Monday, March 22, 2010

12 Months to a Community Service Learning Course: February

by Ann Abbott

February: Volunteer yourself.

Block out a few hours in your month, and do what you will ask your students to do: work in the community. This will accomplish several things, including the following:
  • You can identify potential hurdles for your students. If something is hard for you, it will probably--though not necessarily--be hard for them.
  • You can pin-point the academic concepts of your course that will be highlighted through their community service learning (CSL) work.
  • You can anticipate questions and concerns that students will have and can sketch an outline of what an orientation session would likely include.
  • You may decide that a community organization that seemed like an ideal partner just won't work out. In my case, maybe the students wouldn't use Spanish enough. Maybe you will see that the organization has enough volunteers already. Or that they don't have the necessary infrastructure to handle your students.
Don't know where you could volunteer? Start with the list you made during your tour of the community. Still stumped? Ask your personal network for suggestions. Does your campus have something similar to our student-run Office of Volunteer Programs? The community organizations they connect students to can use your work, too.

And don't be surprised if you have to contact an organization more than once to set up your volunteer time. People are very busy. And maybe you initiate your communication through e-mail, but the organization prefers phone calls or drop-ins. Be persistent. You will have to tell your students that many times, so be sure you do that yourself.

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