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Wheaton College Students' Documentary Nominated for Philanthropic Award

Students awarded for classy project that helped coffee company.

Last spring, four Wheaton College students traveled to Honduras to trace their coffee from crop to cup. During the trip, which the students took in partnership with Growers First Coffee, they met the small-plot farmers who produce coffee in ways that improve the farmers’ lives and communities.

Sophomore Jacob Carter, junior Yaphet Tedla, and recent graduates Joseph Weber and Jeff Smith blogged about the experience at followthebean.tumblr.com.

“The most significant thing we learned while watching coffee production through every step is simply how much labor it takes to produce a single cup of coffee,” says Smith, who began working with Growers First after graduation this May. “Between the picking done entirely by hand to the labor needed to cultivate and process a coffee can, a cup of coffee should be valued far beyond the $2 we pay at any given coffee shop.”

Upon their return, Carter, Tedla, Weber and Smith created Follow the Bean, a short documentary about their effort to explore the relationship between business and international development. As members of a Growers First club on campus, the students brought Growers First Coffee to the Wheaton College bookstore, screened the documentary on campus, and held a “Battle of the Bean” band competition on behalf of the group.

Growers First nominated the Follow the Bean documentary for a Classy Award in the Most Influential College Student or College Organization category. The Stay Classy organization, which sponsors the Classy Awards, uses social media to assist nonprofits in their fundraising efforts.

The project has been chosen as one of the top 25 out of more than 100 other projects. Now, the students hope supporters will visit stayclassy.org/classy-awards/voting, click on “Follow the Bean” under “Most Influential College Student or College Organization,” and submit a ballot to vote for their project. Voting is open through August 26.

The top ten nominees will be invited to an awards ceremony on September 17 in San Diego, where the winning project—selected by popular vote—will be awarded $10,000.

Smith says that if they win, the group will donate some of the proceeds to fund the Growers First Club on campus. “We want to send other students to meet the people behind their coffee and to see first-hand how something they consume daily is produced,” he says.

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