Senior psychology student Jessica Taylor attended a knitting circle at Castleton Community Center for two hours a week for six weeks.Taylor knit with Castleton residents as part of a health psychology service learning course, just one of the opportunities students have at Castldton State College to make an impact on the community.
Other classes include the education department’s Foundations of Education class, which results in the contribution of student’s time and talent to six different community agencies.
Social work students helped a developer plan a low income housing project.
And a communication documentary workshop course worked with a social work class to create a 20-minute videotape exploring the lives of the poor in the local area, titled “I’m Still Poor.”
Finding a Direction
If you walk up the stairs in the Coffee Cottage you’ll find “The Center,” where you can speak with Chrispin White, Jan Rousse, or Avi Springer. The Center allows Castleton students to become more active members of their community through the many community service and internship opportunities available, but they offer much more.
Alternative Spring Break promotes service at the regional and national levels through programs that immerse students in different cultures, increase social awareness and promote lifelong social action, Center officials say
America Reads, for instance, allows students to volunteer their time reading in local schools, daycare centers, and libraries. Castleton is also part of the Meals on Wheels program, delivering meals to the elderly homebound residents of Castleton.
Off-Campus Work Study is another option for students. Castleton uses 7% of its federal work-study allocation to employ students in a variety of fields including social services, healthcare, crime prevention, welfare, and literacy training.
Rousse advises the Community Service Club, and is in charge of America Reads and Alternative Spring Break.
“Our students are our future,” she said, adjusting the glasses resting atop her short blonde hair. “Part of the educational process is learning about the community around you.”
In 2004, Alternative Spring Break students went to Nicaragua and spent their break with Project Chacocente. Project Chacocente moves families from the city dump of Managua, Nicaragua to the clean air and fertile soil of rural Masaya. The following year, they returned. Two graduates went back to Nicaragua and became full-time volunteers.
A smile spread across Rousse’s face as she told the story.
She shifted in her seat and the light from her window caught the rhinestones of her Joy pin that was attached to the black collar of her grey fleece jacket.
“You can see how it changes a person,” she said.
Rousse glows as she talks about the community service work of Castleton athletes. Working with the Foundation for Excellent Schools, Castleton athletes mentored fourth graders from Castleton Elementary.
When it started, there were only 40 mentors. Now there are more than 80. These students have made an influence in their community.
“Absenteeism is down at Castleton Elementary,” says Rousse.
Steering the Course
James McQuerrey feels that some community service projects don’t get enough advertising.
“Unless you see a flier, you don’t know it happened,” he said.
McQuerrey saw that students who wanted to help didn’t know how to get involved and that too many students weren’t involved. He also saw that groups weren’t communicating with one another.
“A few weeks ago, two different groups had a coat drive,” he said.
McQuerrey knows a lot about what is happening on campus as vice president of the Student Association. He is currently working on a forum that will allow greater communication and coordination between clubs, classes, teams, students, and faculty for community service projects.
“How do you reach all these people? Through networking,” he said. “It makes me feel great that I’m doing something for the community.”
He said that he has three semesters left, laughed and then added “at least three.”
McQuerrey hopes that with a combined effort, Castleton will be able to provide a bigger impact on the community and get more students involved.
“If I was able to get 900 people to an event,” he laughs, “I’d die a happy man.
“I want people to get sucked into Castleton like I did.”
Sevice learning and the other community service opportunities can really affect a person. Some students continue their service learning activities even after their class is done. Jessica Taylor is one of these students.
Taylor still attends the circle every second and fourth Monday of the month.
“I’ve never really had grandparents. So I like hanging out with the old ladies,” said Taylor, as a blush spreads across her cheek.
She giggles and adds, “They’re cute. They gossip about one another. I like that. They’re like young girls.