Monday, March 31, 2008

Liz: A lot of interesting activities for Spanish community service learning students, and anyone else

Ok everyone! I just wanted to remind you all about a few upcoming events we have. First of all, for the Spanish conversation tables the meeting times and locations are set. So if you would like to join, you have three different options:

Mondays from 5 to 6pm in Gregory Hall 207

Tuesdays from 4 to 5pm in Gregory Hall 207

Thursdays from 5 to 6pm in the Foreign Language Building 1128

I am leading the group on Mondays and I would love to see you all there! I also wanted to remind everyone that the Latin American Film Festival is starting this week. If you would like information the films they are showing and movie times please click here.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Chris: Community Service Work Continues During Spring Break, in Another Community

[Photo: Holy Name Food Pantry]
During spring break I actually volunteered at a food pantry in Waukegan, Illinois. It is interesting that Holy Name Food Pantry provides many of the same services as the Refugee Center in Urbana-Champaign. For starters, the food pantry provides guidance and advice on citizenship and legal matters. In addition, the workers at the food pantry help people to find protection and shelter. People who feel threatened can go to the pantry and be temporarily relocated to a safer place. Lastly, the food pantry provides short-term loans for rent payments in the case of an emergency. The main purpose of the food pantry is, of course, to provide food for needy families. Nevertheless, the aforementioned services are extremely important to many members of the community, including a large Hispanic population. The food pantry is an essential resource for many of the Hispanic citizens of Waukegan, like the Refugee Center is for the immigrants of Urbana-Champaign. It was really cool to go home and see workers at the food pantry helping people like we do at the Refugee Center.


Thursday, March 27, 2008

Liz: Spanish Table Fund Raiser

Today Beth Chasco e-mailed me with an interesting idea. She said that she would like to combine the Spanish conversation table with a community service project. I thought that was a wonderful idea! I think that this would be an interesting way to bring students together for a good cause. Plus I thought that the project she proposed was particularly relevant to the Spanish 232 classes. Beth told me that there is a Hispanic teacher at Leal School that has been trying to get enough money together so that she can buy a house through Habitat for Humanity. She still needs $20,000 to get a house, which may seem like a lot, but any little step we can help her with would be amazing! Beth was thinking that we could have a salsa night or other type of fund raiser to help her. I’m sure it would be very meaningful for those of you that work with the students at Leal. Plus, I know that the students I work with at Central would love to help out other people in our community. I also thought it would be relevant to any Spanish majors or minors and we could even invite the students involved with Habitat for Humanity and any other Latino organizations on campus. If you have any ideas or thoughts on this project please let me know and I will keep you updated on any new information!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Chris: New Raffle at the Refugee Center

Things were kind of quiet this week at the Refugee Center. Most of the people have their tax forms completed and ready to be mailed. The raffle for the cordless iron and toaster oven was held last week. All in all, the raffle was a huge success and it raised a good amount of money for the Refugee Center. I believe that the raffle funds are being used to pay for utilities like phone lines and the internet. Because the first raffle was such a success, the center is having another one. This time the prizes are a George Foreman grill and a set of kitchen knives. Tickets are only $1 this time and I am sure that they will sell like hotcakes. I am glad that these small fund-raisers are so successful and I look forward to selling lots of tickets in my downtime.

Liz: Come to the Spansh Conversation Table!

Yesterday I went with my carpool to Central High School only to find that the school was closed! I guess the kids had an extra day off for spring break, but I will go back again to see them tomorrow. Even though I didn’t get to go to Central, I did meet with the Spanish conversation table. It went very well! Since it was our first day meeting, we mostly did introductions and explained our Spanish background and what kinds of things we hoped to get from the conversation table. Everyone was very positive and encouraging of each other. We also talked about ideas for future meetings. For next week we asked the students to think of a cuento they could tell. We were also thinking that we could read news articles in Spanish one week, and even have a game of Scrabble in Spanish (I have the Spanish version of Scrabble at my apartment). I’m excited! If you have any other ideas, I would love to hear from you! We are meeting next Monday at 5 pm in 1128 FLB if you would like to join us. We are always welcome to other students who want to practice Spanish! And if you cannot make it on Monday there are other groups running on Tuesdays and Thursdays as well. I hope to see you there!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Community Service Learning in Other Disciplines

Pattsi Petrie is in the service learning reading group that I attend and that Valeri Werpetinski organizes on the UIUC campus. She sent along a message this morning about a service learning conference that looks very interesting. Click here to see more about it.

Erasing Boundaries—Supporting Communities
A Symposium on Interdisciplinary Service-Learning in Architecture, Landscape Architecture and Urban Planning
Location: Shepard Hall, The City College of New York
Date: April 4 and 5th 2008

It is very interesting to see how community service learning fits within other disciplines and is deployed in their teaching and professional practice.

It is also very interesting to see where disparate disciplines intersect. There is a session focusing on work at Monteverde in Costa Rica, a project that I blogged about earlier. Stacy Harwood is a UIUC faculty member and community service learning practitioner. The session title and participants are:

“Sustainable Futures:” Placemaking in Monteverde, Costa Rica, Lynda Schneekloth, Urban Design Project, University at Buffalo and Scott Shannon, SUNY, College of Environmental Design & Forestry with Stacy Harwood, Urban and Regional Planning, University of Illinois, David Myers, Landscape Architecture, University of Maryland, Robert Shibley, Urban Design Project, University at Buffalo

Friday, March 14, 2008

Chris: Pace of Spanish Community Service Learning Before Spring Break

Things are still really busy at the Refugee Center. A lot of people are still coming with questions about taxes and insurance. I have mostly been taking phone messages and filing documents. I have had the chance to talk to some of the immigrants about their plans for this spring, and almost all of them are staying in Champaign. Some people have family visiting, but I do not think that any of them are really taking a vacation. Nevertheless, it seems that both the employees and the immigrants at the Refugee Center are enjoying the warm weather. Sixty degrees and snowless weather is enough to keep everyone’s spirits high, including my own, despite not having a spring vacation.


Thursday, March 13, 2008

Website Can Inform Spanish Community Service Learning Students with Facts about Immigration

The Immigration Policy Center's tagline is: "providing factual information about immigration in America." Certainly, we need to provide our students with facts in order to counteract the rhetoric on immigration in the US that is often simply based on emotions and false assumptions. The website for their project, "Immigration OnPoint" looks very useful. Click here to see it.

Facts are important and should be part of the academic content in any Spanish community service learning course, yet I continue to be amazed at the power of individual stories in my courses as well. You can read all the fact sheets that you want, but when students interact closely for an entire semester with immigrants they gain a new, personalized perspective on the immigration debates.

But personal stories aren't enough. It's too easy for some students to form a positive relationship with certain individuals without extrapolating to the broader issues. Websites like Immigration OnPoint can help us strengthen that back-and-forth from personal stories to broader issues.

Liz: Spanish Community Service Learning Students Get to See ESL Students' Accomplishments Outside Regular Classroom

Here are a few of the pictures I took at the international fair this week at Central High School. It was so much fun to see all of the kid’s projects! They were all so happy that we came in to see them and they gave us montones of food to try. Everything tasted great! It was very interesting to see the differences between the projects of the students that were born in other countries and the students born here in the United States. The booths that the students from our ESL class made were very bright and colorful. Their posters were covered in pictures and they printed out lots of interesting facts about their native countries. Most of them had a large variety of traditional food that they had made with their families. One of the most interesting things I had was a dessert from Viet Nam. It was sort of like a Jell-O dish, but the flavor was stronger and the texture was thicker. Over all, the international students did a wonderful job! On the other hand, the American born students did not put nearly as much effort into their booths. There were quite a few students that did not make posters and on top of that, the food was simple and stereotypical. For instance, the Polish table had polish sausage and the French table had croissants. The table for Ireland was simply handing out green Kool-Aid. But then again, it makes a lot of sense. I’m sure that the American students wanted to participate in the fair even though they don’t have a strong connection to the culture like the students in the ESL class do. I know the foreign born students were so enthusiastic about sharing their cultural identities with other students and staff at school. Although there were many differences in the ways the immigrant students and the American students presented their projects, I still felt as though everyone had a really great time!

Monday, March 10, 2008

I have been e-mailing back and forth with Beth Chasco, the Spanish Advisor, and it looks like we will be setting up a Spanish conversation table! I will be running it along with a few other Spanish majors. Our first meeting will be on Monday March 24 at 5 pm. We do not have an exact location yet but I will post something as soon as I know. We are going to try and make it a weekly thing to meet and practice Spanish every Monday night. Each week there will be a topic or some sort of activity to do in Spanish. It’s the perfect thing if you just came back from a study abroad trip and you don’t want to lose your level of fluency. It’s also good practice for people who haven’t been abroad but still want to improve their Spanish. So if you want to, please come! I would love to see you all there and don’t hesitate to bring any Spanish speaking friends!

I would also like to add that tomorrow from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. the students of Champaign Central High School are putting on an international fair. Tickets are 5 dollars at the door. Many of the students in my ESL class have made posters with pictures and facts about their native countries. I know some of the students even said they are going to cook! The picture I have here is from a traditional Ecuadorian restaurant. I don’t think they will have Ecuadorian food but I know they will have other booths from Latin America as well as many Asian countries. So if you would like to come and see it, the students from our community partner would really appreciate the support!

Sharing More Community Service Learning Opportunities

I have been sick for the past 10 days and have not posted anything here during that time. (Thank goodness for Chris and Liz who continued to send their posts so that the blog wasn't totally dormant during that time.) But I'm happy to be back at work today, even if I still don't have my voice back yet.

One of the great things about being back at work is that I was able to attend Valeri Werpetinski's service learning reading group again today. We always have very interesting discussions, and Val always sends us interesting bibliography and news about opportunities in service learning. I'm copying below her latest updates:


1. 19TH ANNUAL NATIONAL SERVICE-LEARNING CONFERENCE: YOUTH FOR A CHANGE April 9-12, 2008 - Minneapolis Convention Center

The National Service-Learning Conference is the largest annual gathering of those involved in the service-learning movement. Sponsored by the National Youth Leadership Council, the conference connects participants with service-learning leaders through three days of plenary sessions, featured forums, and service projects. With more than 200 workshops, it provides access to new ideas and countless opportunities for networking with peers. This year’s keynote addresses will be delivered by Archbishop Desmond Tutu, of South Africa, and Pedro Noguera, author of the book “Unfinished Business: Closing the Achievement Gap in Our Nation’s Schools.” For more information and to register for the conference, go to

2. The 3rd Annual Best Practices in Building University/City Relations Conference will be held June 16-19, 2008, in College Station, Texas, on the campus of Texas A&M University.

The purpose of this conference is to highlight results-oriented city and university practices that have built positive relationships and successfully addressed town/gown issues and concerns. Participants will have the opportunity to come together and learn from one another in the quest to build better relationships between universities and surrounding communities.

Texas A&M University, Blinn College and the cities of College Station and Bryan will present several programs and partnerships that illustrate best practices from all facets of town and gown interactions. In addition, officials from The Texas A&M University System, comprised of nine universities, seven state agencies and a statewide health science center, will share examples of successful practices in university and city relations from throughout the State of Texas.

If you have an outstanding program or initiative that is helping unite a university and city, you are invited to submit a presentation or roundtable proposal by March 15. The proposal submission instructions are on the conference website at

For questions or information regarding the conference program, please email:

Potential Session Topics include:
Best Practices in Neighborhood Issues
Best Practices in Campus-Community Relations Best Practices in Safety/Security Concerns both On and Off Campus Best Practices in Campus-Community Transit Systems Visioning/Branding of the Community to enhance Tourism and Town/Gown Marketing Economic Development in Town/Gown Partnerships City and University Planning Civic Engagement and Community Service

3. Eighth International Research Conference on Service-learning and Community Engagement in New Orleans! Conference information and Call for Proposal forms are available online at To be considered, all proposals must be received via electronic submission by 11:59 p.m.(Central Time) Wednesday, March 19, 2008. Incomplete proposal submission will not be reviewed. All proposals will be evaluated by at least two reviewers. Notifications of acceptance will be sent by May 30, 2008.

4. 2008 EPICS Conference on Service-Learning in Engineering and Technology. Registration is open. This year's conference will be held on the campus of Purdue University on May 20-22. More information and a link to register can be found at

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Chris: Spanish Community Service Learning Leads Students to Discover New Parts of Town

This is a picture of the office at Ivanhoe Park, which is a community for mobile homes. I have recently worked with several different people who live in this area. I served mainly as a translator between the families and the management at the office. Most of the problems have been about small details in the contracts or insurance policies. There are many Hispanic immigrants that live in this area. I feel that I am becoming more involved in Champaign-Urbana’s Hispanic community by going to places like Ivanhoe and helping the families of the Refugee Center.


Friday, March 7, 2008

Liz: Reaction to News of Immigration Agents Detaining Immigrants in Champaign Urbana

Photo: students at Central High School, where Liz does her community service learning.

I just wanted to reflect on the article we read this week in class about the fact that the Immigration and Customs Enforcement was here in Champaign. I guess I just didn’t realize that people we are working with in our community partners are directly at risk of being deported. I cannot even imagine what it would be like to be shipped out of the country with less than 24 hours notice. I also feel bad for the children because I feel like their lives can change so quickly and there is nothing they can do to stop it. In class we were talking about how the children are often left behind without their parents because the children are protected as US citizens (if they were born here). It just doesn’t seem right to me that families can be split up on the spot like that. I really hope that in our generation the laws on immigration are changed. I don’t think that closing the borders is the right solution. I also feel that Americans need to change their stereotypes of immigrants. Many people believe that immigrants are all criminals and this is simply not true. Immigrants are coming into this country because they want to start a new and better life than what they had in their native country. It’s really sad that they come here with so much hope but instead of welcoming and encouraging them, the Americans are discriminatory. Please try to be open-minded to all people no matter where they are from, because we don’t always know how hard they had to work to get here.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Chris: Currently in-demand Services at the Refugee Center; how Spanish Community Service Learning Students Can & Cannot Help

The Refugee Center has been extremely busy lately. There have been a lot of court sentences handed down; the workers at the center are trying to find legal counsel and explain court procedures to many immigrants. There have also been a lot of problems with “Kidcare”, a health insurance program for children. But the majority of visitors at the Refugee Center have come with questions about their taxes. April is approaching fast and these citizens want to make sure that they have everything sorted out before the end of March. I can help immigrants with their taxes in a limited fashion. Sometimes they have signed on the wrong line or made other paperwork mistakes, and in these cases I can help them correct their errors. But if they have a detailed question about naming dependents or other matters, I must defer them to more knowledgeable workers at the center. Some of the workers at the center are practically experts at filing taxes and other forms for the IRS, so I am confident that the immigrants are getting good help. The center will even file an immigrant’s taxes in their entirety for a small fee.


Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Liz: Send a Comment on Cultural Differences in Education!

A few weeks ago in Spanish 232 we were talking about the cultural differences between the schools in Latin America and the United States. In class we talked about how geography is often taught differently and the instructors may teach the students that there are five continents because they consider North America and South America to be one big continent. There is nothing wrong with that, it’s simply a cultural difference. It made me think more about my experiences abroad. While I was in Ecuador, I worked with several different age groups and I wanted to talk in more detail about the differences I saw while I was there. Some of them are subtle, but it just might help explain why some students from Latin America are overwhelmed by the United States school system.

First of all, at the daycare center I volunteered at, I noticed that the students were already learning to be bilingual even at such a young age. Many times they would have short stories in Spanish and in English and if the students were asked to draw a picture of something the teacher would write the word underneath in both languages. Here in the states, this practice is not quite as popular. However, in bigger cities and in areas where there are higher populations of immigrants I think that preschools and kindergartens are starting to use bilingual teachings with the kids. This practice is becoming more common in the United States but I do think it is even more popular in other countries.

Another difference I noticed in Ecuador with the grade schools was that all children wore uniforms (you can tell in the picture here). It does not matter if the students go to private or public schools, all of the students have a specific dress code. Also, the students are required to stand up as a sign of respect if another teacher enters the class room. Another example is in the second grade classroom I worked in, the students were learning how to write in cursive. Some days I had to write out words for them to practice for their homework and the teacher would laugh at me because they use a slightly different cursive system. She was convinced I never learned to write in cursive properly and I could see how this could confuse students coming to the US for the first time.

I did not volunteer at a high school, so I never got to see what it was like to actually be in the classroom. But I did have two younger host sisters that were high school age. Many times we would all do our homework together at the kitchen table so I was able to see some differences. First of all, both of them had been learning English since very early on in grade school, so instead of beginning to learn a second language, they were learning French as a third language. I would say that most high school students in the United States can only speak one or two languages, so I was impressed by this. They also knew much more about world history and geography then I ever had to learn about in my high school classes.

Then of course, we have the university level education. Going to a university is considered a huge privilege because so many people do not have the opportunity to receive such a high education. The university students did not have to wear uniforms but most of them wore their nicest clothes, especially on days when they had to give a presentation. On those days, the students would try to look especially nice since they would be standing in front of the professor and a group of their peers. Another difference is that the universities are not nearly as large as they are here, as far as the actual size of the campus and in the number of students attending. Culturally, it is acceptable for children to live at home until they are married, so there are no dorms or apartments on campus because all of the students commute from their homes.

I’m sure many of you have made similar observations in your experiences abroad and I would love to hear about them! Post a reply if you have any interesting stories!

Monday, March 3, 2008

Chris: Spanish Community Service Learning Personalizes Immigration Issues in the News

There seems to be a lot of news lately about illegal immigration.

A week ago, the police raided a Minuteman’s home and found ropes, knives, and guns that he apparently used to intimidate immigrants.

Congress also passed a law allowing for the creation of a 28 mile high-tech fence along the Arizona border. The law was passed last week and they will start building the fence as soon as possible.

While I realize why some people might be terrified of undocumented immigrants, this kind of news still makes me grimace. How can US citizens hate immigrants so much that they assault them, kidnap them, and abandon them on the other side of the border?

I have not talked to anybody at the Refugee Center about crossing the border, but I am sure that many of them have. It makes me sick to my stomach to think that some of these nice people might have been hunted by so-called “Minutemen” on their way to America. I also admire the courage of those who have crossed the border- not only does the walk take two or three days in the blistering sun, but now there are US citizens patrolling the area like vigilantes with weapons.Reading this news about the US-Mexican border makes one realize how extraordinarily strong and brave some of these immigrants are.