‘Grand Challenges Champion’ Uses Grant to Improve Nutrition for the Homeless
Haley Paez’s majors are psychology and journalism. Her position on the soccer team is center midfielder. But her passion is what brings the junior to the Denver Rescue Mission a few times each week, creating positive change for the homeless men who stay at the shelter.
With the aim of increasing nutritional literacy in the Denver metro area, Paez is working to improve education and resources for some of the city’s most vulnerable.
Based on the Rescue Mission’s identified needs, Paez has co-created informational posters, created nutritious meals with shelter chefs, developed a cookbook and has just launched cooking classes that teach families to prepare meals that are both delicious and nutritious.
“I thought it would be a great opportunity to not only be able to help, but help in a way that hadn’t been thought of before,” says Paez, a sophomore. “A big theme at A Community Table this year was economic growth. I feel as though people see that as, ‘How can we get more job opportunities? How can we get more sustainable housing?’ And I wanted to approach it as, ‘How can I make someone feel better about their situation?”
What started as volunteer work, recovering uneaten food from the dining halls and making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for the homeless, took the next step thanks to funding from the Center for Community Engagement to advance Scholarship and Learning (CCESL). A $2,000 Advancing Community-Engaged (ACE) Student Scholarship Grant got Paez’s project off the ground and paid for all of her project materials. The grant is funded by DU Grand Challenges and the Arthur Vining Davis Foundations.
Then, Paez became a Grand Challenges Champion, partnering with a faculty member to document her experience and share it with others. It is precisely what Paez had in mind when she transferred to DU, in search of a holistic university that focused on improving the community.
“The idea of DU Grand Challenges is looking at a multifaceted issue in society that you’re really passionate about and seeing the different ways that you can influence that and then how that can influence other issues in society,” Paez says. “[The work with CCESL] has given me the opportunity to construct this project and see where it goes and how it can develop.”