Thursday, March 20, 2008

Here's Why I Love Community Service

Here's why I love community service work:
Last night I was invited to the table for the first meeting toward forming a new family support resource center in Bothell. Those in attendance were passionate about supporting families and willing to explore options for how to proceed and take concrete steps toward action and making this vision come alive for families. Participants also realize they'll proceed in partnership with the families and need to understand what the families imagine for themselves. So it's not just about providing a need, important as that is, such as extra food at the end of the month when income runs low or a place for families to come to receive necessities. It's also a concept, an idea, for how families will be respected where diverse families become visible in terms of their unique identities and circumstances so that, together, as a community that includes the families in the planning and vision, we can think carefully about how our community sustains the families who come through the door. This larger vision means to be welcoming of diverse families, to know what's already available in the community for families (for referral, perhaps, or to work in tandem) and to problem solve and imagine together with families how to create a receptive, welcoming community. I'm so excited to be working with this team comprised of local residents and family support resource staff.

Another reason why I love community service work:
This week provided the opportunity to link a student volunteer with an organization so that the student can learn how to provide a health-related service to a local resident who has Multiple Sclerosis (MS). The organization, MS Association of King County, provides training to volunteers willing to work with individuals impacted by MS. The match works because the Cascadia student has the career objective to become a nurse and knows she will need community service in a health-related organization. The match also works because the volunteer coordinator at the MS Association was responsive and arranged to meet for an orientation and connect the volunteer to the client with a happy outcome. Community service provides a way to foster community building as we find ways to come together to solve problems.

Another reason I value community service:
Sharon Stultz visited us this week from Everett Community College where she works as their service learning coordinator. Sharon met with me and Bethany, our AmeriCorps Retention Project Coordination, and a Cascadia student who's interested in serving in New Orleans and this is the reason Sharon came--to talk about a way 20 students can fly to New Orleans this summer to spend one to two weeks involved in service projects while, also, earning college credits. Several Everett CC faculty have agreed to include a New Orleans service learning option in their summer syllabi such that students can incorporate their service project as a learning experience that will include the actual service work, reflection and dialogue. Cascadia will explore this service opportunity and hopes to make it available to students for summer quarter 2008.

And, lastly, one more reason from this week--partnerships are so gratifying when they come together. Briefly, Washington Poetry Association President Paul Nelson met with faculty Jared Leising and myself last summer to begin talking about a service learning poetry course that would embed an opportunity for college students to work alongside high school students to develop a poetry workshop....and this is coming together as students decided to host Cuban bi-lingual poet Jose Kozer and his translator, Mark Weiss. More about this later....but the appreciation is that it's coming together.

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