Nonprofit Leadership Studies program awards $3,000 grant to Oscar Cross Boys and Girls Club of Paducah

By Dr. Elise Kieffer | Dec 4, 2023

NLS philanthropy grant

Members of ADVANCE (from left to right): Drs. Michael Bordieri, Robin Zhang, Maeve McCarthy, Claire Fuller and Diane Nititham.

MURRAY, Ky. – On Nov. 30, the Murray State University nonprofit leadership studies (NLS) program presented the 2023 Giving Back Endowment Student Philanthropy Award to the Oscar Cross Boys and Girls Club of Paducah in recognition of its ongoing efforts in youth development across their community.

The $3,000 grant will be utilized to support events for their “Smart Girls” and “Passport to Manhood” programs.

The grant is made possible by the Murray State University Giving Back Endowment (GBE), which is dedicated to advancing the understanding, appreciation and application of the principles of altruism, generosity, caring and service to others. The student engagement initiative provides an opportunity to operate a comprehensive grant making process while studying giving, philanthropy and grant making.

NLS students conducted a community needs assessment and identified youth development programs as required by the GBE. Applications were reviewed with the following types of guiding criteria: the scope and scale of youth development programming, the qualifications and experience of the volunteers and staff and financial health and sustainability.

After extensive deliberation and thorough review, the Oscar Cross Boys and Girls Club was selected in recognition of its commitment to youth development. Students praised the application and the critical youth development work being done by the organization.

“It is especially inspiring to help an organization while taking this course, and I learned so much working together as a group to help such an important cause,” said senior Cayley Utley of Huntington, Tennessee, who is an NLS major.

The Oscar Cross Boys and Girls Club has been a positive force in the Paducah area for more than 60 years. It began with a dream of Oscar M. Cross, a probation officer who wanted to see young men have the chance to prepare for their futures and obtain higher goals. He made a commitment to keep youth off the streets, out of the juvenile justice system and to provide educational experiences that were not taught in the traditional classroom setting.

The club has a mission to enable all youth to be the best they can be and become well-rounded, caring and responsible citizens. The club’s goal is to provide a future for all youth. They provide tutoring and additional assistance to youth that are behind on writing and reading levels, as well as assisting with homework. They also bridge opportunities for minorities and underrepresented youth to give them a chance at finding better careers.

“Our organization is always trying to do something important for our youth,” said James Ouderkirk, chief executive officer of the Oscar Cross Boys and Girls Club. “We start to empathize with them and become passionate towards helping them overcome the challenges they face in today’s world. As well, we want to recognize our staff and our donors for the impact they create. They help us to emphasize that the club is a beacon, a safe place amongst the challenging world around us, especially for the youth of today.”

The club has worked with various educational partners, as well as with the river industry and local unions to build a relationship of non-traditional learning for those who wish to follow trade careers.

 “The Giving Back Endowment initiative, made possible by the generosity of Dr. Robert and Patricia Long, provides uniquely impactful benefits,” said Dr. Elise Kieffer, Murray State NLS program director and assistant professor. “Not only are students able to learn about the grant process in a personal, hands-on experience, but they are empowered with the emotional goodwill of giving and serving others through philanthropy. Likewise, local organizations benefit from the opportunity to submit their programs for potential funding. The GBE is a beautiful manifestation of the relationship between Murray State and the west Kentucky community. It was really my honor to facilitate this experience for students in the nonprofit leadership studies program.”

The NLS program is a part of the Department of Organizational Communication and Leadership which is dedicated to developing student competence in the application and synthesis of those communication processes, theories and skills that enable individuals and groups to organize effectively in an increasingly complex and global society. As  part of the Arthur J. Bauernfeind College of Business, the department and program are committed to advancing careers in dynamic environments of leadership and management.

To learn more about the Murray State nonprofit leadership studies program in the Department of Organizational Communication and Leadership, visit

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