Five Northwestern students await Big Ten Network service award decision

Chris Meyer and Chris Meyer

Five Northwestern students are competing for the Big Ten Network’s LiveBig Scholarship for Outstanding Service on Friday and are eligible to receive cash prizes for their community service.

Weinberg junior Marni Barta, Communication junior Nora Cohen, SESP senior Valerie Green, Weinberg senior Nicole Hendrix and Weinberg junior Laura Venn, each of whom is involved in philanthropic work on campus, are competing for a $1,000 cash prize from the Big Ten Network. They were chosen from a pool of applicants who each submitted a 500- to 1,000-word essay to BTN.

Contest officials will eventually disburse $12,000 to the 12 scholarship recipients, each of whom will come from a different Big Ten university. Online voting to determine which student wins for NU closed Jan. 27.

Although all of the finalists do their philanthropic work at NU, some of them, such as Barta, who started a nonprofit organization called Kid Flicks 10 years ago, began their work off campus. The organization, which Barta co-founded with her sisters, donates used DVDs to pediatric hospitals.

“Over the past 10 years I’ve been very involved in Kid Flicks,” said Barta, who began the project in spring 2002. “My sister was in the hospital and spent half her time watching movies, so the idea kind of came from there.”

Venn also started her own initiative before heading to NU, where she now works with various organizations, including service fraternity Alpha Phi Omega, to raise money to support teenage victims of domestic violence. Venn annually sends a group of teenagers to the American Youth Foundation, a leadership camp in Michigan.

“At the camp, the philosophy is that you should live every day as a leader and be your best self, and at the end of the day you can achieve anything you want to,” Venn said. “The original thought was to send teenagers so they could learn that philosophy.”

Other finalists have largely made their mark through campus organizations. Hendrix is involved with NU to Benefit the Special Olympics, a group devoted to coaching athletes and spreading disability awareness, and took advantage of the opportunity after a friend who was involved with BTN told her about the LiveBig program.

Although they share a common passion, the finalists have different visions for what they would do with the prize money. Some plan to incorporate it into their philanthropic work. Barta would like to donate the $1,000 to Kid Flicks, while Venn would pour it into a six-week bicycle trip led by the American Youth Foundation. However, Hendrix would use the money for strictly academic purposes.

“If I should win the money, it would go toward funding graduate school interviews, as well as tuition when I enroll in the fall,” Hendrix wrote in an email to The Daily. “No school was able to provide financial aid for travel and lodging, so it has been somewhat stressful to balance this additional expense with typical living expenses.”

The popular vote to determine the winner was held from Jan. 16 to Jan. 28, and prospective voters could read a description and biography of each student on the BTN website before they picked a finalist. The NU winner will be announced at the final men’s basketball home game, which is February 29 this year.

Cohen and Green did not respond to requests for comment Monday. Cohen is a volunteer at Challah for Hunger, which sells loafs of challah and donates the proceeds to charitable causes, while Green is a volunteer with LIFT, a national organization that works to improve quality of life for low-income families.

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