Dolly Duplantier

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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

“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

6 Ways to Say Thanks on National Teacher Appreciation Day

Posted by Dolly Duplantier on Tue, May 06, 2014 @ 12:00 PM

1345459297_apple_red_deliciousEvery Day Should Be National Teacher Appreciation Day!

This post was updated on 4/27/2015

May 5 is National Teacher Appreciation Day. It’s part of a week long celebration first started in 1984 by the National Parent Teacher Association  as a time to recognize outstanding educators.

When I was a kid growing up in the south, we always showed our appreciation throughout the year with homemade cards and gifts from our garden – blackberry jam, pickled okra, canned tomatoes, and if we were lucky a beautiful bouquet of backyard roses.

Today, there are many wonderful ways to recognize the teachers in your student’s life. Whether gifts are simple or elaborate, handmade or store bought, we’ve put together a list of ideas for parents and students alike. Show your teachers today and every day that their time and efforts are greatly appreciated.

Fine Dining – Leave the Brown Bag at Home!

Who wouldn’t appreciate a special breakfast or luncheon? "We have a weeklong celebration,” said Robin Pigg, a parent of a senior at Starkville Academy in Starkville, MS.  “Every student is supposed to donate $3.00 towards the celebration. Each day features something different.” The parent/teacher group provides lunch, teachers are treated to massages (by certified massage therapists) in the teacher's lounge, and food is brought in each day by parents and sometimes community churches. Gift cards to various restaurants are also presented to teachers.

"We have a committee that puts together a very nice luncheon for the high school teachers,” said Anne Garraway, a parent with students at Mary, Queen of Peace in Mandeville, LA. “The very best gift was when someone cooked dinner (spaghetti and meatballs, desert, garlic bread, and tea) and delivered it to the school for teachers to take home. It was so nice not to have to rush home and cook one night!!!"

Social Mediathank-a-teacher

A picture may be worth a thousand words, but imagine a teacher’s reaction when students use Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Vine, and YouTube to express their gratitude.

  • Create a private Facebook page for students and parents to post positive comments, special memories, photos, and words of thanks to their teacher.
  • Use Instagram to post a picture of your class holding a thank you sign.
  • Be a YouTube sensation! Get the class in on the act. Create a video letting their teachers know how they’ve influenced the class. Have students talk about their goals for the future. Put their words to music and dance!
  • Design a Pinterest board. Share a collection of  photos, quotes, etc., that show all the ways your teacher has made a difference.
  • Tweet your thanks! The National Education Association wants you to use the #ThankaTeacher hashtag to join others to honor teachers across the nation.
  • Direct your own Vine video! Six seconds is all it takes to tell your teachers how much you appreciate them again and again and again!

 Gift Cards, Gift Baskets and Personalized Gifts

Thanks to the wonders of digital cameras and fast printing services, there’s still time to come up with some great unique gifts. One year, I took a class photo, and uploaded it to Walgreen’s. I used the photo to make a card and also a neck tie for my daughter’s teacher. The tie was a pattern of the class photo repeated multiple times. Not only did the teacher like it, but he said his mom did too! From coffee mugs and trays, to scarves and blankets, you can find some thoughtful gifts.

Jaclin Szafraniec McGuire celebrated National Teacher Appreciation Day a little early this year. McGuire, a brand new mom and Journalism/English teacher at De La Salle Institute in Chicago received a Pandora bracelet from her yearbook staff at a surprise baby shower. “Imagine that," said McGuire. "Seventeen 17-year-olds throwing a wonderful baby shower and thinking to get me a baby charm and the bracelet! It was one of the most unique gifts I ever received.”

Not sure exactly what to get? A group gift basket is a great way to go. Have the students bring in a copy of their favorite book or chip in a dollar or two for a gift card from iTunes, Amazon, or a local bookstore. Add in a certificate to Starbuck’s, some sunscreen, and a towel and your teacher is ready for summer break!

Want to treat them to a night on the town? Have students bring in certificates towards a restaurant or movie theater. If they have children, offer to babysit for free!

Tried and True – Thank You Notes and Flowers

"Our students write personal thank you notes to their teachers,” said Charlene Campeaux Boss, a business manager for St. Joseph Catholic School in Richardson, TX. Boss has a junior at Ursuline Academy in Dallas and a recent graduate of Jesuit Dallas. “Teachers say that's always special. One year we asked each child to bring one flower and each teacher got a very eclectic bouquet!!

A student’s show of appreciation doesn’t require a big expense. Having each student bring in one flower makes it a great group experience. Send in that extra vase from home and a few extra flowers just in case someone forgets. Or, let the kids know they can make flowers from tissue paper and pipe cleaners. Encourage students to present flowers one at a time with a special word of thanks.

Another easy way for students to express thanks as a class is to purchase a set of index cards connected with a ring. Put your student in charge and have them ask each of their classmates to write something nice about the teacher. What do they like about the teacher or the class? Write about a special experience or memory. Add in a few motivational quotes and some selfie’s. Use a group photo as your cover and present it to the teacher.

 Awards and Certificates

Everyone appreciates a certificate acknowledging hard work. The National PTA offers customizable certificates on their website.

Take it a step further and nominate your teacher for local, state and national awards. Many educational organizations have award programs. Check out the National Teachers Hall of Fame and the National Teacher of the Year award. Even People Magazine offers a Teacher of the Year award. Check the web for local and state sponsored awards. For example, Illinois has the Golden Apple Award.

Clay Emerson, a father of two in Indianapolis, said his son’s teacher recently won the Indiana Teacher of the Year award and went to the White House to be honored by President Obama. “The students started the process.”

In The News

Let everyone know how much you appreciate your teachers. Place an ad in your school’s fundraiser program, a local paper or your church bulletin.

This year marks the 31st anniversary of National Teacher Appreciation Week. No matter how times or gifts have changed, remember, it’s the thought that counts! Let your teachers know you are thinking of them this week and year-round. How do you honor the teachers in your student’s life? Let us know. Better yet, tell us about the outstanding educators in your life.

 

 

 

Topics: education, teacher appreciation day, teacher

Going on Tour – The College Visit: 15 Questions to Ask

Posted by Dolly Duplantier on Thu, May 01, 2014 @ 11:47 AM

In part three of our series about college visits, we share questions to ask and tips to make it a memorable day.

 A Mother’s Confession – My husband and I had a far better time on the college tours than my son did. That may have been because with every question I asked, he sank deeper and deeper into his chair! Even though you may be thrilled about the next stage in your child’s life, don’t be surprised if your student isn’t as motivated as you are about these visits.

However, this is the time to ask important questions – for you and for your child.  Whether you’re footing the bill, or your student is taking out loans, it’s a costly venture. Don’t be shy about getting as much information as possible. 

In the Beginning

College tours usually begin with a general presentation in a classroom or lecture hallUniversity of Tampa on campus. If your child is not one to appreciate your eager quest for knowledge, tell him or her to sit in the back and pretend they don’t know you. Many of your basic questions will probably be addressed in this presentation. However, I always had to raise my hand. I just couldn’t help myself. Whether it was about campus security, alcohol awareness, support for out-of-state students, or just some question that my son thought was totally lame, I needed answers to calm my parental anxiety. I think it was part of the process of letting go. I never let his embarrassment bother me. I embraced it.

After the general presentation, you will be assigned to a tour guide – usually a college student.
Depending on how groups are arranged, you could ask for a student with interests similar to those of your child. That way, you can ask specific questions as you walk through campus. The tour will usually hit the highlights of the university – a few specific buildings where classes are held, the university center, the library, the quad or field where students hang out between classes, the bookstore, maybe the recreational center, and finally at least one dorm or dining hall.

You won’t see everything the school has to offer on your tour. However, use this opportunity to ask to see things “not” on the tour. For example, if your child is a swimmer, ask to see the pool, or meet with a coach. If your future college student excels in a particular subject, ask if there’s a chance you can meet with teachers or sit in on a class.

My son was interested in playing club water polo at LSU. He contacted the club's president via e-mail. While we weren’t able to meet with him that day, we were able to visit where they practiced and played - venues not on the scheduled tour.

“The better my visit was, the more I wanted to go there,” said Jane Berry, a sophomore at Brandeis University. “Whether it was the information session, or the person who gave the tour, I think it drastically impacted what I eventually ended up deciding.”

Christine Scalise, a Chicago mother of three teenage boys, agrees. She found her tour of the University of Tampa welcoming and very informative. “Going on tour and seeing the school helped make the decision.”

Reading Assignments

As you walk through campus, take note of the many school publications, flyers, etc. This is great material to review when you are waiting to meet with counselors, financial aid, or while you’re taking a coffee break. It’s also great information to look through when you return home.

“We took all relevant brochures and we picked up campus newspapers,” said Terri Stuckey, a mother of two college students and a high school junior.  “You can learn a lot from the campus publications. They provide insight into what the kids are talking about or what the campus is like. Even the ads can give you a snapshot of what life is like at school.”

Charles Basden, Jr., coordinator, special projects, for George Washington University, a member of the NobleHour Network, also suggests looking at local publications near the school, as well as relevant academic publications to gauge how the school's reputation is relative to the greater population in the city.

Take A Good Look

Encourage your son or daughter to actually look at the university students. Do they seem happy and engaged? Are they polite and informative? Give your kids time to speak with students on their own. Interaction with them can provide a wealth of information. 

Katie McKnight brought her daughter, Ellie, and two of her friends to visit William & Mary.college tours Once the girls finished their interviews and had lunch, she told them it was time for them to explore - without her! 

Dr. McKnight is a college professor of secondary education/literacy for National Louis University in Chicago. "I think it's important for students to explore a campus on their own without parents hovering over them at all times. They need to talk to other students, listen to the campus, and observe. My daughter, not me, needs to decide if a particular college is the right fit."

Mom Tips

Whether your future college student is excited or not, embrace the day. Yes, it’s about them, but it’s about you too. You’ve put in a long 16-18 years raising this wonderful teenager. Here are a few tips to help you enjoy this occasion.

No matter what your teenager says or does, just smile at them with that, “I love you and am so proud of you look.” They can’t compete with that. But, remember, even though it’s exciting, it’s still stressful for them. 

Next, wear comfortable shoes, and bring the following:

1. Sweater or sweatshirt

2. Small backpack or bag

3. Bottle of water

4. Pen and small notebook

5. Camera

6. Umbrella

7. Sunscreen

You could be on your feet for an hour or two depending on the size of the campus. Some larger universities may have shuttles, but you will still need to walk between certain areas. Remember, especially for southern schools – it may be warm and sunny outside, but airconditioning inside can feel like a walk-in cooler. You can freeze just waiting for the presentation to begin. A bottle of water comes in handy when you can’t leave the group to get something to drink.

Stash some sunscreen, a hat and even an umbrella in the car. The bookstore usually sells inexpensive rain ponchos if you get caught in a sudden storm. Be prepared for any weather. You spent a lot of money getting there and the tour goes on no matter what.  Don’t forget that this is really a wonderful milestone in your child’s life and yours. Take some pictures!

“It was good to have that one-on-one time,” said Scalise. “We could really discuss the pros and cons of going away. It helps the kids know what to do and it’s very comforting to the parents as well."

Relax. It’s Just A Few Questions!

The one thing I learned about my son is that he doesn’t like to ask questions. And, he doesn’t like his mother to do it either. If your child is embarrassed by your thoughtful and intelligent questions, seize the opportunity to tell them what they often tell you – “Relax!”  Assure them that no one at orientation will say – “Oh, you’re that boy with the mom who asked all the silly questions on the tour!”

So here’s a sampling of the questions that made my son cringe and move to the back row. 

1. How hard is it to get the classes you want? For example, if you need to take specific classes to graduate – are they only offered in the spring? If this is the case, and you can’t get in to the class, it may take you longer to graduate.

2. How big are the classes? Ask different students how many kids are in their largesst class and how many are in their smallest class.

3. What percentages of courses do professors teach versus teaching assistants? It’s normal for some classes or labs to be taught by TA’s, but when you’re shelling out all that tuition money or your child is taking on huge loans, you don’t want all of their classes taught by TA’s.

4. What is the student to professor ratio?

5. Ask about the student population – percentage of males vs. females, locals vs. out-of-state, diversity, etc.

6. What sort of transportation do they offer if your student does not have a car?

7. How many years of on-campus housing are guaranteed? Is it required?

8. When are scholarship deadlines?

9. What is the acceptance rate?

10. What are the school’s campus safety initiatives? What measures do they take regarding safety, weather emergencies, etc.?

11. Do they have an alert system? Many schools now have text alert systems. 

12. Ask about the facilities. What types of services do they offer – health center, recreation center, counseling, etc.?

13. Do they require alcohol/drug awareness seminars?

14. Do they offer career services?

15. What will be the return on investment by going to your school?

My last tip – when the tour is over, have your teenager remove her headphones and do your best to engage her in a conversation about what she liked and didn't like.

McKnight's daughter surprised her. Despite their visits to Dartmouth, Emory, and William & Mary, Ellie decided to attend Brandeis University, a school they did not visit until she was admitted and had already accepted the offer. McKnight asked Ellie if she was sure she wanted to accept before visiting the campus. "Yes," said Ellie. "I've been researching, visiting, and learning about colleges for the last year. I know what I want and even though I haven't visited Brandeis, it has what I want."

McKnight doesn't think her daughter would've been so resolute in committing to a college she had not visited if she hadn't already been on a tour. "College is about furthering one's individual identity and I think the visit is one of those first opportunities to to do so."

Please share your college tour experiences with us. What are your most important questions? 

Photo credits: Christine Scalise and Katie McKnight

Check out Part 1 and 2 of our series -

Spring Break is a Good Time to Start College Visits

Scheduling College Tours? Begin With Basic Questions. 

 

 

 

 

Topics: spring break, education, higher ed, high school, parents, graduates, college admissions, college applications, higher education, college, college tours, college visits, career, alternative spring breaks

Scheduling College Tours? Begin with Basic Questions.

Posted by Dolly Duplantier on Thu, Mar 27, 2014 @ 02:21 PM

In part two of our series on college visits, we discuss how to decide which schools to visit and when to schedule tours.

It’s time to face facts. You can’t put it off any longer. The little boy who held your hand whilescheduling college tours
walking into kindergarten and the sweet little girl who used to wear pigtails are in the final stages of determining where to go to college. Yes, college.

You’re ready now. You can do this. It’s time to start the college tours. While it might be easy for you as a parent to just handle it and schedule a few visits, it’s important your student is involved in the process. Before you begin booking flights or packing up the car, have your student do a little legwork.

Parameters

Have a discussion with your child. Talk about parameters. Do they want to go to a school in a big city or something more suburban or rural? Does the size of the campus matter? Consider categories – SEC versus Big Ten, small private school versus big state school, religious versus secular. Does your daughter want to go out of state? Talk about regions of the country. Does your son want to be on the west coast or the east coast, south or north? Does your student have a specific major in mind? Do they want to play sports or have a particular talent – theater, dance, music?

If you’re lucky, you might get something more than, “I don’t know.” My friend’s daughter has grown up in a very urban environment. She’s decided she wants to experience a more rural campus. We live in the Midwest. My son’s one major requirement is to be someplace warm! Keep asking questions to narrow down the list.

Have your child review college guidebooks and online sources like Fiske, Princeton ReviewBarron’s, or U.S. News and World Report.

It’s also a good idea to talk to your child’s high school counselor before you visit schools. This person should know something about your student and could offer suggestions about which schools to consider. The counselor may also personally know college admission representatives or put you in touch with recent high school alums at different universities.

“The College Board has a Campus Visit Guide that can assist families in starting the process ofcollege applications determining schools to visit," said Deborah Kammerer, associate director recruitment & yield, 
UC San Diego Office of Admissions & Relations with Schools, a member of the NobleHour Network. "It includes information on things to consider before you visit, ways to learn about schools online, a checklist for campus visits, and testimonials from students on how campus visits assisted in their college selection process.” 

Another resource that may appeal to your savvy social media student is to have them check out the Facebook pages, Twitter accounts or other forms of social media used by the universities that interest them.

As your child begins his research, encourage him or her to highlight 10-20 schools. Some kids may choose more, others far less. It’s just to get them thinking about where they want to go and to take ownership of their future. Once they have their picks, ask them why the schools are on the list. Be prepared for some lame answers, but keep digging. Maybe it’s the location. Maybe it’s the courses they offer. Maybe it’s because the football team won the national championship. Or, possibly, it’s because it’s the furthest school from you and all these questions!

“We told our kids to look through the lists and pick 20 schools that interest them,” said Terri Stuckey, a mother of two college students and a junior in high school. “Then, we went over the list and asked them why they found those schools interesting. I was into it more than my kids. The parents have to get it started though.”

“I was against visiting any schools until I had narrowed down my college options to two,” said Ellie McKnight, a senior in high school in Chicago. “My mom insisted we go on a college tour last spring break. Although I think most stuff about the school you can learn online, the visit on campus allowed the great opportunity to talk to faculty.”

McKnight said visiting the schools solidified her interest in William & Mary in Virginia, and Dartmouth in New Hampshire. It also sparked an interest in Emory University in Georgia.

Stay In Contact

If your child is like mine and doesn’t often check his e-mail, have him use your address or a new account to sign up for ACT, SAT and college information. Once my son completed the personal information sections for ACT and SAT, we started getting e-mails from universities all over the place. Some sites will also ask for a parent e-mail address, so you can keep on top of the information as well. It can be overwhelming. Stuckey said she created a college folder and moved e-mails into it every day and then reviewed them weekly. “I deleted some and responded to some, mostly asking for more information. I did the same with the paper mail too.”

Logistics

Stuckey said once they narrowed it down, she then looked at universities located inEmory cities allowing flexible travel arrangements. They looked at cities with major airports, non-stop flights, or areas where they could visit more than one college in one trip. Also, if they had to fly, they committed to visiting at least two schools to make the trip more cost-effective.

“We tried to travel when the kids were off school and took advantage of times when other high school students were in school.” Being from New Orleans, Stuckey used the Mardi Gras break to visit schools. 

Jane Berry, a sophomore at Brandeis University in Massachusetts, said her mom made a planner for their visits together. “She mapped out our road trip with cool places to stay and facts about the school. This made a huge difference for me and made me really consider some Midwest schools.”

While it may be convenient to schedule tours during holiday and summer breaks, it doesn’t always give you a true picture of the campus. “It is also nice to visit the college or university during the academic year, when school is in session, to get a true sense of the campus atmosphere,” said Kammerer.

Stuckey agrees. “The best time to do a tour is when school is in session. Summer is okay if classes are in session or if there’s a new student orientation going on.”

Another option to maximize time and minimize out-of-town expense is to wait for acceptance letters to help determine which schools to visit. “We visited schools that we didn’t get a chance to see initially and also did some second visits to help make decisions,” said Stuckey.

“UC San Diego hosts a day just for admitted students and their families called Triton Day,Triton Day said Kammerer. “It’s a great opportunity for admitted students to explore the campus and the variety of opportunities available.”

Scheduling

“Planning a visit may vary from institution to institution, but many universities including UC San Diego offer an online registration site that allows visitors to schedule their campus tour,” said Kammerer.

Stuckey said almost all schools have a “Plan Your Visit” section on their websites with information about flights, travel agencies, car rentals, and lodging. Always ask if they offer discounts for college visits.

Many schools have open house events with tours, presentations, etc. You can check each school’s website in their admission section for dates and information about attending those events or to schedule individual tours. Tours are offered throughout the week and sometimes on Saturdays. Depending on the university, you may be able to sit in on a class, visit professors, meet coaches or visit with students.

“At Emory, my tour allowed me to get in contact with the dean of admissions, which definitely impacted how I viewed the school,” said McKnight.

“The availability of group and individual tours and spending the night on a campus will vary across universities,” said Kammerer. “In terms of travel and accommodations, it is best to plan ahead. Many institutions host links to area visitor offices and hotel sites on their tour page.”

“Most times when a student is closer to making up their mind about attending a particular school, it is recommended that the student revisit if possible and perhaps stay overnight to get a more robust experience,” said Charles Basden, Jr., coordinator, special projects, for George Washington University, a member of the NobleHour Network.

Basden also suggests inquiring about potential special situation funds universities may have to help assist families with their effort to visit campus.

Stuckey advises staying as close to campus as possible. It’s a great way to learn more about the community. When I visited LSU with my son, we stayed at the Cook Hotel right on campus. We could walk through the university grounds, meet and speak with students along the way and we were able to get a feel for campus life.

Also, when making travel arrangements, consider arriving on campus early or staying a few hours after the tour. There’s nothing worse than missing a casual opportunity to visit with students, professors, financial aid representatives, or admission counselors because you have to rush off to catch a flight. Remember, if it’s a group tour, there will be other parents who want to meet with university staff also. Be prepared to wait.

Have a cup of coffee at the local café or the bookstore. Grab lunch in the dining hall or dinner at a favorite university hangout. Walk around campus on your own. It’s a great opportunity to speak with students and ask them questions about school. “Kids get a strong feeling about the campus and the people they meet on campus,” said Stuckey.

Next time - Part III - Going on Tour and questions, lots of questions!

Part I - Spring Break is a Good Time to Start College Visits

Photo credits: Dolly Duplantier, Terri Stuckey, and UC San Diego Publications/Erik Jepsen 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Topics: education, higher ed, high school, community, parents, graduates, opportunities, college admissions, college applications, college major, higher education, college, college tours, college visits, virtual tours

Spring Break is a Good Time to Start College Visits

Posted by Dolly Duplantier on Sat, Mar 08, 2014 @ 09:00 AM

college brochuresSpringtime is around the corner. That means high school seniors are eagerly awaiting
acceptance letters and juniors are in the home stretch for ACT and SAT prep. It also means that
with spring break on the horizon, and summer beyond that, now is a good time for all high school students to start planning those college visits. In this three part series, we’ll provide some guidelines and tips to make the most of your student’s college visits. We’ll start with an expert – a mom.

Terri Stuckey is no stranger to college visits. With a junior at Emory, a freshman at the University of Virginia and a junior in high school, she’s as close to an expert as they come. Stuckey has visited at least 26 schools, some of them twice, and she’s not done yet.

Start Local

Don’t let those numbers overwhelm you. Not all visits require airfare or lodgings or days away from school and work. One of the easiest places to start your journey is your local university. Even if your son or daughter is adamant about going away, this is a great place to begin. It doesn’t matter if they want to go to that particular school. Visiting different colleges lets students determine what they like and dislike. It’s just as important to take note of why they don’t want to go to a specific school.

These visits can be done on days off from school, after school or on a weekend. You can get a feel for the whole tour experience. This will help you gauge time for itineraries later if you decide to tour schools out-of-state.

In addition, attending local events on a college campus can give your son or daughter perspective and get them excited about the admission process. Catch a show put on by the theater department or cheer on the local team during a football game.

 VacationsLSU

If you’ve already planned your Spring Break vacation, find out if there’s a university near your destination. If you have the time, take a side-trip and schedule a tour. Have lunch or dinner on campus. Walk through and visit the bookstore or if you’re short on time, just drive through the university. Again, it’s a good starting point just to see what’s out there and to give them a point of comparison.

Just about every university my family visited was during a vacation. Road trips through the south brought us to the University of Alabama, Ole Miss, Tulane, LSU, Loyola, and the University of Miami. My boys are two years apart. I made sure the younger one was paying attention. Even their sister, five years younger, has fond memories of our campus visits.

Summer Camps

Stuckey also suggests enrolling your student in a weeklong, overnight, summer camp before going to the expense of scheduling out-of-state tours. Her kids did it the summer after their sophomore year in high school. “It doesn’t have to be where they want to go to college, but it’s a great way to see if they want to go away for school.”

It doesn’t necessarily have to be an academic camp. The point is to give them the experience of being on their own away from home, family and friends. It also provides them with the opportunity to live in a dorm. “Before you start looking at colleges all over the country, see if they can survive a week alone,” said Stuckey.

If they don’t enjoy the experience, then it helps narrow things down. It may not be worth it to visit universities more than a few hours away.

Many schools offer summer programs for high school students. It’s a great experience for the kids. Some offer guided tours as part of the camp, as well as meetings with admission and financial aid counselors. They may even offer college credit. Stuckey said being on campus gets them excited about going to school. “The kids also learn the vocabulary of admissions.”

It’s best to sign up as early as possible. Deadlines can be as early as March. Just search “college summer programs for high school students” and you’ll get a variety of listings. You can also check with your high school college counselors as they may have information about summer programs too.

 Multiple ToursUVA

Another option for visiting schools is to set up a group tour. Check with your high school to see if they offer any bus tours. Some may organize weeklong excursions visiting multiple schools within a specific region. “The kids see a variety of schools, but the parents aren’t with them,” said Stuckey. “The kids have fun, but they may not be looking at the things you, as a parent, want them to consider.”

There are also companies that coordinate tours of multiple universities in specific regions. This takes the hassle out of the planning and lets you concentrate on the school visits.

Stuckey said she never did more than four schools during one trip. “They start to blur in to each
other and it’s hard to keep straight.” She recommends taking lots of pictures, especially by specific landmarks and school signs so when you get back home they can help you remember the campus.

Virtual Tours and Social Media

Obviously, not everyone can afford the time or money to visit every school. Fortunately, the Internet and social media are great resources to learn about schools in the comfort of your own home. Every university has a website. Some offer virtual tours. You can also check out their Facebook page and mobile apps, as well as Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn accounts. Students often post videos of school events, tours of dorms, etc., and many student groups have their own Facebook page.

“If they cannot physically tour the school, then it is extremely important that they read all that they can from different sources about the school,” said Charles Basden, Jr., coordinator, special projects, for George Washington University, a member of the NobleHour Network.  “Many schools are developing virtual tours and online portals that seek to emulate the on campus tour feel. I would suggest creating a Google news alert for the schools they are interested in.”

In addition, Basden recommends reaching out to current students or faculty members through the directory or through student organizations to get a better sense of what campus life is about. Chatting with recent alumni can also provide a helpful perspective.

Photos by Dolly Duplantier

Next time - Part II - Deciding Where to Visit

Part III - Going on Tour – The College Visit: 15 Questions to Ask


 

Topics: spring break, education, higher ed, high school, parents, college admissions, college major, higher education, college, college tours, college visits, virtual tours, scholarships, social media

Random Acts of Kindness Week - A Great Way to Warm Up

Posted by Dolly Duplantier on Tue, Feb 11, 2014 @ 10:52 AM

This post was updated on 1/21/2015

Last February, Chicago marked at least 22 days of temperatures at zero degrees or colder. While winter winterneighborhoodisn't as bitter as last year, we’ve still got a long way to go with no end in sight. And, we are not alone! Even Southern states are dealing with frigid cold temperatures, ice storms, ridiculous wind chills and hazardous driving conditions. The only people enjoying this crazy weather are the students receiving snow days. The cold days and grey skies take their toll. It’s not easy to be bright and cheery when you’re covered head to toe in fleece, wool and long underwear. It’s just really hard to be nice when you can’t feel your toes.

However, there is something that may help thaw your hardened dispositions and warm your hearts! It's the upcoming Random Acts of Kindness (RAK) Week, February 9 – 15, 2015. Considering Valentine's Day is celebrated during the week, it really is a great time to share love and kindness.

According to Brooke Jones, vice president of the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation, RAK officially began in 2000 and is now celebrated by millions of people worldwide. 

“The week was created as a way to celebrate the everyday kindnesses we experience, but sometimes don't recognize,” said Jones. “RAK Week reminds us what it means to be kind with every word we speak and every action we take.” 

The non-profit foundation was started in 1995 and is dedicated to inspiring people to practiceRAK kindness and pass it on to others. Their goals are to:

1.)  Inspire others to be kind.

2.)  Legitimize kindness as a way to improve society.

3.)  Be a highly regarded, visible social and emotional learning education program.

The organization promotes unique opportunities for all types of organizations, groups and individuals by providing free online resources to encourage acts of kindness across the globe, specifically in school communities. Educators can visit their website for lesson plans, projects, resources and research. In addition, their website lists kindness ideas for the home, office, and school.

“When going to a University of over 40,000 students it is easy to get caught up in all the small stresses of everyday life,” said Varshini Kumar, a student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Kumar saw a need for RAK at the end of her sophomore year and started a chapter at her school in August, 2013. “Random Acts of Kindness, as an organization, serves as a reminder for the campus that at the end of the day kindness is a cyclical thing - the more you are kind to those around you, the happier you are as a person. I think RAK week is a great opportunity for students to get together and create something positive for the campus, as well as spread awareness about the kindness movement that RAK seeks to inspire.”

Kumar’s RAK chapter uses Facebook and social media to post sources of inspiration for performing random acts of kindness.

The Bone Student Center at Illinois State University provided free treats and giveaways during RAK week last year. The school’s Division of Student Affairs promoted new acts of kindness each day and encouraged the community to pass it on.

At the University of New Mexico, the Division of Student Affairs planned a variety of activities to celebrate RAK, including their “Pit of Kindness” where students could “Take a seat, Make a Friend” in a ball pit! Students also donated new teddy bears and made Valentine’s Day cards for children at the UNM Children’s Hospital Trauma Center and Regional Burn Center. At their student union, students enjoyed free kind words, candy, “Be Kind” buttons and take part in a kindness flash mob. Their RAK flyer encouraged student to smile a lot, send a handwritten note, volunteer at a shelter, pick up trash, or give someone a compliment.

The University of Alabama’s RAK chapter created a Daily Challenge Sheet for students to do something each day hoping to inspire, encourage and cheer on their community to make a difference on campus. Challenges included encouraging students to introduce themselves to someone new, tell people thank you, pay for someone’s food or drink, and spend time with and listen to friends. The UA chapter planned events all week and worked with other university clubs and groups to “create a community of kindness.” 

RAK encourages everyone to step out of normal routines and perform a new random act of kindness each day of the week.  Are you ready to get in on the act? Here are 20 simple tips from the RAK Foundation to get you started this week. Who knows, you may want to keep it going all year long!

  1. Give someone a compliment.
  2. Post a positive comment on social media.
  3. Donate old towels or blankets to an animal shelter
  4. Do a chore without being asked (Moms will really love this one!!).
  5. Eat lunch with someone new.
  6. Say good morning to people on your way to school or work.
  7. Send a thank you note to a friend, student, teacher, custodian or co-worker.
  8. Visit a senior citizen home or volunteer at a shelter.
  9. Walk a neighbor’s dogWalking the dog
  10. Students can start a kindness chain and add a link for every new act of kindness.
  11. Put up “Kindness Zone” signs at the entrance of classrooms to remind people to practice Random Acts of Kindness.
  12. Hold the door open or hold the elevator for someone.
  13. Babysit for a friend or neighbor.
  14. Bring a treat to a friend who is tired or has had a long week.
  15. Surprise your team or study group with coffee or snacks.
  16. Make an extra sandwich in the morning to give to a homeless person.
  17. Prevent road rage and let the car in front of you merge.
  18. Pass out hand warmers or an extra pair of gloves to the homeless.
  19. Shovel a neighbor’s driveway or sidewalk.
  20. Smile!

So, as we prepare for the final long months of winter weather, don’t despair. Warm up your home, your office, or your campus with a simple act of kindness. It won’t cost you a thing, but the return could be priceless. Here’s one more act of kindness – come back and share your stories with us!

Want to continue performing acts of kindness all year round? Visit NobleHour for a complete listing of volunteer opportunities!

 

 Photos: Dolly Duplantier

Topics: engaged learning, kindness, service learning, education, volunteering, community service, service, community, civic engagement, random acts of kindness, random acts of kindness week, opportunities, involvement, social media, active

Super Bowl Scores with Community Service

Posted by Dolly Duplantier on Thu, Jan 30, 2014 @ 09:00 AM


jersey caresSuper Bowl XLVIII
is less than a week away. Approximately 108 million people are expected to watch. Not only will it be an economic boom for the New York/New Jersey area, but for
thousands and thousands of take-out and delivery restaurants, establishments with big screen televisions, as well as snack, liquor and beverage distributors throughout the country.

Apparently Super Bowl Sunday is considered the second biggest eating day of the year after Thanksgiving. A few statistics show why. According to the National Chicken Council’s 2014 Wing Report, an estimated 1.25 billion wings will be devoured during the Super Bowl. Domino’s Pizza will sell more than 11 million slices of pizza this Sunday. And, according to the Nielson Company, nine out of ten people will watch the game at their home or a friend’s house. It’s one of the biggest events for friends and family to come together.

This got me thinking. Why can’t we enjoy this event and use it to spark a movement to help others? With this being the National Football League’s first cold-weather, outdoor Super Bowl, it could be the highest-profile game in the event’s history. Fortunately, I’m not the only one who thinks we can use this opportunity do social good as well!

The NFL and the NY/NJ Super Bowl Host Committee are harnessing the excitement of Super Bowl XLVIII to organize a number of community events and donation drives to provide support to those in need. The Snowflake Youth Foundation, a charity initiative of the Host Committee, was created to raise money and support for a number of local community projects, including the rehabilitation of after-school centers, support for the Super Community Blood Drives, and various environmental works. The foundation and its partner organizations have raised more than $11 million to support 50 projects to improve after-school facilities in New York and New Jersey communities.

“As this work illustrates, when the power of the world’s greatest sporting event is combined with the generosity of the New York and New Jersey region, an indisputable difference can be made in the lives of our youth.” Said Jonathan Tisch, Host Committee Co-Chairman in a recent statement issued by the foundation. 

Kickoff to Rebuild is also an annual NFL sanctioned event. Hosted by Rebuilding Together, the organization partners with the NFL in Super Bowl cities across the country, rebuilding houses and bringing together neighborhoods, home by home, block by block. This month, they mobilized hundreds of volunteers, including past and present NFL players, community leaders, celebrities, and local and national sponsors to complete critical home repairs for thirteen local low-income homeowners. The repairs will improve the safety and health of homes for local residents in Bergen County, New Jersey, including seniors and families who were devastated by flooding from Superstorm Sandy.

Another event to capitalize on the excitement of the Super Bowl is the Super Community Coat Drive, which runs through February 7. Organized by the NY/NJ Super Bowl Host Committee, along with New York Cares, Jersey Cares, and other local organizations, individuals can donate gently used and freshly laundered coats at hundreds of locations throughout New York and New Jersey.

“The Super Community Coat Drive is an initiative that fits perfectly into the Host Committee’s mission to give back to the communities of New Jersey and New York,” said NY/NJ Super Bowl Host Committee President and CEO Al Kelly.

Throughout the 2013-14 season, the National Football League’s Taste of NFL asked fans to raise money online through their Kick Hunger Challenge. Fans from all 32 NFL teams and Brooklyn competed against each other all season by raising money online for food banks in NFL communities around the country. The funds raised will directly impact the donation of thousands of meals to food banks in each team’s community. Fans can go online till January 31, 2014, to make donations in the name of their favorite NFL team. The winning team gets an additional $10,000.

Dr. Melony Samuels is executive director and founder of Bed-Stuy Campaign Againstsuper pantry3 Hunger, one of the designated food banks to receive funds. “They (NFL) created a team for us to raise money.  It’s called Brooklyn, New York. We want to get everyone in New York to back us. We are fighting hunger for a good cause. We are one of the largest, if not the largest, emergency feeding program in New York City. We served 2.9 million meals to 338,951 individuals last year. We will continue to meet that need.”

In addition to the Kick Hunger Campaign, the NFL hosts Party with a Purpose®, a food and wine event in the host city on the eve of the Super Bowl. Chefs from each NFL city, provide food and wine pairings for guests to sample. Proceeds from the event also benefit food banks in each of the NFL cities.

So, why let the NFL have all the fun? People all over the country are planning Super Bowl parties this weekend. Samuels encourages everyone to have their own canned food drives. “Tell their guests to bring a can or two to donate to an emergency feeding program.”

She also encourages schools and colleges to start a buzz in their different communities; to have clubs and organizations compete against each other and raise money for their local food banks. Samuels said one of the easiest ways to find your nearest emergency feeding program is to call 311 or the Hunger Hotline at 1-866-3Hungry. She also suggests contacting your local city hall or city council. “Local people know what is going on in the community,” said Samuels. “They can easily tell you where the programs are.  When families are hungry, it’s not a secret.”

According to figures from the Department of Agriculture, approximately 48 million people in the U.S., including 17 million children, lack access to adequate food. “If every group just donated $20, it could help many families,” said Samuels. “We could purchase at least 15 meals with $20. Sometimes if we get good prices, we can get $1 a meal.”

While 48 million may seem insurmountable, just imagine if everyone of the over 100 million viewers donated $10 to their local food bank or donated a can of food or a gently used coat, hat or set of gloves to their Super Bowl party. Or, imagine if we decided that the following Sunday, we would get together with friends and family and volunteer our time to a local community organization. It might not be an economic boom, but it would be a positive one. How will you watch the Super Bowl this Sunday? Join in the excitement and support your community!

Topics: service, volunteering, volunteering nonprofit, community, community engagement, opportunities, economy, engagement, community service, fundraising, Food Banks, Food Pantries, Food Drives.

College Students Use MLK Day to Make a Difference*

Posted by Dolly Duplantier on Fri, Jan 17, 2014 @ 12:00 PM

*This article was updated on 1/12/2015

College students across the country are gearing up for MLK Day of Service on Monday, January 19. What used to be just a day off to sleep in and catch up on homework has become an exciting day for young adults to actively engage in their community through volunteering.

MLK Day 2014Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Life’s most important and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’”

Dr. King would be proud to see today’s youth answering that question with action. From painting schools and creating gardens, to visiting with the elderly, working in a food pantry or helping out at animal shelters, college students across the country are poised to make a difference this MLK Day of Service.

NobleHour is also proud of the amazing community work performed by its members. Coast to coast, our network of universities are engaging their students in a variety of projects to make a difference in the lives of those in need. Just last year, at the University of Pittsburgh, Janard Pendleton, the program coordinator for Pitt Serves said there were quite a few organized service activities for students and staff to help others throughout the Pittsburgh community. In 2014, over 700 students signed up to volunteer at local organizations like the Greater Pittsburgh Food Bank, the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Pittsburgh Botanic Garden.

The George Washington University has participated in the MLK Day of Service since 2001. Last year, over 600 students, faculty, staff and alumni signed up with the school’s Center for Civic Engagement and Public Service to work together on a number of direct service projects throughout the D.C. area. The school also offered on-campus CPR training facilitated by EMeRG as part of their MLK Day of Service programming. 

describe the imageMany volunteers will use MLK Day to help elementary schools. Las January, students at University of California at San Diego helped beautify Bayside Elementary School in Imperial Beach, CA. According to Kristin Luciani, social media and communications manager for UC San Diego, the MLK Day of Service is one of their biggest events of the year. “We’re expecting about 150 students, staff and alumni. We maxed out quickly.”

Volunteers last year revitalized a student garden, adding a new herb garden. They also painted stepping-stones to create a pathway, and painted murals on the playground.

Luciani said their goal is to take this one day of service and turn it into something more long term. “We selected that school because one of our student organizations was already partnered with them. It’s an opportunity to expand and get more of the campus community involved."

Luciani added that their partnership is strengthened by having alumni and student groups follow-up with the school with return visits throughout the year. UC San Diego Volunteer on MLK Day

Students at Emerson College Los Angeles also worked to spruce up the Horace Mann Middle School. Volunteers with City Year  painted educational murals, inspirational quotes and college logos throughout the school to help make a more engaging learning environment for the students.

Miami University’s Office of Community Engagement and Service has a number of projects set up for MLK Day. Students will volunteer locally in the community at various organizations. Last year, students played bingo with the elderly, stocked food at the Oxford Community Choice Pantry, and worked with animals for the Animal Adoption Foundation.

Volunteers in Ohio also helped paint and refurbish a property purchased by Sojourner Recovery Services, a non-profit that provides substance abuse treatment for adults, adolescents and their families. Eileen Turain, development director of the organization, said she enjoys working with the students from Miami University’s Hamilton campus and the Connect2Complete program. "We've worked with the students before and they've been very helpful. This facility helps people needing and wanting our services and programming."

The MLK Day of Service is also a day of celebration. Many organizations incorporate festivities along with their service projects. In addition to organizing a number of volunteer opportunities and educational activities, Greenville Technical College in South Carolina had a Giving Station last year for students at their Barton Campus Student Center. Students made donations to Habitat for Humanity of Greenville County, and also rotated through service stations where they made sandwiches for agencies serving the hungry, appreciation cards for veterans and service members, and created toys for groups helping animals in shelters. 

Dr. King said, "An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity." 

This MLK Day, find time to address the broader concerns of your community. Join hundreds of thousands of people in making an impact. If you’re still looking for volunteer opportunities, visit the NobleHour website or the MLK Day of Service website for listings. Remember, it’s not just a day off. It's a day for you to be on and active in your community. Don't forget to let us know about your MLK Day of Service projects so we can share the good news!

Photo credit: Erik Jepsen/UC San Diego Publications.

Topics: #MLKDay, volunteering, community engagement, community service, engagement, service, community, civic engagement, opportunities, involvement, MLK Day, MLK Day of Service, active

MLK Day of Service - A Starting Point to Serve Year Round

Posted by Dolly Duplantier on Wed, Jan 08, 2014 @ 09:00 AM

A New Year is upon us. Every January 1, I think about the resolutions I’ve made in the past and resolve to do again– eat better, exercise more, be more patient, get organized, etc., etc. While these are good resolutions, most of them really only affect my family and me. So, I decided, my resolutions should be about something more than just improving myself. It’s time for me to help others – not in some grand way, but in simple ways every month. Therefore, rather than working on my resolutions just one month a year (January) and forgetting them the other 11 months, I’ve decided January is my starting point. 

As we approach the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service and reflect on his message of civic engagement, let us embrace the fact that one person can make a difference. Just imagine if we stay true to that and what can happen with millions of individual acts of kindness and service. If one of your resolutions is to volunteer more, then this January 19th, the MLK Day of Service, is the perfect day to begin your transformation.

According to the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), volunteers across the country pledged over 1.3 million hours of service in 2013 for the MLK Day of Service. Established in 1993, CNCS is a federal agency that engages more than five million Americans in service through programs like Senior Corps, AmeriCorps, and the Volunteer Generation Fund.

The MLK Day of Service is part of United We Serve, the President’s national service initiative. In addition, it is the only federal holiday observed as a national day of service – “a day on, not a day off!”

MLK Day is a chance to start the year off right by making an impact in your community. CNCS works with the King Center, other federal agencies, schools, nonprofit and community groups, faith-based organizations, and corporations throughout the U.S. to encourage everyone to volunteer and be engaged in their community by participating in one of thousands of organized service-oriented projects. From collecting food and clothing, to cleaning and painting schools and youth centers, or supporting veterans and visiting with the elderly, everyone can use the day off to make some kind of difference.

You don’t have to be part of a group to participate. There are many opportunities for individuals to take advantage of the day. Don’t know where to start? Here are a few tips:

Start local and check with your student’s school’s service coordinator. Find out what they are doing and ask to help. Chicago Public Schools has different events planned for the month of January. In 2014, teachers signed up for specific events ranging from working with food pantries to educational seminars aimed at reducing handgun violence. Teachers received curriculum and follow-up materials to connect the activities to MLK Day. Hundreds of students participated in organized community service activities throughout the month.

“All of the events are about building the community through volunteering, the goal of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.,” said Ryan Evans, who works for AmeriCorps Vista in the CPS Literacy department to coordinate community service learning opportunities for students.

If you prefer to do something outside of school, then consider calling your local faith based, community or non-profit organizations. Many have on-going service projects and are always looking for volunteers. The NobleHour website also lists thousands of community engagement opportunities throughout the U.S. Another option is to check your city or state’s website for information about volunteer programs.

The MGR Foundation, has locations in Chicago, Pittsburgh, Charlotte, the Twin Cities and Las Vegas. The non-profit provides direct service to communities with a variety of programs.

Chicago Cares

Chicago Cares honors Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s message of unity through community service. Tens of thousands of volunteers participate in service projects each year through the non-profit service organization.

Last January alone, approximately 1,400 people served in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. specifically (either as individuals or through their corporations).

The MLK Day of Service website can also help direct you to local opportunities to perform community service. If you can’t find anything that moves you, create your own project with MLK Day Toolkits. Topics range from disaster services and education, to the environment, health and writing letters to the troops.  

If all of this seems overwhelming, don’t let that deter you. Remember, it’s about helping others. Check in on an elderly neighbor and pick up extra groceries for them. Go through your closets and donate your gently used clothing. Donate food to a local food pantry. As I mentioned before, it doesn’t have to be some grand gesture, but just a simple act of kindness. Start small and go from there.

My daughter and I decided to make sandwiches for the homeless the other day. We filled bags with PB&J sandwiches, fruit, granola bars and a few pieces of chocolate. We took the train downtown and then handed out the bags to homeless people we passed along the way. It was a cold day and there were not many people out, but we were able to help at least four individuals. It wasn’t much, but it was a start in our New Year’ resolution to help others. It didn’t require a lot of planning and we had everything on hand. It was a simple act that we will strive to do more often.

January is the start of something new. MLK Day is a reminder to be an active part of our community, not just for a day or month, but every day in some manner. Helping others empowers us and strengthens our communities. What are you going to do this January? Let us know your progress each month!

Topics: service learning, volunteering, community engagement, community service, engagement, service, community, civic engagement, CNCS, opportunities, MLK Day, nonprofit, active

Surviving the Holidays with Your College Student

Posted by Dolly Duplantier on Thu, Jan 02, 2014 @ 01:09 PM


They’re BACK!  Our college students are home for winter break and they’ve brought a lot of baggage with them! Enjoy that first great big smile of recognition at the airport, followed by a wonderful hug and kiss. They’ve come home with their bags stuffed, including a few non-tangibles – that new-found sense of independence, an “air” of maturity peppered with attitude, a new curfew time, and of course at least two loads of dirty clothes! The first 24 hours are the best for me, but do they really need four to five weeks off for the holidays? I mean, even my husband only gets the week off between Christmas and New Year’s and I think that’s very generous. High school and elementary school students go back right after New Year's. So what am I going to do with two college students till mid-January? Get them up and out of the house before noon to share some of that youthful energy helping others.

Many organizations are looking for extra help during the holidays. Whether it’s collecting food for shelters or helping serve holiday meals to the homeless, have your college or high school student take a break from texting, shopping, hanging out, or playing video games and spread some holiday cheer. Start with your own city’s website. In Chicago, the city’s service initiative is called One Good Deed Chicago. The program lists opportunities to volunteer and support the diverse non-profits in the city. Has your student put on the freshman 15? Sign them up to help shovel snow for the elderly for a great workout!

New York City’s service website has hundreds of listings including tutoring, serving meals at shelters, and teaching seniors about the Internet.

In addition to city and state government websites, you can also check out your local chapters of the United Way, YMCA,  and the Salvation Army

The Salvation Army in Williamsburg, Virginia, needs bell ringers through December 24. To quote Buddy the Elf – “The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear!” According to their website, volunteers can sing carols, play an instrument, and of course ring a bell! In the midst of all the commercialism, your good-hearted son or daughter can remind others to share and care about people in their community. If it's too cold to ring the bell outside, you can also create your own virtual red kettle fundraiser!

The Greater Chicago Area, Northern Illinois and Northwestern Indiana Division of the Salvation Army also offers mobile alerts to let you know about opportunities to help in your area. 

Make sure to also check out some amazing volunteer opportunities listed on the NobleHour website. There are thousands of listings all over the United States, ranging from visiting nursing homes, volunteering at schools, or sorting and packaging food at local food banks. Find the true meaning of the holidays by getting your student excited about serving others.

If your son or daughter just wants to nest and watch every old holiday movie during their college break, then get those idle hands working. Even someone with all thumbs can make a no-sew fleece blanket! Blankets can be donated to local homeless shelters or you can contact your local chapter of Project Linus, a non-profit organization that provides homemade blankets to children in need. Their website provides a variety of patterns including quilts and afghans.

Knots of Love

If you and your child like to knit, spend some quiet, quality time together knitting caps for cancer patients. Knots of Love donates caps to men and women who have lost their hair due to chemotherapy treatment, burn accidents, brain surgery and head trauma patients, as well as individuals with alopecia.

At the point where you can’t take your college student acting like a guest in his own home anymore, it’s time to call in the big guns – grandma and grandpa! A little quality time with them will make everyone happier! Boost their ego by asking them to help their grandparents with a few technology lessons. DoSomething.org’s Grandparents Gone Wired campaign encourages young adults to use their online skills to help seniors get connected. Spend some time with gramps setting up a twitter account, or show grandma how to use Facetime and Facebook on her cell phone and laptop! Call your local nursing home to see if you can help residents there too. The campaign runs through January 21, and also offers an opportunity to win a $10,000 scholarship! The time spent together is a priceless gift.

describe the imageIf your student is always on the go and the thought of being home for four to five weeks will drive you both crazy, then consider a service trip to round out the winter break. All Hands Volunteers has a number of opportunities available, including Project Detroit, an effort to help those in the greater Detroit area recover from damaging floods that occurred this past August. Over 200 homes in the Detroit metro area have been mucked, gutted and sanitized. Experience isn't necessary. Trained supervisors are on hand to assist volunteers with a variety of tasks

Last year, volunteers focused on rebuilding the homes and communities affected by Superstorm Sandy and also responded to the devastation left by the earthquake and typhoon in the Philippines

Visit the All Hands Volunteers website to complete an application, as well as determine available dates.Project Bohol The organization provides three simple meals, basic accommodations, and basic logistics to ensure a positive and productive experience. Volunteers must cover their own travel expenses and meals on days off. The organization has a strict minimum age policy and cannot accept volunteers under the age of 15 (14 in the Philippines). All 16 and 17 year olds must be accompanied with a responsible adult. 

There is no minimum or maximum time commitment, and the organization does not charge a participation fee. Volunteers can come for a day or a couple of months. The organization wants to make it as easy as possible for people to volunteer and make a difference.

So, before you know it, you’ll be sending your son or daughter back to school with a duffel bag filled with clean laundry. While you’ll be happy to get back to your quiet routine, you’ll might also be counting the days until Spring Break! Don’t worry, we’ll come up with a few ideas to help you then too! 

Photos courtesy of Knots of Love and All Hands Volunteers.

Topics: Food Banks, abroad, winter break, volunteering, community engagement, outreach, community service, engagement, high school, service, community, civic engagement, opportunities, involvement, nonprofit, scholarships

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