Service Learning Applied


Institute 2012There really is something about a beginning. The week of the Community Works Institute was a constant outpour of beginning for me. I had recently been hired under Rick Cota, the Director of Nutrition at Claremont Unified School District (CUSD) as the department’s Community Coordinator.  While I was greatly anticipating the school year, I was also anxious for it to begin. Community Works' Summer WEST Institute came at a perfect time for me because I was able to take from it a large portion of what I needed to get a jump start on my new position, gain a better understanding of my role within the department and set a great foundation for the school year at CUSD.

I was invited to attend the Institute and immediately accepted the invitation knowing that it would be an amazing opportunity to learn from other individuals who were actively passionate about education and changing the lives of their students. I had no prior experience as an educator, and although I would not necessarily be working out of a classroom, I knew I needed to learn more about educating if I was going to be involved at all with CUSD. Because the nature of my job would revolve around school nutrition and our gardening program, I was ecstatic to learn that the entire week at CWI would focus around the constructs of Service-Learning.

The material we discussed with the minds and talents supporting those discussions were remarkable. I was involved in the program and was so thrilled in our size and skill set. The entire week I found myself in a constant cycle of writing and absorbing information shared not only by Pat and Joe, but the amazing minds that spanned from traditional educators, to entrepreneurs, and community service organizers.

study groupDuring that week we spent a lot of time discussing “place” and the role of service-learning in our schools. The idea of place was particularly interesting to me because it so perfectly fit into our gardening program. Realizing the need for students to have a place of safety to retreat to, helped me identify the need to define our gardening program as a place of refuge by allowing the students to own it as their own.

Identifying the students’ need for place and the importance of allowing them the freedom within that place to express themselves instantly put me at state of ease. A large part of my anxiety prior to the school year had come from wondering if I, a single person and an inexperienced post grad, could really accomplish all of the things the district had hoped from me.

One of the best realizations I had come to at the end of the weekend is that I simply could not. No one person can do all of the things he/she hopes to do alone. But there is much I can do, and once I had come to the conclusion that my job was to empower and act as a resource to the youth and community I realized that I was no longer alone in accomplishing these goals. With the student’s ability to transform, we could have many hands accomplishing the same goal and learning inside and outside of the classroom together. That is the beauty of Service-Learning applied.

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