UA students team up with Enterprise and community agencies to learn by doing


From left to right: Dr. Baomei Zhao and John LaGuardia (The University of Akron), Jan Pluck (Haven of the Rest), Andrew Richardson and Steve Hennagin (Enterprise Holdings Foundation), Cynthia Sich (Summit County Consumer Affairs Office), Debra Manteghi, Rachel Matejin and Rachel Breece-Stith (Project R.I.S.E.).

Dr. Baomei Zhao, associate professor of family development at The University of Akron, has received a grant from the Enterprise Holdings Foundation for the fifth consecutive year.

The grant will enable Zhao's students to continue gaining hands-on experience working with local social service agencies such as Project R.I.S.E., Haven of Rest Ministries, Harvest Home and Freedom House. Project R.I.S.E. assists homeless children in the Akron Public Schools and their families by providing educational, artistic and cultural opportunities. Harvest Home provides an emergency shelter for women and children in crisis situations. Freedom House helps to free women from homelessness and chemical dependency.

The Enterprise Holdings Foundation is the philanthropic arm of the company that operates the Enterprise Rent-A-Car, National Car Rental and Alamo Rent A Car.

Making a difference

Local Enterprise employees Andrew Richardson, Steven Hennagin and Jason Shelton had key roles in helping to continue the foundation’s support. A family-owned business, Enterprise Holdings supports community-focused organizations and programs such as service-learning at The University of Akron and encourages its employees to give back to their communities.

"We are very impressed with the Akron community and how people from local organizations and programs come together to make a difference," said Richardson, business rental sales executive with Enterprise.

Zhao is one of many UA faculty members who incorporate hands-on experiences in the community — also known as “service-learning” — into their classes. Zhao has used it in many of her classes, including Family Life Management, Children as Consumers, Family Financial Management and Consumer Education.

Service learning leads to careers

Rachel Matejin, a recent UA graduate, completed her UA Service Learning hours with Project R.I.S.E. in spring 2010. She tutored at local shelters, did administrative work in the office and chaperoned several field trips with the children. Her hard work did not go unappreciated; in fall 2010 Project Rise offered her a position.

In 2011, Zhao's students helped with Project R.I.S.E.'s Love and Learn Doll Project. Through the doll project, homeless students in the Akron Public Schools receive beautifully hand-crafted dolls along with tote bags and educational activity books. The dolls are handmade by community members, church groups and volunteers.

For more information on service-learning initiatives at UA, contact Theresa S. Beyerle at 330-972-2154 or

Media contact: Cyndee Snider, 330-972-5196 or