Community service usually isn’t the first activity that people associate with college. But many colleges have begun incorporating community service into campus life, prioritizing service as an essential part of learning and maturing. Not only do students earn brownie points for giving back, but are also able to connect with their community, their fellow students and sometimes even discover unknown passions. From building homes to tutoring students, many colleges have partnered with existing organizations, or have spearheaded their own projects, to offer students a variety of community service opportunities. More often than not, completing one community service project only inspires students to do more.
NerdScholar has compiled a list of our favorite community service projects sponsored at campuses around the country. These projects inspire us to give back, and remind us that learning doesn’t just happen in the classroom.
Brandeis University — Language Empowering Action Project
At Brandeis, the Language Empowering Action Project (LEAP) offers students the opportunity to teach English one-on-one to a non-English speaker in the surrounding community of Waltham, Mass. LEAP is one of over 20 programs of the Waltham Group, a Brandeis service organization founded in 1966 that has been dedicated to serving the greater Boston community. “Last year, I tutored a young woman from Bolivia who dreamed of becoming a citizen of the United States, but thought she didn’t have the English skills to pass the test,” says Maria Pachon, Brandeis student and LEAP co-coordinator. “Last November she passed the test and became a U.S. citizen. It was extremely rewarding to see her accomplish her goal. Although she always said that I made a difference in her life, I have to say that she was really the one who made a difference in mine.”
Nazareth College — Partners for Learning
Partners for Learning pairs Nazareth students with nine schools in Rochester, N.Y. The program is designed to increase mentored students’ academic performance, while also exposing Nazareth students to modern education challenges. Adam Lewandowski, coordinator for Partners for Learning, says the program “brings together passionate college students and the campus resources of Nazareth College with teachers, school administrators, and community center staff to create partnerships that educate and inspire under-resourced children in our community.” Brittany Hughes, class of 2014, adds, “Partners for Learning gives college students an opportunity to increase their confidence through direct service with youth in our community. The experience is incomparable, empowering me to define my own unique set of interpersonal skills.”
Lesley University — One NineTEEN After Dark
Lesley University, located in Cambridge, Mass., supports One NineTEEN After Dark, a collaboration between three local non-profits: The Community Art Center, The Boys and Girls Club of Cambridge, and Tutoring Plus. The program provides kids ages 13 to 19 with a healthy, supportive environment to play games and sports. Lauren Currie, community engagement coordinator, says that most of the Lesley University volunteers are athletes or heavily involved in university clubs. With these volunteers, “we were able to hold a number of sessions this year,” she says, including “challenges hosted by the Lesley community service club, dance class by the dance team, a three-week karate class,” as well as basketball practice from the women’s basketball team. Kat Vicino, a track athlete and One NineTEEN volunteer, says, “Even though it was an intimidating environment at first, I warmed up to the teens quickly and was able to get involved with them. They are a great group of teens.”
Towson University — Project Serve
Project Serve is an optional orientation program for incoming students. Those who participate in the program arrive early at Towson University, located outside of Baltimore, and spend three days volunteering in Baltimore and surrounding Towson communities. Students are divided into groups of eight to 10 students with a returning student leading the group. Organizations that students have previously served include Back River Restoration Committee, International Book Bank, Cherry Hill Eat Healthy Live Healthy Garden and the Maryland Food Bank. Heather Veale, a 2012 Project Serve participant says, “I loved being involved in Project Serve because it gave me a very tight-knit community of people who share my values and could give me a support system for my future years at TU.”
Grand Valley State University – Women’s Issues Volunteer Corps
The Women’s Issues Volunteer Corps (WIVC) at Grand Valley State University, located in Allendale, Mich., strives to make a difference in the lives of women. The program is open to faculty, staff and students, who can choose to volunteer on-ampus at the Women’s Center or at one of 15 partnered agencies in the community. Some of the agencies include the Women’s Resource Center, Girl Scouts of Michigan Shore to Shore and the Center for Women in Transition of Holland. Brittany Dernberger, director of the Women’s Leadership House and assistant director of the Women’s Center, says the program is unique because “it allows students to become invested in gender justice through service learning opportunities on campus and in the surrounding community. The WIVC pairs service, education and activism, which facilitates a really exciting mechanism to directly impact the lives of others.”
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