Service-Learning: Exploring Opportunities

By Crissana Christie

Service Learning is a form of learning in which students learn by helping others in the community. Most who haven’t experienced service learning would ask, what’s the difference between service learning and plain old community service? Well, service learning expands far beyond what we see on the surface. It is an innovative way of shaping how we learn, how we learn to give, the way we teach, and the way we live our lives.

Trust me, some people may wonder why in the earth a Junior Biomedical Science major striving to become a pediatrician (me) needs to know about service-learning. I’m not going to lie: I wondered that, too. But in my CPN 102 and 103 (service-learning) courses, as I began to explore the different opportunities such as volunteering in schools and becoming a mentor, I saw how it all related. I learned that service learning has no boundaries and that its goal is to teach us through hands-on experiences, how we are able to properly give service, especially in the community.

Because of service-learning, I now know that if I wanted to become an effective and successful pediatrician, I needed to learn how communication well with people from all walks of life, patience, compassion and a will to do good. And being a part of service learning can definitely give you that because you learn these things in the classroom and are able to apply them through your experiences, as compared to regular classrooms without service-learning. Yes, you may learn things, but you aren’t able to actually apply them through experience, so you might forget those skills. With service learning, you make those skills part of who you are.

Reflection on Inclusive Special Education: Make Learning Fun!

By Sydney Carlucci

As part of my Inclusive Special Education program at SUNY Cortland, I am placed in an elementary school in the Cortland Enlarged City School District as a college student there to help and to observe in the classroom. The city of Cortland is known to be a poverty stricken area, and thus there are many challenges in the city’s education system, so walking into one of its elementary schools, I was not expecting it to be so nice. The school building is up to date and clean and the staff and students are welcoming. Coming into an unfamiliar environment, I was a little nervous, but my host teacher and class are great and I already feel like part of the class after only three visits.

I have been placed in a sixth grade class, so the students are at that age where they are just beginning to develop their own personalities and beliefs. They are caught somewhere between children and teenagers and it is remarkable how smart, creative and resourceful they can be.

I did find, however, that many of the students do not get passing grades on a lot of their work. This puzzles me a little because I know they can all pass, they really are smart kids, and I know they understand a lot of what we do in class because when I talk to them they can usually explain it to me, so I don’t really get why they struggle so much to pass what seem to be simple assignments. I found this at my previous placement at an elementary school in the Syracuse City School District. The kids seemed to struggle on relatively simple assignments. They’d get questions wrong about things they had been working on for weeks. Both teachers are great, and the students really seem to like them, but for whatever reason they were and are not getting completely through to them.

I do have a bit of a theory on the subject, though. The students seem to do better on the “fun” assignments or the assignments they like to do. These are the kind of assignments that the kids get excited to do. Content may have a lot to do with their willingness to try.  My host teacher makes the content as interesting as possible, but some stuff just is not fascinating to all the students. Some how the staff needs to figure out how to get them to apply themselves all the time, and not just when they like what they are learning about. Even though it would be nice if they always liked what was being taught.

Overall, my experience thus far as been great and I look forward to going back every Monday.

Call of Humanity

By Abderrazzak Messaoudi

Have you ever imagined your life without getting involved in some humane works and activities? Have you ever felt as if you were endangered in a jungle where only fierce animals can live and you start crying for help that may or may not come? If yes, be assured that your feeling is the same everywhere since we are all humans regardless of the religious and cultural differences. It is the same since we are all in the same fight striving to see the dawn of a new day. It is the same since we are much alike and our blood is the same color.

There would be no convincing reason for one to live or exist in this challenging world unless one pays his or her duty toward the society where one lives and interacts. Being a real person is not only about having one’s own biological needs that may guarantee one’s welfare. These needs unfortunately make one no more than a very simple being, self-oriented and thus less humane. Becoming a very distinguished and privileged human can only be achieved if we go beyond the aforementioned of basic human biological needs to other very humane ones. These humane needs, unlike our biological ones, enable a person to enjoy his or her state as a real humane citizen. They also enable a person to live not only for the self but also for the community where one lives. In so doing, we will be sure our existence is of another brand type.

It is important to get involved in voluntary works. It is the only way we can track to see the sky very clearly; to see birds of all kinds sitting on the rainbow while putting their black and white feathers together to form a golden iron chain in face of the dust storm and the head wind. Yes, it is a very panoramic sight that can make one even imagine himself or herself in a paradise listening to Michael Jackson’s song, “We Are the World.” Through voluntary works, we can help a lot in putting another brick in the wall of solidarity and humanity. We can also make those who are leading very hard lives smile. We can also help them afford to meet their immediate needs like nutrition, education and peace. With voluntary works, we can make sure that “no child is left behind,” no “bleeding eyes,” “no fear,” “no war,” and “no discrimination.” With voluntary works, we can make everyone laugh and hope for the best. We can revive the hoped-for dream to live and let others live peacefully. We will enjoy the sight of the mosaic globe where we live. With voluntary work, we will make melodies of peace while riding the peace train.

It is very naïve to think that voluntary work is only about giving in which there is no room for taking in exchange. Starting from my own experience, I have discovered fruitful things that help me discover my best self, both personally and professionally. Getting involved in such voluntary activities held in my community is both an eye opening experience and a life changing experience as well. I have come to develop self-confidence because of the doors opened for me to negotiate some action plans or suggestions. For example, in our non-governmental organization, “Together as One for Development Exchange Program Abroad,” I help a lot in setting the scene for such activities that voice the needs of the students and women like the annual program of teaching English to the students of the faculty of science, organizing a national public speaking competition in three different languages, with the emphasis on English, arranging leadership training and also organizing conferences. Needless to say, by the end of these activities, all the participants get certificates to boost their resumes. I have also developed my leadership skills via knowing how to interact with others from different ages and specialties, including university teachers, doctors, and doctoral students who share the same vision. Besides, I have also learned how I can develop my time management skills.

What can be best left for the conclusion are some heartfelt appeals that I wish they can find a way into the psyche of those men and women of all seasons. Let’s look at the mirror; let’s see the deeds of the self rather than our reflected images; let’s awaken the person we see in the mirror; let’s make the call rather than waiting for the call that may or may not come; let’s see love in the eyes of each other; let’s be members of the global volunteering community.

Students Making a Difference

Sam Bindrim, a sophomore Adolescent Ed Math major, is tutoring a ninth-grader at the Cortland Prevention Services’ Homework Help Program.  Here, in her words, is how she is making a difference:

During last Tuesday’s session, John did not want to do his homework, as usual.  Seems like he saw me as the know-it-all college student.  “Fine,” I said, “I’ll use the time to do my work.”  When I opened my notebook, John saw my latest Calc I quiz.  “You’re tutoring me in math, but you got a 50?”

“Yeah,” I said, “just like you, I have struggles, so once I failed the quiz, I went out and got a tutor.  I only get one hour free each week with the tutor, and sometimes that’s not enough, but I work at it.”

John now understands that he needs to get to know other people before he judges them.  That’s how I’ve made a difference.


Service-Learning: Challenges Of a Busy Schedule

By Regina Gianfreda, Service- Learning Corps Intern

This semester I am defining the meaning of the word “challenging.”  Last semester when I created my schedule, I knew I would be incredibly busy. I would be serving as an intern for the Service-Learning Corps, tutoring for ASAP, having hands-on field experience at Parker Elementary school, on top of all my classes.  My jam-packed schedule, rigorous course work, and volunteer experiences are the challenge I set for myself – not just to simply do, but to do them to the best of my ability so I can learn through hands-on experience and reflection, as well as help my fellow community members.

Every week, I have field experience hours in Parker Elementary school.  I am an intern for a sixth- grade Inclusive Special Ed. room taught by Mr. Wallis and Ms. Swanson.  During the three hours I spend in the classroom during the week, I complete various tasks. Whether it is walking around the classroom, observing students complete a test, or sitting down and helping a student outline an essay, I know that I am serving the community of Parker school by creating relationships with the students, as well as with the teachers.  Sixth graders do not always want to do their work.  As someone who interns at the school twice a week for an hour and a half each time, these students are excited to see me, so school work may or may not be what they have in mind for my time there.  It is super challenging to keep these students on track the entire time I am there. The field experience portion is part of the class, FSA 210/211 (Introduction to Inclusive Teaching).  Twice a week, Professor Timberlake and our classmates meet for class and learn new material that we apply in our experiences at Parker School, in addition to reflecting on those experiences in class.  I can also apply some of that material on campus:  For twenty-five hours this semester I will be tutoring college students at the Academic Support and Achievement Program (ASAP) on campus.

Each ASAP tutoring session is an hour long, during which time I am helping tutees learn material from class in their own way, as well as, helping them enhance their own ways of learning with my guidance and prior knowledge from these courses. One thing that has been extremely challenging for me is tutees thinking I have and know all the answers, when in reality I do not!  Tutors are here to help to the best of their ability, by helping the tutee learn by their own means. I can tutor math, but under no circumstances am I a math expert!  It has been extremely challenging to not be discouraged when I do not know the answer, or if it takes me a while to understand how to help a tutee with a math problem.

I am also being tutored as a tutor.  Once a week, Jen Drake and our ASAP Tutor classmates meet for class and discuss effective ways of tutoring, and reflect on our tutoring experiences in class.  Luckily, I went into this tutoring class with a little bit of knowledge about tutoring since I attended the “Tutoring Workshop” last semester hosted by John Suarez and Jen Drake.  I reinforced the information from this workshop again this semester when I helped facilitate it with my colleagues John Suarez and Crissana Christie.  Facilitating the tutoring workshop was very relevant to my experiences.  Because I had gone to the workshop last semester, I am in a tutoring methods class, and tutor college students; I had a lot of rich information and experiences to share with those students who attended the workshop.

This semester has many challenges in store for me.  I have demanding classes, service- learning opportunities that challenge me to be a tutor, a mentor, and the best service-learner I can be through reflecting on my coursework and applying it to real life situations, as well as a rich internship where I can apply my coursework.  I am in the process of completing the challenge to the best of my ability so I can learn as much as I can and give back to the wonderful community I am serving in.


A Senior’s Perspective

By Colleen Honan, Intern for SUNY Cortland’s Institute for Civic Engagement

As my undergraduate career comes to a close, I’ve been feeling quite nostalgic about the past four years. Lately, I’ve caught myself saying, “I’m going to miss this,” more than I’d like to admit. As a senior about to graduate, I feel pretty sagely, especially when I look back at my eighteen-year-old self. Although I’m only in my early twenties, I’ve come a long way from my freshman self. It’s been a journey of mistakes that I roll my eyes at now, but I know that making those mistakes is what made these past four years a memorable learning experience.

At times, I felt as though I was stumbling through college and getting myself into all kinds of predicaments. I didn’t begin my college career at Cortland but rather at small private school in Vermont. It was a difficult first year of schooling and I honestly believe I was not ready for college. I’d like to point out the ridiculous notion that students are supposed to pick a major when they are eighteen. I was a dual French and International Studies major for a while with no intention of teaching. Please do not ask why I was adamant about a French major because I could not honestly answer. Nor could I tell you why I took Arabic classes on top of French classes. My GPA did not take kindly to either. But hey, you live and learn, and most of that learning happened outside of the classroom.

For instance, I decided at one point last summer that maybe I should try to be an Air Force officer. I now laugh every time I tell someone that. Why? Well, for one thing I had no prior experience with the military in any shape or form. I met with my recruiter and for some reason I passed the interview and was scheduled to take the Air Force Officer test. I had two weeks to study on top of college courses. I went to Albany for the test, which turned out to be the strangest experience. First of all, I stood out like a sore thumb with my high top Vans and leopard bag. It didn’t occur to me that maybe that wasn’t the correct attire for a military environment. I was awakened at four in the morning to take a test at eight. I was yelled at, corralled and processed with fifty other kids who were off to basic. Four hours later, I finally got around to the test. Needless to say, I failed, which I felt at first to be a slap in the face but later came to the realization that maybe this was a sign that the military was not for me.

The next week, I did a “180” and decided to apply for the Peace Corps, for which I was also rejected. I didn’t even think that was possible. I applied for countless other jobs and the rejection letters kept on coming. I was floored by this and dramatically claimed that I would never, ever, in a trillion years ever, have a career. Obviously I’m prone to dramatizations. Moral of the story:  failure is a part of life and it’s crucial for personal growth. I took chances and I take pride in the fact that I tried. Although I’m highlighting my least successful attempts, I believe they were some of the most enlightening moments. I never understood how important it is to fail, and – more importantly – how to recover from those failures.

Another piece of advice I wish I could go back in time and share with young Colleen is the necessity of trying things that force you out of your comfort zone. Fortunately, I did catch onto this once I transferred to Cortland. I played for the varsity soccer team for a while before I decided club soccer was a better fit for me. I have had three different internships and six types of jobs while in school. I’ve met so many great and helpful people along the way who have contributed to my positive experience here. The internship I currently have is with the Institute for Civic Engagement.

I kind of fell into this internship when I had an end of the semester crisis of “Oh my God, what am I doing with my life?” and frantically searched for openings. I was hesitant to intern here because it wasn’t necessarily something I thought would complement my major, but it was an internship after all. To my surprise, it turned out to be a fantastic situation for me because it allowed me to greatly improve my communication skills. I published a few articles in the Dragon Chronicle, kept a weekly blog, helped maintain social media accounts, and wrote press releases, all of which were learning opportunities for me. This internship has inspired me to be more involved with my community, and has spurred a new interest in working with non-profit organizations.

This summer, I will go to Poland on a month-long service-learning study-abroad trip. I will be taking one class while interning at a non-governmental organization. I’m hoping to be involved in one that focuses on women’s issues in Poland. Before I go, I’d like to begin volunteering at a local Planned Parenthood. I’ve always had an interest in women’s issues but was never sure how to pursue a career in it. Volunteerism had never occurred to me as a great way to discover interests and possible career paths, but it is. Not only are you dedicating your time to help others, you are learning about yourself as well.

All in all, it’s been a bumpy ride full of twists and turns, some that I wish I could relive again, and others I’d rather forget. What you get is what you put into it, and you somehow find yourself along the way. The best moments of undergraduate life resulted from closing my eyes and stepping away from what I knew. More often than not, I was rewarded for choosing to do something that terrified me, and that in itself was exhilarating. So to all my undergraduate peers, a Mark Twain quote seems fitting, “throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

Volunteer Week

By Colleen Honan, Intern for SUNY Cortland’s Institute for Civic Engagement

On April 15th, we witnessed humanity at its lowest, but also at its brightest. The senseless killings were overshadowed by the humanity displayed by Bostonians and marathon goers. I was shaken by the explosions and distraught by the deaths and injuries sustained that day, but I was also comforted. A quote by Fred Rogers captures this perfectly, “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’” There are numerous uplifting accounts of people going out of their way to respond to the bombings. From the medical responders and law enforcement officers to ordinary citizens offering up their couches on craigslist. These overwhelmingly courageous and selfless stories can be an inspiration to everyone. These helpers set us apart and demonstrated how a simple act can make all the difference to some one else.

This week is National Volunteer Week, a week to celebrate people making a significant difference through service. These days of service are a great opportunity to give back to your community. Founded in 1974, this week centers on the impact and power of volunteerism. It is also a chance to step up as helper in your area just as so many did in Boston. The Cortland community and surrounding towns are always looking for volunteers for various services dedicated to making their community a better place. Find a cause you believe in and dedicate your time to it.

If you’re looking for reasons to soak up the sun, voice an interest in helping with the plans for a campus garden. There will be an event to build raised beds on April 23rd, from 3:00 to 5:00 p.m in front of Neubig Hall.

Volunteer for the March of Dimes in Ithaca this Saturday to celebrate 75 years of working for healthier, stronger babies. The event is in need of volunteers to help with registration, organizing and setting up for the event! Find more information here.

If you’d rather stay close to home, volunteer for the Spring Community Cortland Clean-up on Saturday May 4th. For more information about the Spring Community Clean-Up here.

Volunteer for the Spring Fling clean up this Sunday, April 28th.

If you are a future educator, sign up as a mentor for youth at the local YMCA. If you are less of a people person, volunteer at the SPCA; animals need hugs too!

The point is that there are half a dozen services that are in dire need of your time and energy. Do your community and yourself a favor by lending a hand to a cause that inspires you. Not only is it a great résumé builder, it’s also a chance to step outside your comfort zone by doing some good for others.

Become a helper this week, be Boston Strong!

Share your volunteer experiences with us on our Facebook page or on our Twitter feed with #getinvolved.


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