Service-Learning, Helping a Hometown
February 3, 2014
Jordan Leonhardt, a senior at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, has reached back to his hometown of Stratford, Wisconsin to fulfill his service-learning in an entertaining and significant way.
Being a part of the football team during his high school years, Jordan couldn't think of a better way to give back to his community than through the annual Stratford Quarterback Club fundraising event. This family fun night, held at the County Aire, is not only a great way to raise money, but also to bring the community together to enjoy a night of door prizes, games, raffles, and more. The proceeds raised at the event are given directly to the Stratford football team to buy necessities like weight room equipment, bleachers, training tools, etc.
Leonhardt reached out to one of the coordinators of the event, Ruth Joswiak, simply asking if there was any way he could get involved. Ruth responded with excitement putting a lot of responsibility on Jordan's shoulders.
Jordan was directly involved in contacting local businesses, seeking donations and prize give-aways, making promotional posters and banners, and meeting once a week and conversing with other coordinators.
Throughout his service-learning, Jordan highlights that his involvement has greatly improved his communication skills, organzation, and networking among community members.
Despite the heavy workload Jordan says, "It's been a lot of fun, and if I'm in the area, I would consider being a part of this in the future."
Jordan ends by inspiring students to, "not be afraid to ask someone you know if they need help doing a project. Look for something that you are passionate about, that way it will be more rewarding in the end."
January 21, 2014
Brandon Senger, a political science major at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, had the opportunity of experiencing his service-learning while studying abroad in Pau, France.
Brandon, along with Susan Fandre and Elizabeth Ehrenberg, had the privilege to get involved in service-learning through the nonprofit organization of Isard Cos (translated to Center of Education). The goal of Isard Cos is to assist refugee families by helping parents find occupational and residential assistance, as well as help children and students (ages 8-18) educationally and socially through mentoring programs.
"To put in a utilitarian perspective, I have never felt that my time was more 'valuable' than when I was helping students at Isard Cos."
Although Senger describes the whole experience as phenomenal, he was remarkably touched when the refugees celebrated a festival in February. He shared that many gifts were donated to Isard Cos and the student's enthusiastic reactions to this act of generosity was priceless.
Brandon encourages other students to consider engaging in service-learning while studying abroad. "It is the best opportunity to use some of the free time abroad and definitely the most rewarding way to do so."
His involvement with Isard Cos made Brandon an applicable candidate for the Gale Crouse Scholarship, created for students who engage in service while studying abroad in a French-speaking country. This scholarship, along with numerous other scholarships, is available for students who are willing to serve while studying abroad. The University encourages students to take advantage of these available resources to lessen the financial burden.
Ultimately, Senger highlights the importance of getting involved and engaging with a community civically, whether it is your hometown or a city abroad. "This service-learning experience has expanded my understanding of civic responsibility; I know I can do so much good even as an undergraduate student."
"Yes We Can Expo"
November 11, 2013
Lori Durgin, a senior at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, had the privilege of participating in the 3rd Annual Deaf, Hard of Hearing, and Deaf-Blind Resource Event "Yes We Can Expo" in Colorado Springs this past summer.
She says, "It was the most important thing I've ever done in my undergraduate career."
Lori reached out to the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Coordinator of The Independence Center of Colorado Springs, Angela Tenorio, the director of the event, when she saw that there was a need for volunteers at this annual expo. Her three semesters of American-Sign Language here at the University greatly influenced her role at the event. Durgin was able to shadow the director and completely experience the nature of event organization as well as a deeper understanding of the Deaf community. Originally, Lori engaged in the event because she had a passion to help, "The fact that it could be counted for service-learning was a bonus. Regardless I would have done it."
"It is very important to learn about other minority cultures, Deaf culture being one of them."
"People in our Deaf community are the same as you and I; the only difference is the language. Learning how to effectively communicate with individuals who utilize a different language encourages individual and social responsibility."
Lori's ability to effectively communicate with the Deaf community greatly impacted her individually through the expo as well as reinforced her passion for her minor of multicultural children studies. Lori felt blessed how accepting the Deaf community was of her as a "hearing person" and how her single involvement had such an impact on the community.
"We all need to step out of the society we know to the diversified global society."
Lori urges others to "think outside of the box when it comes to service-learning. Try not to do the easiest project that you can choose; the most rewarding projects are something you want to do."
Aphasia Networking Application: Hazen Helps Bridge the Communication Gap
November 11, 2013
"Imagine not having Facebook. A lot of people who have a communication or cognitive disorder cannot connect using this, so we want to help them connect with each other."
Andrew Hazen, a senior at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, along with his mobile development class, lead by instructor Chris Johnson, have identified a need within the community of Eau Claire and beyond through a social networking application. They have specifically targeted those affected by aphasia, the result of a stroke that causes cognitive and communication problems.
"The project was overwhelming at first, but very interesting once we got into it," Hazen said.
Hazen describes the nature of the work to be very applicable to his future aspirations. The program requires quite a bit of coding applying both the skills he has learned in previous classes, and expanding his knowledge of applications for android and IOS devices.
Andrew said, "The goal of the work is to make technology simplified and accessible by everyone, so everyone can benefit."
Students who have now moved on to furthering their education through graduate school developed this project a few years ago. This collaborative work by the past students, current students, and future students, in Hazen's opinion, shows the commitment of this project and the effect it will have on the community once completed.
But Andrew hopes to encourage other students to pursue a service-learning project in the area of their major or at least something they are interested in. "Talk to your professors. They often interact with individuals who need help that are relative to your area of study."
Hilary Young Helps Reshape Society - One Youth at a Time
November 6, 2013
When the word service is brought up, some students will roll their eyes, or drag their feet to the door, but Hilary Young exclaims with a smile, "I get to do my service today!" Hilary Young, a senior at the University of Wisconsin- Eau Claire has chosen to fulfill her service-learning and pursue her passion of criminal justice at the Eau Claire Restorative Justice Program.
She came across this opportunity last year at the Community Action Fair, where vendors of different nonprofit organizations came in to speak with students on how they can fulfill their service-learning while perusing something in their field of interest. Young highlights the importance of picking a service-learning project you want to learn more about and something you are passionate about.
"I'm so fortunate I had the opportunity to pick something within my field of study, so I am going to take more out of this than just a 'volunteering' project."
As soon as Young was introduced to the Restorative Justice Program, she was hooked. She attributes her passion for criminal justice through her family, friends, and positively reinforced through her service-learning. The Restorative Justice Program aims not to punish juvenile delinquent adolescents, but instead, give them a second chance. Hilary has the privilege of working directly with these students once a week during three hour group-based workshops.
"Obviously not all of the students will engage in the group activity, but you can really see a difference in the kids who do take the time to listen and absorb the material."
After being better acclimated to the nature of the program,Hilary will be able to work as a mentor with an individual student 2-3 times a week.
"Sometimes these students don't come from the best backgrounds, so I would like to learn how to show them that I am very open-minded person and I would like to learn how to gain trust from many of them."
Hilary plans to surpass the 30 hour requirement to a full year commitment of service in order to further connect with the students. Her involvement in the project thus far not only has taught her valuable skills in the field she plans to go into, but also the individual impact she can have on her community. "Working with adolescents is important because they are the main part of the upcoming community."
Hilary sums up her project with, "I feel exhausted, but at the end of the day, it's worth it and you feel more whole inside."
Community Table Outreach: Learning beyond the Classroom
"It's humbling to do something for someone. That's just something you can't put a price on."
Samantha Pitts, a sophomore student at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire shares these words and her involvement in her service-learning project at the Community Table. At first, she says, she was unsure of what the Community Table was, but after being exposed to the opportunity through a career exploration class, led by faculty and mentor Robin Johengen, Pitts knew it was an avenue she wanted to explore.
"I want to learn about who else lives in the community of Eau Claire and learn to see the city from another perspective that isn't all just college students."
Pitts along with over 1,000 other volunteers help the Community Table prepare, serve, and clean-up one meal a day, 365 days of the year. Each volunteer has the privilege to experience all of the steps involved from preparation to clean-up.
"Probably the most rewarding aspect is actually getting to make the meal and then being able to serve the people directly, instead of shipping it off somewhere. Seeing the reactions of those who are enjoying the meal is something that is priceless."
Samantha describes the atmosphere of the Community Table as very open, warm, and inviting to individuals of all ages. The Community Table emphasizes this welcoming behavior by requiring no paperwork for any individuals. Their goal is simple: serving the community.
Although undeclared at this point, Pitts went into this service-learning opportunity with an open mind, and has benefited as a result. Through the example of her parents and her involvement in her high school's volunteer opportunities, Pitts has developed an eagerness for helping people. She highlights, "It is important to volunteer and to give back when you can." Her eagerness to interact and serve people has inevitably helped narrow her career exploration to the health and well-being of individuals and communities.
Samantha wants to encourage other students to get involved in the community. "I am a firm believer in learning outside of the classroom and this opportunity to do a service project has allowed me to do so."
"Don't look at it as a requirement for education; look at it as an opportunity to be put out of your comfort zone to work for others. We are all a part of the same community."