Community Changemaker Spotlight: Allison Greiner

Posted by Natasha Derezinski-Choo on Tue, Sep 16, 2014 @ 11:24 PM

This post was written by NobleHour Special Contributor Natasha Derezinski-Choo, a student at Grimsley High School in Greensboro, NC.

Going the Distance for Duchenne Awareness

Allison Greiner started Miles for Matthew, a fundraising event in Greensboro, NC that helps advance research for Duchenne muscular dystrophy. By day, Greiner is a French teacher and a mother of three. She is fun, smart, energetic, and a little bit quirky, but most importantly she has a heart dedicated to doing the best she can for others. 

Miles for Matthew is a 5K/10K run benefitting research and awareness for Duchenne muscular dystrophy.

One of her sons, Matthew, was diagnosed with Duchenne muscular dystrophy in 2007 when he was 21 months old.  Duchenne is a genetic disorder that occurs mainly in boys where there is a mutation in the gene that encodes for dystrophin.  Dystrophin is a protein needed to maintain muscle cell structure.  Without dystrophin, muscles degenerate over time, and the loss of their function can lead to further health problems.  Currently, there is no cure for Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, and it is the most common among incurable genetic disorders that affect children. 

In 2008, less than a year after receiving Matthew’s diagnosis, Greiner started Miles for Matthew, an annual 5K/10K race to raise money for Parent Project Muscular Dystrophy, an organization that helps fund research programs for Duchenne. The slogan for Miles for Matthew is “Hope Starts Here.”  After overcoming the initial shock of her son’s diagnosis, she explains, she knew she wanted to do something.  She knew she couldn’t cure him herself, so starting this race was her way of fighting for her son.  Greiner doesn’t recall where she got the idea to do a race, seeing as at the time she was not an avid runner herself, but she felt that it would be a good way to involve an entire community. 


This past Saturday was the sixth annual Miles for Matthew race. The program expands each year. Typically, about 300 runners register and 100 volunteers help on the day of the race, but Greiner is the sole organizer. This means that Greiner is responsible for planning the logistics, finding sponsors, marketing the event and more. 

When soliciting sponsorships, Greiner has a philosophy about keeping it within the community.  She believes in asking mostly local businesses to donate to the event, and in return she tries to always ask for support from places that she typically gives her business too. She believes that this creates a “beautiful partnership” between the fundraising event and local entrepreneurs.  Sponsorships help fund the event itself, and this is very important to Greiner because her goal is that all of the money given by the runners for race day goes directly toward research.

Sending emails and following up with sponsors can also take quite a bit of time. However, each year it becomes easier, as over time she has built a network of contacts that expect her to contact them about sponsorships. Community support also makes Marketing a little easier. Community members are very supportive by sharing Miles for Matthew by word of mouth and through social media. A graphic designer, advertiser, and some local businesses with advertising space help promote the event. Thanks to a supportive community, for the past six years Greiner has been able to organize this event that brings hope to her family and to the families of other boys with Duchenne.

Greiner explains the personal impact of starting this event: “the rewards personally are really profound.  It’s just phenomenal, the amount of people that want to help.” Her biggest takeaway from this experience is that she is glad she has been open about the hardships of Duchenne and created something that allows other people to help.  People around her want to be supportive, but there is only so much they can say to help, and they are not always sure what they can do. Miles for Matthew gives them an opportunity to do something impactful.  “People in this community are really generous with their time and donations and moral support,” said Greiner.

The impact of Miles for Matthew can be measured in several ways.  The race has been very successful in bringing awareness to the local community. After the first two years, Greiner decided to change the location from Bur Mill Park to Lindley Park near Matthew’s school.  Having the runners run near Matthew’s school and around the neighbourhood increases visibility for the event.  To date, the 2014 Miles for Matthew campaign has raised over $26,000 for Parent Project Muscular Dystrophy.  Miles for Mathews is “one event in a plethora of events,” Greiner said. “. . . collectively, that’s making a larger impact.”

Though she is humble about the impact of her local event in comparison to the grand scheme of things, I would argue that the change she has brought to her son’s life and to this community is bolder than what most individuals would dare to enact.  People like Allison Greiner are community change-makers because making a positive impact is part of their everyday lives. 

For more information about Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy or to make a donation, go to Learn more about Miles for Matthew by watching the video below:



10 Ways to Celebrate Grandparents Day

Posted by Dolly Duplantier on Sun, Sep 07, 2014 @ 03:37 PM

National Grandparents Day is Sunday, September 7. Despite popular belief in my household, Hallmark™ mother-blk-drs-300did not create this holiday. In fact the idea originated in 1970 when Marian McQuade, a housewife in West Virginia, initiated a grassroots campaign to set aside a special day just for Grandparents. McQuade felt deeply about the lonely elderly in nursing homes and was also a tireless advocate for senior citizens rights. After three years of working with civic, business, church, and political leaders, West Virginia Governor Arch A. Moore proclaimed the first National Grandparents Day. McQuade didn’t stop there. She petitioned governors in 49 states to follow West Virginia’s lead and set aside a Grandparents Day. Forty-three of those states declared it a holiday. In 1978, President Jimmy Carter proclaimed the first Sunday after Labor Day as the official National Grandparents Day.

McQuade passed away in 2008, but many of her descendants carry on her legacy through the National Grandparents Day Council, a non-profit established to protect and promote the original intent of National Grandparents Day as championing the elderly.

So in honor of Marian McQuade and all the wonderful grandparents out there, we’ve come up with a list of 10 ways to celebrate the day and honor your grandparents! Whether they are near or far, you can honor them year round.

  1. Pick up some take-out, bring your laptop and your cell phone, and get grandma and grandpa connected! Show them how to use e-mail and Facebook to connect with friends and family that live out of town. Set them up with Skype or FaceTime so they can see their grandkids! Turn them in to cyber seniors and then, make sure you can keep up with them!
  2. Help them create a YouTube video! Get Grandma to share her secret recipe for those chocolate chipcyber_Grandma cookies! 
  3. Get that video camera out or charge up your cell phone and start asking questions! Grandma and Grandpa have a lot of great stories! Ask them about what life was like when they were your age! Record their history so you have a keepsake and can share with others!
  4. I bet there’s a box of old photos at your grandparents’ house! Go old school and pick up an album or scrapbook. Spend the afternoon going through and labeling the photos. Let Grandpa share some great stories about the one that got away! Or, gather the photos, scan them, and add them to their new Facebook page! You can also put the photos on a disk and create a video with music for a great birthday or Christmas present!
  5. Pick up some poster board or get on and create your family tree
  6. Take your grandparents to one of their favorite restaurants for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Turn off the phone, ask some questions, and listen!
  7. Get a group together to visit the elderly in nursing homes. Check in on elderly neighbors.  
  8. Take your grandparents to the movies or catch a baseball game together!
  9. Shop and cook one of your grandma’s favorite recipes together!
  10. Find opportunities to volunteer together! Helping others can make you both feel great! 

Enjoy this day and every day with your grandparents. Make sure Grandma and Grandpa post a comment about their special day on our NobleHour Facebook page! 


Photo of Marian McQuade courtesy of National Grandparents Day

Photo: Dolly Duplantier








Topics: volunteering, random acts of kindness, technology, connecting communities, social media, Grandparents Day, Family

Being an Effective Volunteer Coordinator

Posted by Natasha Derezinski-Choo on Fri, Sep 05, 2014 @ 11:41 AM

This post was written by NobleHour Special Contributor Natasha Derezinski-Choo, a student at Grimsley High School in Greensboro, NC.

Volunteer coordinators help an organization run smoothly. They are the point of contact between the volunteers and the organization.  However, not many people know about this challenging and important field.  In order to understand what it means to be a volunteer coordinator, what skills it takes, and how one might get involved, I spoke with two volunteer coordinators at local organizations to gain their insight. 

Finding good volunteers is vital to the success of a non-profit.Carole Whisnant is the volunteer coordinator for The Salvation Army in Greensboro, NC.  She has been managing volunteers since 2008.  Prior to coming to Greensboro, she was an office manager in Atlanta, GA where she also worked with many volunteers. 

Kelli Crawford is the volunteer coordinator at the Greensboro Science Center.  She has been working in this position for three years now, and manages more than 750 volunteers a year. 

The responsibilities in a volunteer coordinator position are vital to the success of an organization.  Whisnant explained that her primary job is recruiting volunteers for our various programs and services, and that this job requires her to “wear many hats”.

Crawford elaborates on these different “hats” with something volunteer coordinators call the “Three R’s”—recruitment, retention, and recognition.  In terms of recruitment, volunteer coordinators must find volunteers for programs and advertise any volunteer opportunities.  At GSC, there are a variety of programs in need of volunteers, and part of Crawford’s job is making sure people are aware of those programs.

Volunteer coordinators are  also responsible for making sure that the people who are giving up their time to the organization have all the necessary tools and information to do the most good.  Retention depends on ensuring that volunteers feel like they are making a difference and getting the most out of the time they serve. Volunteers need to feel valued, and a volunteer coordinator makes sure they do. GSC  has two formal volunteer recognition events each year.

“We want our volunteers to be thanked often so they know how important they are to us. That makes them feel like they are a vital part of the organization” said Crawford.Volunteer coordinators must recruit, retain and recognize volunteers.

Fulfilling all of the responsibilities of a volunteer coordinator also involves learning and acquiring skills to deal with many other people.  A person must have certain skills and characteristics in order to efficiently manage hundreds of volunteers.  According to Whisnant, the three most important qualities for a volunteer coordinator are good communication skills, patience, and a good attitude.  Crawford agrees that communication is an important part of managing volunteers. “You have got to be able to talk to people. You’ve got to definitely be able to train people. You have to know how to convey info in a way that’s fun but also get your points across.  That’s a part of motivating your volunteers and making sure they know what expected of them.”

This ability to communicate stems from being a people person, says Crawford, “If you can’t relate to your volunteers, you’re not going to be successful.” Lastly, Crawford emphasizes the importance of organization.  She explains, “One of the things that they expect when they are giving their time freely to your organization is that you’re going to know what you are doing, and you’re going to have everything together.  If you tell them you’re going to do something they expect you to do it and to do it on time.  It’s really important to make that good impression.”

Local organizations that rely on volunteers also rely on skilled volunteer coordinators. It takes a certain type of person to keep volunteers informed and inspiring them to stay with your cause. Being organized, having the patience to work well with people, and communicating effectively are some of these most important skills a person needs to manage volunteers. 

For anyone contemplating a volunteer coordinator position, this is definitely both an exciting and difficult field.  Whisnant and Crawford both advise that this is not a job for just anyone.  “If you don't enjoy working closely with people then I would not recommend this field.  Working with volunteers can be very challenging and demanding,” said Whisnant. 

Crawford explains that, in her experience, one of the greatest challenges is knowing that there are only so many people wanting to volunteer, and even less who will be interested in your organization. The struggle comes from reaching all of those people who can be an asset to your organization.  However, on the flip side, Crawford also believes that, “It’s not really one of those careers that people set out to get into.” Instead, people usually get involved by volunteering or perhaps working with an organization, and then if a volunteer coordinator position opens up, their experience with volunteering may lead them to that direction in their career.  Though this is a difficult field, Crawford loves her job and ended our interview by saying, “It’s really rewarding because you are managing people who do this for the love of doing it, not because they are getting paid to do it.  You get to meet some the best people of your life.”

Special thanks to my two interviewees Carole Whisnant and Kelli Crawford. 

Back to School Bucket List: Volunteering & More

Posted by Natasha Derezinski-Choo on Tue, Aug 19, 2014 @ 03:24 PM

This post was written by NobleHour Special Contributor Natasha Derezinski-Choo, a student at Grimsley High School in Greensboro, NC.

The end of summer is approaching.  For me, this also means that soon my senior year of high school will begin, and I am troubled by the question, how did we get here? When the topic enters conversation, I find myself reminiscing with friends about the past three years. We are all wondering, how did we get here? and where did all of that time go? However, the most important question is not about how we arrived, but, where do we go from here? and it is this issue that make senior year such a pinnacle part of high school.  So, in beginning to answer the question where do I go from here? I have put together a list of personal, academic, and lifestyle goals for this year.

  1. Be Myself: Personally, high school has been a time where I have explored what it means to be High school students must prioritize their goals.myself. Adolescence is a time when a person begins to become self-conscious, which can at times be difficult if this entails a decrease in confidence or the pressure to conform to social norms. However, when I began high school and started at a new school with new people, I started to shed my shyness and to act more like myself around others rather than follow what I believed was expected of me.  This year, as I finish the last year of high school and begin to make concrete decisions about where do I go from here? I plan to continue to work on being comfortable being myself and deciding how my actions can better reflect the type of person I want to be.

  2. Start a Volunteer-Based Club: Throughout high school, I have been involved in volunteerism, through both school clubs and community organizations.  This year, I am working on starting a club in my own school which will incorporate service work in which students will help each other students in our school community with completing writing assignments and learning proofreading skills. 

  3. Meet Someone New: I am always looking tomeet and interact with new people.  I have been going to school with the same group of people and have many good friends, but there are still people in our school community I do not recognize. Regardless of who your friends are now, new friends can still be made in unexpected ways, and I hope that this year I will continue old friendships and start some new ones too.

  4. Track Volunteer Hours: I began tracking my service-learning hours in high-school because of the service-learning diploma program in our district.  Since then, volunteering as become more than checking off a box. It has become a vital and meaningful part of my life, and hour-tracking is my way of looking at my impact on the community.  I plan to document all my hours before graduation to earn recognition for my service work and to view my progress over four years. 

  5. College Applications: This is pretty daunting process, but now there is no avoiding it.  My goal is to manage my time, submit the best representation of myself possible, and to avoid leaving everything to the last minute.

  6. Read More: Each year, school becomes more difficult and challenging.  I think I spend less and less time reading for leisure because of a demanding schedule.  Sometimes the large amount of reading I do for school takes away from reading I would like to do for myself.  However, I think there are many benefits to reading, and I am usually adding more books to the list of books I want to read than I am reading.  I want to make time for the leisure reading I once had time for daily.  (Check out some of these interesting reads on volunteerism and social good). 

  7. Say Thank You: The person I am today and the path my life will take after senior year is the culmination of the time and attention of many important mentors and teachers.  I intend to express or reiterate my appreciation to these people for helping me have a successful and fulfilling high school experience.

  8. Volunteering can make the school year more meaningful.Give Back: Since freshman year, volunteerismhas become an increasingly important part of my life.This goal goes along with the previous in that volunteering is a way of saying thank you by giving back to the community.  This year will be no different, and I will continue to volunteer and search for new organizations to engage my time with. 

  9. Cope with Stress: School is like a never-ending to-do list, and sometimes there are moments when it does not seem possible to complete everything in the time I have.  I am usually pretty good at managing stress. For me, the best way to manage stress is to realize that being overly anxious does not ameliorate a situation. Time management is also a way I effectively manage stress.  This year I want to expand my management of stress from a mental approach to a physical approach by exercising more and trying to be more balanced health-wise.

  10. Keep in Touch: After graduation, we will all begin to go our separate ways. With today’s technology and social media, keeping in contact with old friends is easier than ever. However, when I say “keep in touch,” I mean more than just the occasional “selfie” in my newsfeed. What I mean by “keep in touch” is having meaningful conversations and making sure not to lose contact with the people close to me. 

  11. Appreciate Each Moment: There are many events, traditions, and milestones that take place in high school; at our school this includes event such as spirit week, prom, senior tea, convocation, graduation, etc.  It will be the last or only chance to savour these memories, and I intend on making the best of each moment. 

What are your goals for this school year?  How do you plan achieve them? to calculate your progress? 
Share in the comments below. 


"Schoolgirl with books on head" by CollegeDegrees360 is licensed under CC BY 2.0

College Move-In Day - A Major Milestone for Students and Parents

Posted by Dolly Duplantier on Mon, Aug 18, 2014 @ 02:52 PM

In a matter of days, you’ll hear the collective sighs of mothers around the country saying goodbye to their college bound students. You may also hear a few whoops and hollers from the students as their parents drive away!Mom_+_Daughter_Move-In_Day

This is a major milestone for parents and students. As parents, we are excited for our children and the road ahead, but it also signals the end of an era for us. For students, it means newfound freedom and the beginning of an amazing journey. While most won’t admit it, they probably are a bit anxious about leaving the security of home, as well as free laundry services and clean bathrooms.

So imagine combining all of your emotional baggage with plastic bins, luggage, and small appliances. Now Female_Resident_Move-In_Dayadd in traffic, minimal parking, August weather, and if you’re lucky two elevators – that is college move-in day! Don’t worry. In the right frame of mind and a little preparation, you’ll get through it just fine. Here are few tips from Residence Hall experts and parents that have survived the freshmen day move in!

Before You Go

If your child is like mine and hasn’t looked at any of the literature about move-in day, then enjoy taking charge one last time! Go to the university’s residence life website where you can find all the details about move-in day.

“We encourage students first to take a look at the “Move-In Checklist” and our “Policies and Procedures” on our website,” said Dr. Ann Bailey, Director of Housing for Mississippi State University. “This list not only includes a list of items students may need, but also includes items that are not allowed in our residence halls.”

University of Pittsburgh’sArrival Survival” details everything from before you leave home to after you’ve moved in. They even have a twitter handle just for the big event.

Residence Housing websites provide information about each residence hall, including what basic items come with the room. Some schools provide or rent the mini-fridge and microwave. Note that many rooms use extra long mattresses – meaning your sheets from home may not fit! You can also get measurements to determine if there’s space for additional items like beanbag chairs, extra storage units, etc. You don’t want to waste time and money buying and packing items that may never be used.

Leave things like heaters, toasters, hotplates, Panini presses, rope lights, wireless routers, and halogen lights at home. “Anything with open heat sources aren’t allowed due to fire hazards,” said Samantha Noblit, residence director for the University of Pittsburgh. “Halogen light bulbs are typically not allowed as they can get very hot and start fires.”

Once you’ve figured what your student needs, make a list of items they use at home – toiletries, kitchen supplies, laundry, etc. This will give them an idea of what they will need to bring and determine how to store it.

It’s the Little Things

Don’t forget miscellaneous things like a garbage can, hangers, and a first aid kit. Shower curtains and tension rods come in handy for additional privacy in suite-style bathrooms. Anne Garraway, a mom with two students at Mississippi State, said to consider purchasing a good mattress pad/foam pad to make the bed more comfortable, as well as a little fan in case roommates don't agree on temperature.

According to Noblit, shower caddies and flip-flops are some of the most used items. “Communal showers are an adjustment for students, but shower caddies allow them to be able to put all of their toiletry items in one easy transportable basket.”

Noblit also suggests students bring pictures, decorations, or anything else that can make their room feel more like home. She advises bringing an alarm clock even though many students use cellular devices for this purpose. “Sometimes batteries die in the middle of the night and parents aren’t knocking on their door!”

Consider waiting a few weeks on items like an iron. “Many times, one student on the floor will have them and they can share with others,” said Noblit. She also said televisions and printers are on the decline, especially with the rise of streaming television sites and more professors accepting assignments via email or other online systems. Most residence halls have student lounges with TVs for public use.

Talk Before You BuyDr._Keenum_Move-In_Day

Michele White, a mother of two college graduates and a senior at the University of Louisville, advises students to talk to their roommate(s) before they purchase anything. Decide beforehand what common items they will each contribute. “You don't want two refrigerators and two TVs,” said White.

 Should you buy here or there?

Some parents suggest buying supplies in your hometown before you go. “It can be difficult to shop in college towns,” said Garraway. “They run out of everything on move-in weekend.”

However, if you want the full experience, a trip to the university’s local Wal-Mart or Target with everyone else on move-in day can be a fun and memorable event!

Another option to is to purchase items at big box stores online or in your home state and then have them delivered to the local store near the university.

Get Packing

It’s important to have everything in manageable bins, suitcases, etc. Misc. grocery bags of items are sure to rip, or fall over emptying your nice clean linens on the ground. 

“Label all of your personal belongings with your first and last name, room number (include wing/floor, if applicable), and only bring essentials on that first day,” said Bailey. “Then, be aware for the next few days of items you want/have room for and either take a trip home or go to a local store to purchase them.”

“There is no use to pack a bunch of oversized winter coats if you are coming home in a month,” said Noblit. “There isn’t a lot of storage in your residence hall room, so being mindful of the seasons will be important in fitting everything.”

Checking In

Move-in day is usually staggered by dorms, floors, etc., to ease traffic and parking. When you get there,your student will check in to receive his dorm keys. Once we pulled up to my son’s residence hall, there were at least four volunteers ready to take his belongings straight to his room. The van was unloaded within minutes. His residence hall did not have elevators, so we were extremely appreciative of the help to the third floor! Even if your student’s residence hall does have elevators, expect a wait or use the time to get your cardio by taking the stairs!

Saying Goodbye

Once you’re all moved in, schools may have complimentary refreshments. LSU offered banana splits – encouraging parents to “split!” MS State had a “Blues Breakfast” the morning after move-in.

Gwen House Hymel, a mother of one college graduate, a junior at Baton Rouge Community College and a sophomore at University of Louisiana at Lafayette advises to make the goodbyes short and quick. seeyoulater“I did it and had a good cry on the way home.  My kids said I took it well and they weren’t worried about me! It made them feel better about moving on.”

For Hymel each goodbye was different. With one, they agreed to just say “see ya soon!” With another, the best farewell was a long hug and a few words of encouragement. Her youngest just gave her a kiss on the cheek and told her he would be fine.

“We encourage families to say ‘see you later,’” said Bailey.

Noblit said the best way to say goodbye is to hug your child, tell them you love them, make a plan for communication, and a plan for their next visit home. “Making a plan for their next visit home puts a slight moratorium on “empty nest syndrome” and gives each of you something to look forward to.”

We want to hear about your move-in day experience. Make sure to send pictures!


photo credits: MSU Public Affairs & Dolly Duplantier



Topics: back to school, parents, higher education, college, College advice, residence halls, College move-in day

Must-read books for volunteering & social good

Posted by Natasha Derezinski-Choo on Thu, Jul 31, 2014 @ 10:28 AM

Looking to learn about volunteering, activism and creating social change? Add these books to your reading list to learn more about the different ways you can use your time to help others and create social good.

Do It Anyway: The New Generation of Activists by Courtney E. Martin

martin_bookThis book explores the inspiring ways that young people are making a career out of making a difference.  Martin portrays eight young activists both as flawed, relatable people and extraordinary, inspiring, change makers.  She discards the traditional “save the world” and “feel-good” motivations for volunteerism.  Instead she approaches service with one question in mind: “How do you create a meaningful life?”


2. Building Powerful Community Organizations: A Personal Guide to Creating Groups that Can Solve Problems and Change the Worldby Michael Jacoby Brown
This guide provides a step-by-step process to starting your own community organization or non-profit, followed by case studies that better illustrate these steps.  In addition to starting a group, the book also explores how to address community issues. Most importantly, this book gives advice on how to be a leader.  From engaging volunteers to organizing meetings and raising funds, this book gives you all the tools and advice needed to empower a group of people to change their community. 


3. The (Help!) I-Don't-Have-Enough-Time Guide to Volunteer Management by Susan J. Ellis and Katherine Noyes

This easy-to-follow guide on volunteer management provides information about communicating roles and responsibilities to volunteers, utilizing volunteers’ talents, and building an organization’s success.  This book appeals to the busy lives of many people in the non-profit sector and emphasises time management and efficiency, particularly for volunteer managers whose work with volunteers in their spare time.


4. Chicken Soup for the Volunteer's Soul: Stories to Celebrate the Spirit of Courage, Caring and Communityby Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen, Arline McGraw Oberst, John T. Boal, Tom Lagana, and Laura Lagana

In this instalment of the well-known Chicken Soup for the Soul series, volunteers share their heartfelt stories and experiences. These stories come from everyday people who use their time and talents to impact their community. The volunteers who contributed to this collection work for a variety of organizations and dozens of causes, but a common thread among their stories is the capacity within each of us to care for one another.


5. Portfolios of the Poor: How the World's Poor Live on $2by Daryl Collins, Jonathan Morduch, Stuart Rutherford, Orlanda Ruthven

This study looks at worldwide poverty and suggests solutions to this problem. Portfolios of the Poor dives into the everyday lives of some of the forty percent of the world’s population living on less than $2 a day.  The study emphasizes the use of microfinance and the solutions to poverty at a grassroots level. The authors attempt to analyze poverty from the point of view of the poor rather than generalized statistics and trends. This book also suggests solutions that non-profits can follow to help the poor help themselves.   


6. How to Change the World: Social Entrepreneurs and the Power of New Ideas by David Bornstein

This book examines the rise of social entrepreneurship.  It offers case studies, personal stories, and analysis to explain how social entrepreneurship enables an individual to make an impact. In addition to explaining how social entrepreneurship works, Bornstein also explains how it is becoming more popular and why it is so important in our changing world. 


7. The Kid's Guide to Service Projects: Over 500 Service Ideas for Young People Who Want to Make a Difference by Barbara A. Lewis
This book is a great resource for educators.  It helps encourage young people to serve and helps those who aren’t sure where to start changing their community.  The book gives hundreds of project ideas and includes references and contacts to help students get started.  This service guide also has a “Ten Steps to Successful Service Projects” to help young people learn the basics of meaningful service and volunteerism. 


8. Getting to Maybe: How the World is Changedby Frances Westley, Brenda Zimmerman, and Michael Patton
This book explores how meaningful change can actually become feasible. The idea of one person affecting large, complex world issues can often seem impossible.  It’s not possible for every person to become a heroic leader in a movement.  However, that doesn’t mean one person cannot make a difference. The authors of this book explore the stories of people working toward visible progress and synthesize these stories and community relationships into guidelines for creating actual social change. 

9. The Insider’s Guide to the Peace Corps: What to Know Before You Go by Dillon Banerjee
Ever wonder what joining the Peace Corps is like?  This book answers nearly every question imaginable, including the application process, packing for your trip, how to adjust to living abroad, and the effectiveness of the Peace Corps as an organization.  The book is written in an easy-to-follow question-answer format and provides all the knowledge you might ever want to know about the Peace Corps from experienced volunteers themselves.


10. The Power of Unreasonable People: How Social Entrepreneurs Create Markets that Change the Worldby John Elkington and Pamela Hartigan

Elkington and Hartigan argue that social entrepreneurs are helping the world progress by analyzing the stories of unconventional but successful social entrepreneurs. This book provides a look into the sector of the economy teetering between non-profits and businesses.  These companies apply the skills of entrepreneurship to find solutions to social issues. The book explains how these companies are changing the landscape of today’s economy.


11. Don't Just Count Your Hours, Make Your Hours Count by Dr. Kristin E. Joos Ph.D., Alana Rush 

The book includes best practices, tips, lists, "How to's", "Don't do's", popular wisdom, academic research, real-life experiences, student volunteer etiquette guides, and more. It is THE essential guide to volunteering & community service for students.



10 TED Talks that demonstrate the power of experiential learning

Posted by Natasha Derezinski-Choo on Mon, Jul 21, 2014 @ 03:55 PM

Service-learning and experiential learning can transform the way students absorb information by integrating real-world experiences with classroom lessons. Check out these TEDx talks that explore how service-learning is helping students understand social issues and empowering them to take action. 


  1. How to Learn? From Mistakes— Diana Laufenberg
    November 2011 at TEDxMidAtlantic
    “If we continue to look at education as if it's about coming to school to get the information and not about experiential learning, empowering student voice and embracing failure, we're missing the mark.”

    Diana Laufenberg describes how projects that challenged her students to use what they learned in class to create and interact with the world were the most fruitful parts of their learning.  She describes assignments that she gives students, forcing them to interact with the world as a way of absorbing classroom topics.   In all of these assignments, Laufenberg emphasized the importance of allowing students to make and learn from mistakes as a powerful method of learning.

  1. Secrets of engagement based learning— Gever Tulley
    September 2012 at TEDxBratislava

    “Create a meaningful experience, and the learning will follow”

    Gever Tulley focuses on how education should be redesigned to create experiences rather than curriculum. In Tulley’s school, Brightworks in San Francisco, children learn by creating.  He outlines an experiential learning process: exploring ideas in the real world, creatively expressing their new knowledge, and sharing their learning with others.


  1. 3 rules to spark learning— Ramsey Musallam
    April 2013

    Ramsey Musallam is a high school science teacher who believes the role of educators is to spark creativity and inquiry in their students. He advocates for integrating technology into education to facilitate question-driven rather than content-driven learning. In his talk, he outlines three rules for educators: curiosity comes first, embrace the mess, and practice reflection. The learning process is nonlinear, and constant adaptation to students’ needs is necessary.  By following these three rules, educators fulfill the purpose of teaching: cultivating curiosity, inquiry, and imagination. 

  1. Service and schools -- partnership on purpose— Jim Kielsmeier
    August 2013 at TEDxFargo


    "Meaning and purpose in one's life is not something that's given.  It's earned.  It's something that comes through significant service and contribution."

    Jim Kielsmeier is the Founder and President/CEO of the National Youth Leadership Council, and founder of the Center for Experiential Education and Service-Learning.  He talks about the history of service in American culture, and his work today bringing service to education.  He has dedicated his life to trying to figure out how to make service a ubiquitous part of growing up.  Kielsmeier describes service-learning as “a new way of thinking about young people.” Encouraging young people to enact positive change in their community in service-learning class settings is the “new way” of thinking about education.

  1. Kids, Take Charge— Kiran Sethi
    November 2009 at TEDIndia

    “If learning is embedded in real world context…then children go through a journey of: aware, where they can see the change; enable, be changed; and then empower, lead the change.”

    Kiran Sethi is an educator who inspires her students to live by two simple words: “I can.”  She does this through a teaching process that incorporates service with learning to show children the empowering quality of knowledge.  This style of learning correlates with better performance in school.  In her classes, she saw that “when children are empowered, not only do they do good [in the community], they do well [academically].”  She believes that teachers should challenge students to be positive change makers. In school, children should go from “the teacher told me to I am doing it.”

  2. The life-long learner— Ben Dunlap
    March 2007
    That irrepressible desire to know”

    Ben Dunlap shares how several mentors in his life have influenced him as a learner.  He emphasizes the importance of being a lifelong learner, of always seizing the moment as one that can be learned from.  Learning comes from education, but once a person is finished studying and begins working in the real world, learning continues as an amalgamation of experiences and interactions with the experiences of others.

  3. A camera for experiential learning— Shree Nayar
    November 2014 at TEDxColumbiaEngineeringSchool

    Shree Nayar talks about a build-it-yourself kit called “Big Shot” to build your own camera.  The learner is exposed to all the scientific processes occurring in the camera from how batteries work to LED lights and from pixels to how the LDC screens displays the picture. It also looks into the steps that lead to capturing a picture with a camera.  Building this camera often leads to a new interest in science, but also leaves the learner with a fully functional camera to capture moments in his or her life.  As Nayar puts it, the product’s greatest asset as a tool for experiential learning is that “it allows you to juxtapose the sciences and the arts in a single learning experience.

  4. Experiential Learning Helps Both Students & Local Businesses— Fernando Padilla
    March 2012 at TEDxAshokaU

    Fernando Padilla describes how his experiences show that local businesses and schools can partner up to better local economies and students’ education. Students are paired with struggling local businesses and volunteer to help the business become more successful.  The local economy is strengthened.  The students bring knowledge and in turn get the satisfaction of helping someone. In addition, students gain valuable professional experience and start building networks—both of which will be useful when they begin searching for jobs after finishing school.

  5. The Future of Education without Coercion— Shawn Cornally
    June 2011 at TEDxEastPrep

    “Lets do something for real. Have them [students] come up with it. Let me help guide them.”

    Shawn Cornally proposes a new way of educating students and assessing their performance.  He believes the role of the teacher should change from one that give information and tests to one who gives a lesson and then challenges students to create something based on the knowledge they have gained.  The teacher acts as a guide for this creative process. Students learn by struggling with the information rather than memorizing it. 

  6. Bring on the learning revolution!— Sir Ken Robinson
    February 2010


    “And every day, everywhere, our children spread their dreams beneath our feet. And we should tread softly.” 

    Sir Ken Robinson argues that education reform is not what we need. What we need is an education revolution.  The current education system is based on a standardized, industrial system.  However, what education should be is one that is personalized to local situations.  Education should follow a grassroots, “agricultural system” where each student can flourish in his or her school.


If you're looking to get the most out of experiential learning and service-learning, don't forget to integrate service reflections


Students Should Take Advantage of All College Has to Offer

Posted by Dolly Duplantier on Mon, Jul 21, 2014 @ 02:59 PM

There are many words I would prefer my children not use (even though they’ve heard a few of them at home!). However, there are three words I hope I never hear them say - "Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda!" (Okay, technically those aren’t words, but I’m sure you get my meaning.)

As my children begin their college years, I want them to take advantage of everything this time in their life has to offer. It’s not just about getting your money’s worth – although that’s an important lesson – whether you are paying tuition or your kids are taking out loans. This is the time to take risks. Try new things. Meet new people. Step out of your comfort zone.

There are many things I wish I had done during my college years (and maybe a few I wish I had not done!). I wish I had developed more of a relationship with teachers and sought their advice. I also wish I had taken more advantage of clubs, school organizations, and service work, but I let self-doubt and fear prevent me from taking those risks. 

Don’t get me wrong, I am very happy with my life. I had a wonderful college experience. Hindsight is 20/20. Things happen for a reason, but I don’t want my kids to have regrets about not taking chances. Four years (or maybe five or six!) go by very quickly. It’s a great time of life to discover who you are, find friends with different opinions and passions, and transition from child to adult. So, as my second son begins this new phase, I’ve consulted the highest authorities – nostalgic parents, friends, and recent college graduates to offer their words of wisdom. Will he listen? I honestly don’t know. Maybe, though, these pearls of wisdom will remain in the back of his mind when an opportunity presents itself. And, instead of looking the other way because it might require effort and risk, he might just hear that little voice of mine and decide to go for it.

So, here’s a quick list for college students to consider as they get ready for school. If those of us that have graduated could go back, these are the things we would do differently! 

Wish Lists from the "Woulda Coulda Shoulda’s"lsutiger_stadium

1. I wish I had gone to more events...ballgames, rallies, etc.

2. I wish I had served on a student government board.

3. I wish I had spent more time meeting individually with professors to pick their brains. I view it as a missed opportunity.

4. I wish I had done more volunteering.

5. I wish I had joined an Engineering club.

6. Sometimes, I wish I had gone to school out of town.

7. I wish I had taken my undergraduate studies more seriously.

8. I wish I had understood that it wasn't about the points to get a certain grade, but that it should have been about really learning. Graduate school was a rude awakening.

9. I wish I had gone to college with a more open mind and not a specific major.

10. I wish I had switched majors.

11. I wish I had traveled abroad.

12. I wish I had gone to the Bruce Springsteen concert rather than study for an anatomy test. (Okay, I’m not advocating choosing a concert over studying. However, every student needs to take a break once in a while. It’s good to recharge! And, no, this wasn’t me.)

10 Suggestions from current students, teachers and alums:

1. Go to Class!

2. Get out there and enjoy it all. Take it seriously and always do your best.

3. Sign up for a club.

4. Utilize resources available on campus, including services like writing centers and tutoring.10264317_10152504222274744_8343547831175655741_n

5. Volunteer on campus or at local organizations. Take time to help others.

6. Develop a good relationship with your professors. They can be great mentors. Take advantage of their office hours. You want the people who determine your grades to know your name and that you're working hard. They can also clarify course material, provide guidance on papers, and offer tips on how to prepare for tests.

7. Study abroad for a full year. (If a year is too long for you, consider studying abroad for one semester, the summer, or holiday breaks.)

8. Take computer classes even if they are not required for your major.

9. Get to know the history and traditions of your school.

10. Reach out and meet new people.

What are your suggestions and tips for incoming freshmen and current college students? Did we miss anything? Share your words of wisdom here!


 Photo credit: Dolly Duplantier & Delta Upsilon, Global Service Initiative Trip 

Topics: back to school, education, volunteering, higher ed, service, graduates, opportunities, college major, higher education, college, involvement, College advice

Orientation Helps Students and Parents Transition to College Life

Posted by Dolly Duplantier on Tue, Jul 15, 2014 @ 10:05 AM

All around the country, high school graduates are packing their overnight bags for college orientation. When I was a freshman, back in the dark ages, orientation took place just a few days before you began school. Universities now have new students choose from two or three day sessions beginning as early as March and continuing until the start of the Fall semester.

Orientation is not just for students! Parents are now encouraged to attend to learn about the university, as well as obtain a comfort level about sending their children away to school. Sessions address concerns about managing time, dining plans, housing and residence issues, academic advising, financial aid and money matters, safety, and being away from home.


“Orientation is important for students and parents, especially for freshmen,” said Lindsey Storey, director of orientation and events at Mississippi State University (MSU)  in Starkville. “They’re coming out of high school and it’s hard for parents to let go. We want the students excited to come back in August and we want the parents to feel good and confident about sending their students to MSU. Our goal is to help parents and students transition to a new chapter in their lives.”

“I felt that orientation got me even more excited about college and I loved hearing about the experiences of the older college students,” said Kate Rosamond, an incoming freshman at Louisiana State University (LSU) in Baton Rouge

“Every kid has something that they may be nervous about,” said Storey. “We want to alleviate that stress, fear, or doubt. For the student that is really excited, we want to reassure them they made the right decision.”

Orientation provides students a chance to get adjusted to the campus and learn their way around before it’s packed with undergraduate and graduate students. At some schools, students have the option of staying on campus to get a true higher education experience.

Orientation Leadersgroup_pic

Parents and students attend some general sessions together and then students are separated into smaller groups for more intimate Q&A sessions. Group leaders are college students and usually go through a rigorous interview process and training. At MSU, they are competitively selected from among a student body of 20,000. A concentrated course prepares them to lead tours, sessions, and answer questions.

During breakout sessions, students are taken around campus and may complete tasks like getting student ID’s, a campus mailbox, or signing up for the school’s recreation center. Orientation leaders also discuss college living, student involvement, the surrounding community, and student life in general.

“I learned a lot from the group leaders,” said Jeremy Siegel, an incoming freshman at MSU. “They stressed that in addition to academics and going to class, it was also really important to get involved and be a part of something at school.”

Orientation is also a great opportunity to meet future classmates. So when they return for move-in day in August, students can reconnect or at least recognize a few friendly faces.

Most orientations will offer sessions geared for specific majors. Academic officials will address expectations and requirements for particular areas of study. If the school has a band or other performing arts, your student may be able to try-out during orientation.

Class Schedule

One of the greatest benefits for students to attend orientation is the opportunity to schedule classes in advance. Rosamond agreed. “The most important thing I learned at orientation was how to schedule my classes.”

Counselors are on site to help students go through the registration process and answer any questions. Parents are usually not allowed into these sessions, so, if you’re like me and can’t help yourself, have a brief discussion about the following topics before they sign up for classes.

Think Before You Schedule!

1. Not an early bird? Don’t schedule classes at 8 a.m.

2. Don’t schedule classes 10 minutes apart if they are on opposite ends of the campus!

3. If your student wants to work part time, try to leave some blocks of time on the schedule for work and study time.

4. Look at required courses for their major. Are the classes offered during Fall and Spring semesters or only once a year? Take that into consideration.

5. Some courses require pre-requisite classes. Again, see if these are offered during both semesters.

 Dining, Entertainment & Getting Involved

Whether it's breakfast, lunch, or dinner, at least one of your meals will be at a campus dining facility. This is a fun occasion for parents to see what their kids will be eating during the semester!

Evenings usually include informal dining and activities. This is a great way for parents and students to end the day and talk about what they each experienced. MSU holds their dinner in the stadium club of the Davis Wade Stadium. The evening festivities concluded with a movie shown on the scoreboard. Some schools have late night activities like carnival games and inflatable obstacle courses to get the kids to interact. Others may host informational fairs where students and parents can speak with representatives from a variety of university departments or student-led organizations and clubs to learn more about campus services, how to get involved in school, or how to volunteer within the community.  

Q&A – Expert Advice

The last day usually includes a Q&A session with representatives from specific departments like housing, dining, financial aid, and health services. Some schools include panels of current university parents who can address the concerns new parents may have about sending their kids to school for the first time.

Dorm Life

Many schools offer dorm tours, so you can get a sneak peek at what you might need to bring on move-in day. If tours are not available, check the school’s housing website or their Facebook page for virtual tours of dorm rooms. Some schools and students post videos on YouTube as well.

Get the Picture?

For parents, especially those out-of-state, orientation is a comforting way to form a mental picture of where your student will be. As much as you may want to text or call throughout the day, it's time to cut the cord – or at least loosen it a little! Orientation makes it easier to do so.

“I am so glad that I went to orientation,” said Kate’s mom, Mary Frances Rosamond. “It answered a lot of questions for me and made me a lot more comfortable about sending Kate there. I also had a lot of fun.”  

Kate felt the same way. “The sessions definitely made me feel more comfortable about entering college this year. I learned so much useful information about how to get ready for school.”

“Parents want their student to be happy,” said Storey. “When they see their kids excited, that gives them a good feeling. Parents should walk away feeling they are making a good investment, and that their children are going to be safe and happy.”


Photos: Mississippi State University, Matt Siegel










Topics: college admissions, higher education, college, college visits, highered, Orientation

Finding Fulfillment through Service-Learning Courses

Posted by Natasha Derezinski-Choo on Thu, Jun 26, 2014 @ 01:39 PM

This post was written by NobleHour Special Contributor Natasha Derezinski-Choo, a student at Grimsley High School in Greensboro, NC.

Around this time of year, high school graduates throw their graduation caps in the air, parents sob and wonder where the time has gone, and another generation begins their transition into adult life.  For those students whose post high school plans involve higher education, the time to register for classes is quickly approaching.  As students begin this new phase in their life and start thinking about their options for the first semester of college or university, service-learning should be a topic on their mind.  Including service-learning courses in your college experience enhances your knowledge in a subject, benefits the community, and bridges the gap between a university lecture hall and the world waiting outside.  

Students engage in service-learning.

Service-learning differs from plain volunteerism and community service. Unlike volunteerism, service-learning incorporates topics and concepts discussed in the classroom and applies them to real world problems.  Service-learning teaches through experiential learning.  Students are engaged by their teachers both in the course subject area and in the ways they are challenged to use this knowledge in the greater community.  Nazareth College, a place of higher education renowned for its commitment to including service in the education process, defines experiential learning as:

“Experiential learning is the process of making meaning from direct experience in a real world context. Experiential learning is a philosophy and methodology in which educators purposefully engage with learners in direct experience and focused reflection in order to increase knowledge, develop skills and clarify values.  Facilitated and guided practice, reflection and evaluation are all essential components of this transformative method of learning.”

Service-learning is a unique educational tool and experience because it stimulates critical thinking and problem solving while also asking students to consider the consequences of their knowledge and their involvement in the community.  

Students who opt to take service-learning courses as part of their university experience are more fulfilled and engaged in class.  Students involved in service-learning are happier and more excited about their classes because they are involved in their learning and in critical thinking. Rather than just listening to lectures, students are engaged with the course material, their professors, classmates, and community.  Students are also allowed to explore and act upon their values and beliefs by making an impact in the community.  They develop critical thinking, problem solving, and research skills by using the knowledge they gain in the classroom to tackle real life issues.  By working with others and solving complex social issues, students develop leadership and interpersonal skills, which cannot be taught through lectures and tests.  By engaging students in a variety of settings, service-learning can build knowledge, character, and civic responsibility, which are useful both to the students enrolled in the course and the community they engage with.  

Communities and organizations that partner with higher education institutions to develop service-learning curriculum benefit from the budding minds and dedication of young people.  Service-learning has a positive place in the community by dealing with unmet needs.  According to Campus Compact, a national coalition of more than 1,100 college and university presidents who are committed to fulfilling the public purpose of higher education, the top issues addressed through university service programs are K-12 education, hunger, housing and homelessness. Through service-learning, students interact with diverse groups of people and other cultures in their community.  By confronting these issues and developing service projects in their classes, students become more aware of social issues and causes.  They consider the causes and symptoms of these issues and how their actions can alleviate different facets of a concern in the community.  In service-learning courses, students are not just asked to consider new ideas in textbooks and notes but also the different viewpoints and positions of people in their community.  This allows them to be more empathetic towards others and to consider the impact that their actions in their personal, scholarly, and professional lives have on different groups in the community. Both in their course work and their free time, students learn to ensure a better future for themselves and take initiative in satisfying unmet needs in their community.  

Service-learning courses can have a positive impact on a student’s future and career.  Service-learning is a way of gaining professional experience, fulfilling university credit requirements, and strengthening one’s resume with service work.  In many service-learning courses, students will be able to get out of the classroom and network with professionals in their field as an integral part of the coursework. Starting to build these networks while still in school can help students find internships and jobs in the future.  The experience gained from service-learning classes provides a head start in the professional field and a valuable set of stories through which can help to demonstrate innovative thinking and dedication in applications or interviews.  Apart from its impact on a person’s professional life, hopefully a service driven education will be a meaningful experience that compels students to continue giving back to the community in the future.  

Congratulations to this year’s high school graduates. If you’re a student interested in service-learning, be sure to consider talking to your university adviser about service-learning courses and opportunities at your school. There are many colleges and universities that are engaged in service learning, and more courses are added every day. Expand the impact of your service-learning by connecting with local organizations and other students interested in creating social change.
Image used under Creative Commons License via Tulane Public Relations


Topics: service learning

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