Ichabods In Depth

Work study jobs open doors, benefit community

Micaela SandsCommunity service is not limited to picking up trash or delivering meals. Teaching can be service, too.

Micaela Sands, a Washburn University freshman, says she’s learned that from her federal work study position with Positive Connections.

“Education can be community service as much as a food bank,” said Sands, originally from Ozawkie, Kan. “I’ve seen things that needed to be changed and thought, ‘I could do that.’”

In her work with Positive Connections, formerly known as the Topeka AIDS Project, Sands is involved with public health education and outreach. She is one of more than 150 Washburn students currently working either on or off campus in the federal work study program. She works eight hours each week.

Thor Elliott, outreach/prevention specialist with Positive Connections, said Sands’ personality makes her great at the job of reaching out to individuals and educating them about safe sex practices, HIV risk and rapid HIV testing provided by Positive Connections. She also distributes condoms during weekly lunchtime visits to Let’s Help, Inc. 

“You’re working with a very diverse population. You need that outgoing personality,” Elliott said. “She’s excellent at that, very friendly.”

In addition to the outreach at Let’s Help, Sands has presented at area high schools about safe sex and prevention of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.

A social work major at Washburn, Sands said her position at Positive Connections has been a natural fit. She aspires to work as a sex therapist after graduation.

Work study also benefits Positive Connections, Elliott said, especially because the recent downturn in the economy has led to staffing cuts within the organization.

“We are very dependent on volunteers and the students from work study,” Elliott said. “They are essential to the services we provide.”