By Peter Tormey
Sima Thorpe took Gonzaga University’s Mission Statement to heart when she was hired to direct service-learning here in 1994. That was the year Thorpe launched the well-known and highly successful April’s Angels and Campus Kids programs. Campus Kids is viewed nationally as a model mentoring program.
Thorpe, her staff and students have elevated service work to the point where Gonzaga consistently gives more than 100,000 hours of community service annually and has done so for the past several years.
2009 was a breakthrough year for Thorpe, who directs the Center for Community Action and Service-Learning. Thorpe was surprised with a triad of honors: Selection to the Washington State Afterschool Hall of Fame; selection as president of the board for Spokane’s prestigious Women Helping Women Fund, which supports local nonprofit organizations; and as one of two Jesuit school administrators on the national board for the Jesuit Volunteer Corps.
“We at Gonzaga send more students to the JVC than any other school in the country,” Thorpe said. “That’s a tremendous accomplishment for Gonzaga’s mission to develop men and women for others.”
So, what will Thorpe do for an encore?
Service, service and more service, she said, adding the need for volunteerism increases in direct proportion to the declines in the nation’s economy. In other words, the need is enormous.
“The number of children living in poverty has soared nationwide this year,” Thorpe said. “I see the potential contribution of our students and others increasing not only at the regional and local level, but systemically.”