Honors College is the president and founder of the Lipscomb chapter.
“One of our chapter goals is to improve technological literacy among the students at our partner school, Whitsitt Elementary in the Woodbine Community,” said Reagor. “The modern workplace requires employees to be proficient in a number of different technological skills. Moreover, the classroom can be greatly enhanced by the integration of technology into lesson plans and assignments.”
Whitsitt Elementary is majority Hispanic, and about 95 percent of the students are eligible for free and reduced lunch, said Reagor. Although it is not as disadvantaged as some SWS sponsored schools, its classrooms are in great need of improvement.
The chapter has decided to raise money to purchase a smart board for the students at Whitsitt. Their current fundraising project, Starts With a Smartboard is their main focus for 2017. The smartboard selected will be mounted on a mobile trolley so that students in each classroom will have equal opportunity to use the board. According to Reagor, they are hoping to raise $4,299 by the end of July 2017.
In February, the chapter also raised $400 through a Valentines Cookie Fundraiser held in the student center on Lipscomb’s campus. A GoFundMe page has also been started for those who would like to donate to the cause online. (https://www.gofundme.com/startswithasmartboard)
Reagor says he was first introduced to Starts With Soap while volunteering at an inner city Atlanta school in 2015. After noticing that the soap dispensers in the bathrooms were out of soap, Reagor and a few friends approached the principal, and were informed that the school did not have adequate funds to provide soap or other basic supplies to its students.
This troubling realization led Reagor to create a Starts With Soap chapter at Lipscomb.
“I started the Lipscomb Chapter of SWS after I was turned down to serve on student government,” Reagor said. “At the time, I was very disappointed that I was not selected as a freshman representative for SGA, but it was ultimately a blessing in disguise because I wholeheartedly believe in my work with SWS.”
Reagor says Lipscomb’s chapter of Starts With Soap has experienced astounding growth since its inception, reaching nearly 40 members within the first semester and making it the largest chapter nationwide.
“I run the chapter's big-picture operations,” said Reagor. “From the get-go, we experienced tremendous interest and growth, so now with our nearly 40 members I can delegate a lot of the nitty-gritty details of our fundraisers and service projects. I have a team leader for each of our major fundraisers this semester, as well as a social media officer and other service-project leaders.”
Lipscomb’s Honors College has been a huge supporter of the Starts With Soap chapter on campus, and Reagor says he has teamed up with the Honors Service Committee to offer Honors College freshmen the opportunity to earn their required service credits through membership in the club. Paul Prill, director of Lipscomb’s Honors College, is the SWS chapter adviser and many honors college students are members.
Reagor says although he plans to continue his work with SWS after graduation, he would also like to pursue a career in medical research through a MD-PhD dual-degree program.
“I plan on continuing my work with Starts With Soap after undergrad because of the organization’s unique focus on public health,” Reagor said. “I someday hope to found the first chapter of Starts With Soap at a medical school; I believe a medical school would be very well suited to the mission of Starts With Soap.”
For more information on Starts With Soap visit, http://startswithsoap.org