The recipient of the 2024 Outstanding Community Partner Award is the Muncie Mission.

Ball State University President Geoffrey Mearns presented the award April 19 as part of the Immersive Learning Showcase at the L.A. Pittenger Student Center.

This annual award, administered by Ball State’s Office of Community Engagement, is given to an organization that has demonstrated excellence as a collaborator and co-educator with Ball State faculty, staff, and students.

For several years, Ball State’s English Department has partnered with the Muncie Mission as part of the department’s “Writing for Change” course.

This two-semester course encourages students to “write for change” with a community partner. The outcome of this partnership results in bridging the boundaries between campus and community, allowing students and the Muncie residents they are paired with to engage and to learn from one another.

Ball State freshman Jacob Fletcher, who was enrolled in the course this academic year, created graphics and other marketing materials for Muncie Mission events.

“It educated me about homelessness, how anyone can be impacted by,” he said. “But most importantly, I think it taught me how to treat all human beings with more respect.”

In nominating Muncie Mission for this award, Dr. Lyn Jones, assistant teaching professor in the English Department, said of the experience:

“Students aren’t just writing a personal narrative, persuasive essay, or research paper. They are writing for and with an authentic audience—and with a clear purpose in mind. Their role is to be a bridge between Ball State and the Mission.”

And leading the effort with Jones was Leigh Edwards, Community Engagement Officer for the Muncie Mission.

“[The Outstanding Community Partner Award] is an exceptional honor for us,” said Frank Baldwin, Muncie Mission president and CEO. “And Leigh has taken this innovative partnership to a level we only dreamed of before.”

Edwards wouldn’t have it any other way.

“It’s important for me that the students see beyond the grade, that they are truly connecting with the community,” Edwards said as she looked over the booth display the students prepared for the Immersive Learning Showcase. “My hope is that through their experiences at the Muncie Mission, they are forever changed.”

Edwards credited the students involved with Writing for Change at the Mission with increasing participation and contributions during the Walk A Mile event and for creating awareness of the mission on campus with an Attic Window (the Mission’s thrift store) pop up event.

Hir Patel, a sophomore Writing for Change student, said she was so impacted by the course that she encouraged more than 35 of her sorority sisters at Alpha Omicron Pi to participate in this year’s Walk A Mile event.

It’s a partnership Mearns said he hopes will continue.

“I am grateful to the Muncie Mission for providing such rewarding learning opportunities to our students,” he said. “And I am proud that this partnership has helped the Mission and the citizens of Muncie in so many ways as well.

“Given the successful benefits and outcomes of Writing for Change, I anticipate that our University will continue to support this particular partnership with the Muncie Mission for years to come.”