Students connect with local community by providing tech help

Melissa Raulston

Project SPARTA. Sounds like an obscure movie reference, doesn’t it?

Short for "Supervised Practical Application of Research, Theory and Academics," it’s actually a unique service learning program created by Florida State University’s Melissa Raulston.

Raulston, a webmaster and service learning coordinator with the College of Communication & Information, was recently awarded the Florida Campus Compact Community Engagement Educator Award for her participation with the project.

The founder of Project SPARTA, Raulston seeks opportunities to match unmet technological needs in the Tallahassee nonprofit community with students eager to gain practical experience working in the information technology field.

"The great thing about SPARTA is that it provides students the ability to try multiple career opportunities until they find that one thing that ignites their passion," Raulston said.

Thankfully for her students, Raulston has found her own passion in service learning. Project SPARTA provides the bridge that allows young, inexperienced students to develop into strong, confident information technology professionals.

"Service learning is unique," Raulston said. "It brings that real emotional connection to the project. Students are engaged strongly with the mission of the nonprofit they work with."

The award, given by Florida Campus Compact, recognizes and honors outstanding individuals in higher education for their contributions to the institutionalization of community engagement by inspiring a vision for service on campus while supporting faculty, students, and/or campus-community partnerships.

Raulston has done just that.

Courtney Williams, a senior information technology student originally from Jacksonville, Fla., said Project SPARTA provides a hands-on approach to learning that’s not typically found in her other classes.

"You are matched with a nonprofit organization that has little or no technology support, and all the pressure is put on you," said Williams. "That responsibility is an invaluable experience that would not be possible without Project SPARTA or Melissa Raulston."

To learn more about Project SPARTA, visit or contact Raulston at (850) 491-6702 or