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Getting students on the same page with 1 Book/1 Project/2 Transform

The annual book and community service series unites students and faculty across campus. The author of this year's book, Carissa Phelps, will speak on campus tomorrow.

November 11, 2014

Carissa Phelps will speak about her book, “Runaway Girl: Escaping Life on the Streets, One Helping Hand at a Time,” on Nov. 12 at 11 a.m. in the Tivoli Turnhalle. PHOTO: Courtesy of Carissa Phelps
Carissa Phelps will speak about her book, “Runaway Girl: Escaping Life on the Streets, One Helping Hand at a Time,” on Nov. 12 at 11 a.m. in the Tivoli Turnhalle. PHOTO: Courtesy of Carissa Phelps

Expecting members of the iGeneration to crack open a book seems almost silly these days. In an age of tablets, smart phones and other devices, distractions abound and the practice of reading appears to be on the verge of extinction.

Not if Randi Smith, associate professor of psychology, has anything to say about it. Smith developed and chairs the annual 1 Book/1 Project/2 Transform series — now in its fifth year — which unites students and faculty across campus in reading a common book, engaging in facilitated discussions and participating in a related community service project.

“We try to find books that have some sort of connection to our students,” said Smith. “We look for that piece that shows how one person can change the world, or his or her community. In every book we choose, there’s always something that has to do with transformation, change and overcoming tough situations.”

This year’s selection is no exception. In “Runaway Girl: Escaping Life on the Streets, One Helping Hand at a Time,” author Carissa Phelps recounts her experience as a sexually exploited homeless child who had to overcome numerous rapes, addiction and incarceration. With the help of mentors who believed in her, Phelps eventually graduated with an MBA and a law degree from UCLA. She went on to establish Runaway Girl, Inc., an organization that advocates for runaway and homeless youth and provides training on effectively addressing homelessness and human trafficking.

“She’s an incredibly inspiring person,” said Smith of Phelps. “It’s hard to imagine childhood circumstances that could be much more bleak and despairing. Her story shows the transformative power of mentoring end education.”

With nearly 1,000 students across campus reading Phelps’ book — Smith works with faculty to incorporate the 1 Book/1 Project/2 Transform selection into their courses in a variety of ways — Smith expects a healthy turnout for the associated project component, which, this year is Project Homeless Connect on Nov. 17. The free resource fair provides services such as medical care, legal help, job-seeking assistance, clothing and haircuts to people who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. Faculty, staff and students throughout MSU Denver are encouraged to volunteer for Project Homeless Connect.

“1 Book/1 Project/2 Transform meets so many of the needs and wishes that the University has for our students,” said Smith. “To get them to love reading, to get them engaged in their communities, to get them to see the impact of their behavior, their thinking, their lifestyles on the greater community. It can be really powerful.”

Carissa Phelps will speak about her book, “Runaway Girl: Escaping Life on the Streets, One Helping Hand at a Time,” on Wednesday, Nov. 12 at 11 a.m. in the Tivoli Turnhalle. The event is open to the entire MSU Denver community.

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