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Students help strengthen communities

Founded in 1998, National Student Partnerships helps cut red tape and truly makes a difference in certain communities. NBC's Lisa Daniels reports.

For months, Nancy Malone couldn't find a job. She left the work force five years ago, and came back to a different world.

"The job market changed," she says. "It used to be, you get dressed, go for an interview, talk, write a few lines on an application, and call it a day. Now they just want you to e-mail, fax. I'm like, 'I can't do that!'"

Help came from an unlikely source — college students — who taught Malone how to e-mail, how to fax, how to write a resume, and before long...

"I was swamped with responses because of this service," says Malone.

Nancy Malone's success story is what Kirsten Lodal envisioned. She founded the group "National Student Partnerships" while attending Yale University. The concept: College students can make a difference in their community.

"Students are fundamentally tenacious," says Lodal. "They're idealist, they're scavengers, they're researchers, they're great at working the system."

And determined enough to cut through the red tape and help clients find a job, housing or government assistance — whatever their need should be.

"If we're hitting obstacles with a particular social service agency, it just makes us want to work harder," says Lodal.

Hard work is something she knows well. In seven years, her organization has expanded to 13 cities. With it, so has her job, which includes CEO, counselor and recruiter. How important is the recruitment process to her organization?

"Extremely important," she says, "we rely virtually entirely on student volunteers to make our work happen."

Along the way there have been astounding success stories, like Thomas Healy's.

"Six years ago, my life involved me being homeless, living on streets," says Healy.

Now enrolled at Columbia University, Healy credits national student partnerships for finding him a place to live, a job, and a program to get his high school equivalency.

"Without the amazing concept she created, I don't think I would come close to being here today," says Healy.

That proof reinforces Kirsten Lodal's fundamental belief.

"I definitely think I can change the world, and I've found a lot of people who also want to change the world," she says.

And they won't rest until they do.