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Agent for Change

By Lena Wong ’10


Omer Corluhan ’08 used his Lang Opportunity Scholarship to start a service-learning project in his native Turkey. It now involves more than 30,000 students, teachers, and family members.

Omer Corluhan ’08—a community volunteer in his native Turkey before coming to Swarthmore—knew that he wanted to make a difference in his country. He wasn’t sure how until a Lang Opportunity Scholarship, awarded in his sophomore year, enabled Corluhan to start Small Steps, Big Tomorrows, a project that aimed to encourage Turkish college students to work with elementary and high-school students to do service-learning projects nationwide.

“I focused on education,” Corluhan said, “because I think the future of my country depends on the young generation, and the future of the young generation depends on its being educated.”

In collaboration with the Turkish Ministry of Education, Corluhan partnered with the Community Volunteers Foundation (CVF) and benefitted from a nationwide network of college students—all members of CVF groups from 25 different universities—who were responsible for creating and executing a service learning project within a local elementary or high school. The programs they established would ultimately become self-sustaining.

Starting with 25 elementary and high schools across the country, CVF university volunteers, along with younger students, initiated programs ranging from helping homeless children to educating young people on how to improve hygiene in their schools’ bathrooms. Surveys performed before and after the projects showed great improvement in social awareness and understanding among participating students.

Small Steps, Big Tomorrows caught the attention of Proctor and Gamble, which awarded the project a $300,000 grant to expand the programs. With the help of CVF, the project has continued nationwide with success. When one takes into account the communities, teachers, and family members also impacted by the project, that number has grown close to 30,000.

Assessing his achievement, which began with a bright idea and involved a tremendous amount of organization and hard work, Corluhan, an engineering and economics major, summed it up with simple math: “It took $300,000 to do this project, which eventually got 30,000 people involved. So, in short, it takes $10 to change someone’s life.”

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