One of the key components of Emerson’s mission statement is its commitment to civic engagement. The Office of Service Learning and Community Action (SLCA) largely facilitates that part of the Emerson experience, running programs in which students partner with nonprofit agencies, such as Jumpstart, which pairs students with preschoolers from low-income neighborhoods to work on developing literacy skills, and Best Buddies, which creates opportunities for one-to-one friendships and employment and leadership development for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
Earlier this month, SLCA was recognized nationally for its service. Emerson was named to President Obama’s 2012 Higher Education Honor Roll for Community Service for the seventh time. The College has received the honor every year since the Corporation for National and Community Service and U.S. Department of Education created it in 2006.
Associate Director of SLCA Suzanne Hinton said the active roles students have in Emerson’s community service programs are what distinguishes Emerson’s service learning experience. “This is not just membership in a service club. Students are actually taking on significant leadership roles and committing a lot of time to them.”
Six hundred and forty-two schools across the United States were chosen for the Honor Roll based on factors including scope and innovation of service projects, the extent of service learning in school curriculum, and measurable community outcomes as a result of the school’s service.
Senior Gabrielle Tassone, a Journalism major who has been active in service since her junior year, said doing community service at Emerson has made her want to take a more active role in fueling positive change in the world. “I came here wanting to write the news and I’m leaving wanting to make it,” she said.
During the 2010–2011 school year, 1,614 Emerson students participated in service in classrooms and through the school’s SLCA office. These students served a collective 45,000 hours of community service.
Spring Break spent doing good
Twenty-two students and three staff and faculty advisors recently spent their Spring Break doing community service, rather than taking vacation.
Isabel Thottam ’13, student leadership coordinator for Emerson’s 2012 Alternative Spring Break program, spearheaded the research and planning for two spring break service projects. One took place in Taos, New Mexico, and the other was a local Boston service project. Both projects centered on food issues, from farming food sources to feeding the hungry.
The students who travelled to New Mexico were volunteer farmers for a week, readying fields for planting, installing irrigation pipelines, and constructing a greenhouse. Thottam, who co-led the New Mexico group, said that before the trip she hadn’t thought much about where the food on her plate comes from. “It was an incredibly eye-opening experience. Now I really want to own a garden and grow my own food, because we learned how to do it all.”
Claude Bartholomew, administrative associate in SLCA, also joined the New Mexico Alternative Spring Break. He noted the impact the Taos community farming practices had on the students. “It taught them how increasing your own food sovereignty is important and also possible.”
The students who were a part of the Boston community service project volunteered at six local organizations. Some of the highlights included helping prepare food at Haley House, an organization that uses food as a vehicle to help alleviate suffering, build new skills, and bring communities together; and learning more about composting practices at UMass Boston through the Campus Kitchens Project.
Students who travelled to New Mexico were: Thottam, Sean Werkheiser '12, Emma-Jean Weinstein '13, Ruben Raskin '12, Isabelle Redmen '13, Sophie Meuch '14, Christian Beugren-Aragon '15, Matthew Durham '12, Paige Trubatch '12, Nathan Koval '12, Gabrielle Tassone '12, and Emily Dyess '12. Hinton and Bartholomew accompanied them.
Students who took part in the Boston project were: Nicole Tantum '14, Samantha DiMauro '14, Monica de Pinto Ribeiro Hancke '14, Rachel Gordon '15, Larissa Sapko '12, Erin Goodyear '15, Stephanie Miceli '13, Conor Doolin '15, and Isabella Gordillo '15. Melinda Robins was their faculty advisor.