Springtime 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.
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.
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.
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.
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
This post was written by NobleHour Special Contributor Natasha Derezinski-Choo, a student at Grimsley High School in Greensboro, NC.
The Olympic Games mark an exciting time of fierce competition and teamwork. Both deep-rooted rivalries and camaraderie accompany the competition and sportsmanship that make the Olympics so special. It is a time of national pride and of international friendship. Scarcely there comes a time, except during the Olympics, when classes or work will slow and the streets will quiet, but inside the cheers will roar in front of television screens. For example, many classes and businesses stopped in both countries to witness the heated rivalry in last week’s Canada vs. USA men’s hockey game.
One does not need to be an athlete to appreciate the Olympics. Personally, I have not set foot on a track since running for a, thankfully singular, required physical education class. Watching sports on television typically results in my falling asleep, but I make one exception when the Olympics are on. The Olympics have been a personal fascination of mine since childhood. As a child I would imitate, albeit clumsily, the figure skaters on the television screen, seeing the Olympic stage as the realization of dreams. However, Olympic dreams are made possible by more than just athleticism; volunteers facilitate the events, and in many ways volunteerism is a way anyone can make it to the Olympic stage.
The tradition of volunteerism at the Olympics and Paralympics began in the London 1948 Olympics. In recent history, 70,000 volunteer “Game Makers” assisted in the London 2012 Summer Olympics, donating 8 million hours of their time to make the games possible. More than 25,000 volunteers helped at the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics. Volunteers come to the Olympics to experience one of the biggest international sporting events, and their hard work reflects what I think is the most important elements of the Olympics: the altruistic spirit that together we can make dreams come true.
This past month in Sochi, 25,000 volunteers helped facilitate the Olympic games from start to finish. They performed an impressive number of tasks to help the Olympics run smoothly. In addition to their behind the scenes jobs at each sports event, volunteers in Sochi provided an air of hospitality to guests from around the world. Volunteers were present at airports to welcome guests, helped guests find transportation to their hotels and carried their month’s worth of luggage. They helped direct visitors, greet spectators at events, and ensure events ran on schedule. Brightly clad in the colourful jackets, which were the volunteers’ uniform for the games, they carried out all these jobs with both beaming smiles and excitement.
Sochi Olympic volunteers represent a uniquely young group. Russian history has not always left space for the culture of volunteerism, and the Olympics represents a new tide of young people willing to come from near and far to give their time to helping others. The average age of volunteers was 23, with 80 percent of volunteers younger than 30. Many are university students. Note that the average age of volunteers in the London 2012 Summer Olympics was 44 and in the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics was 45. In addition to the exhilarating experience of taking part in the Olympics, these young volunteers have also gained some skills and knowledge from their training prior to the games. Before the Olympics, most people in Sochi did not speak English, but every volunteer underwent basic language training in order to communicate with visitors.
Volunteers for each Olympic event are selected by an application process. Hundreds of thousands of applications roll in one to two years in advance. The process pays special attention to language skills, problem solving, and other skills that might be helpful to facilitating the Olympics. For example, medical skills may prove advantageous to help run drug screening for athletes. However, being an Olympic volunteer does not require special skill sets, and volunteerism is a way in which anyone can be part of the Olympics, even if it means simply directing traffic and welcoming guests with a smile. A large majority of volunteers, regardless of their assignments, reported that the experience of just being in the Olympics was unforgettable.
In Sochi and across Russia, many hope that a culture of volunteerism will continue to thrive after the Olympics. The Olympic games are one of the best examples of how volunteerism can make an impact on the world. Although the games have come to a finish for this year, I must say that the team I cheer for the most at each event is the vast team of volunteers.
In a local sense, you can also take part in the spirit of Olympic volunteerism. Volunteers are always in need for Special Olympics events in each state. Find opportunities on NobleHour and then come back to log your volunteer hours.
Image via Atos International
Tips and Resources for Alternative Spring Breaks
Thank you for joining us for another “Empowering NobleLeaders” Blog with Dr. Kristin Joos and Liz Harlan.
Given that spring break is only a few weeks away for many students, today we hope to offer some advice to help you encourage students to participate in, as well as prepare for, alternative spring break trips centered on service. Service trips can be both personally transforming and potentially life-changing experiences for students. They need guidance in finding and preparing for such “alternative spring breaks.” Here are some tips to promote spring break service trips to students, inform them of the lasting benefits, and prepare them to get the most out of their (perhaps not so restful) “break.”
Alternative spring breaks are both a way to do meaningful work as well as step out of one’s comfort zone. Research is helpful when exploring the various options and programs. Students should be encouraged to consider their passions and interests, the time and travel commitment, cost and qualifications needed for each option. For college students, their community-service or student leadership centers/offices are often great resources for finding spring break volunteer opportunities that are both affiliated with the school or are in the surrounding area. Programs and trips offered through a university are sometimes free, or inexpensive as they are often subsidized by the college. For example, here at the University of Florida, our Center for Leadership & Service is organizing 11 different spring break trips for 2014, three of which are international, focusing on a variety of different social and environmental issues.
Students can also look for spring break opportunities on their own--we recommend both online searches and word of mouth. Religious centers, like churches, synagogues, mosques, and temples can also be great resources for service trips both locally and abroad. Typically, one does not have to be a member in order to participate in their activities. Campus Compact is a fabulous organization that promotes campus-based civic engagement, public and community service to develop students’ citizenship skills, and provides tools and training for faculty to empower their students. Additionally, they have an initiative and search engine for Global Citizenship opportunities that is a great tool for both students and faculty/staff/administrators.
Encourage students to explore the resources around them when searching for something to do over spring break. With some effort, students can find opportunities that provide both a fun and productive week, a new vehicle for their interests, a way to meet friends and network with others, and the opportunity to make a difference. I (Liz) traveled to the surrounding areas of Tegucigalpa, Honduras during the spring break of my Sophomore year with the Emory University Medical chapter of Global Brigades, a student-led nonprofit health and sustainable organization aimed at holistic development in Honduras, Panama, and Ghana. There are more than 6,000 volunteers from 100 university chapters from the United States, in addition to Canada and Europe, that organize and participate in trips, or “brigades,” with programs focused on architecture, business, dental, environmental, human rights, medical, microfinance, public health, or water. I was able to practice my Spanish, raise funds for needed medicine and supplies, obtain a leadership position for my second trip as a junior, and eventually receive a letter of recommendation for Medical School from our club faculty advisor. My entire experience with Global Brigades was safe, impactful, and resulted in many friendships, networking connections, and meaningful memories. The benefits from service trips are widespread and inevitable. If your students have the opportunity to do a service trip abroad, they should take advantage!
Tips for preparation:
- Encourage your students to connect with supervisors, faculty advisors, or leading students before the trip as it is very helpful to engage in team-building activities prior to the start of the trip. Valuable information about the volunteer location (especially if in a foreign country), what to bring and pack, travel arrangements if applicable, and the volunteers’ duties is very useful to have several months prior to spring break. If student’s service trip is domestic, there is even greater reason to explore the location as it would be easier to become familiar with the route, surroundings, and community beforehand. At some schools, student participants and/or site-leaders enroll in courses the semester prior to or the semester of their spring break trip in order to devote time in their busy schedules to important preparation.
- The lasting impact of a volunteer experience can suffer without proper reflection before, during, and after. It is important for a student to set goals for their trip’s experience, even if it just to keep an open mind and write in their journal every night. There are many ways and vehicles to reflect, through photo’s and video’s (with the organizations permission first), journal writing, jotting down daily notes and observations, and sharing stories with classmates and teachers once spring break is over. Preparing and guiding a student to constantly reflect is critical for students to live in the moment while securing the lasting benefits of their transformative service. We will talk more about the importance of service reflections (and offer tips for best practices) in our next post.
- Encourage an open mind and community-awareness with students preparing to spend spring break doing service. The week-long experience allows for increased immersion, continual reflection, and a potentially greater impact due to the length of time. Emphasizing open-mindedness and cultivating an attitude of curiosity are key for students about to undertake the service trip adventure. Having knowledgeable anticipation can lead to a fulfilling, organized, and productive end-result.
Information for students or faculty who want to create new alternative spring break experiences found at www.serve.gov.
America’s Natural & Cultural Resources Volunteer Portal- www. volunteer.gov/gov.
United Way lets college students spend spring break in Biloxi, MS in the United Way National Alternative Spring Break experience program.
Habitat for Humanity With their Collegiate Challenge, college students work during spring break helping to eliminate poverty housing.
Cross Cultural Solutions lets students immerse themselves in a variety of life changing experiences across the globe. Insight Abroad is their one-week trip program.
Projects Abroad provides students with meaningful spring break experiences in project areas ranging from construction to performing arts to archeology.
IERCEF- North Carolina database of study abroad service programs for students of Historically Black Colleges and Universities in the state.
NobleHour - empowers students to connect with their communities. Currently there are no specfic “Alternative Spring Break” service opportunities, but there are many listings that students could engage in over their break, creating their own experience.
What are your plans for spring break?
Empowering NobleLeaders: Helping Students Understand the Benefits of Community Service
Dr. Kristin Joos and Liz Harlan come together again to help lessen the disconnect between one-time Service Plunges (like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day) and long-term community service and involvement. Given that hundreds of thousands of Americans participated in service on MLK day, “A Day On, Not a Day Off,” including many college students across the nation, we thought it might be helpful to discuss some tips and strategies for how to leverage the enthusiasm of such events.
Helping students to understand the benefits of community service can be a great way to sustain their involvement. Community engagement has has the potential for deep reciprocal benefits as students learn to create positive change in the world, and make personal changes in the process.
For example, when I was in high school, I had volunteer experience that was so impactful that it led to my career choice. When I was 17 years old, a junior in high school, I thought I wanted to go into sports medicine or be a big time athletic trainer. In order to gain more service experience and with my mother’s encouragement, I traveled to Nicaragua on a medical service trip with a local church (that I had been to before but was not a member of) for spring break. Every year, the church organizes a Spring Break Youth Medical Mission and allows anyone in the community interested to come on the trip as long as there is room. I had never been out of the country nor had any health care experience, and had no idea what to expect. We stayed in Matagalpa, Nicaragua and traveled one to three hours daily to various rural communities to set up a daily, mobile clinic that consisted of a triage area, doctor and patient tables, pharmacy, and dental clinic. Fortunately, one of my high school soccer teammates was on the trip with me. We were able to bring down soccer balls and play with the kids at the end of each clinic day.
Throughout the week, I practiced my Spanish in triage, shadowed and assisted physicians during their patient interviews, sorted and collected prescriptions in the pharmacy, and witnessed universal gestures of graciousness that transcended language and cultural barriers. The physicians, nurses, and pharmacists on the team were incredible people and role models. They encouraged all the young people to pursue their dreams always with serving others in mind, as well as opened my eyes to the wonders of medicine. When I returned home I told my parents, “I’m going to be a physician in the United States for six months and practice medicine in a developing country the other six months.” That one week in Nicaragua changed my life. It gave me perspective and knowledge about how the majority of the world lives, in poverty without access to essential resources, not only to improve their well-being, but even just to survive. I realized how fortunate I was for my family, my access to education, and to live in the United States. I felt so energized and open at the end of the week, and determined to be a doctor so I could have experiences like that for the rest of my life and hopefully improve the well-being of many diverse people.
The feelings that I experienced while helping people in a healthcare setting seemed almost addictive, I became compelled to want to do more service and to devote my professional career to serving others. Since that first trip, I have been on four medical service trips to Central America and highly recommend any type of service trip (Medical, Construction, Public Health, Education, Environmental, Microfinance, Human Rights, Water) to a developing country to all students. Week-long service trips take volunteering to the next level, in fact, in our next post, we will discuss Spring Break Service Trips (also known as “alternative Spring Breaks”), specifically focusing on encouraging students to get involved and helping them to prepare for these potentially life-changing experiences.
One of the most effective approaches to transforming one-time-volunteers into students-committed-to-service is through reflection. In future posts we will be talking about the process of service reflection in much more detail. Today, though, we'd like to offer three quick tips for faculty to share with service-plunge students, in hopes of leading to their experiencing the same compelling draw towards service, as we've had (and we assume many of you have had as well, as that's likely a big part of why you are involved in service learning as part of your career).
- Each time you volunteer, take a few minutes to make notes about what you did, what you learned, and how the experience impacted you. This can be done on scraps of paper, in a personal journal, on your blog (if you have one), posted on social media sites (like Facebook), and NobleHour even has a “journal” feature for students to record their reflections.
- Engage in conversation with others to explain what you’ve been doing and why it’s important. If you are in to photography, ask your supervisor if it’s okay for you to take photos while volunteering (as there may be strict rules requiring permission and releases) and if permitted, enjoy documenting your adventures in service. Again, if you are given permission, you may have fun posting these photos on your own website or blog, on a social media site (like Instagram), or using the “share” tool in NobleHour.
- Seek to learn more! Ask people at your volunteer site or service learning faculty at your school about opportunities for you to do similar work-- seek them out and get to know the people involved (attend events, set up informational interviews, and take the leap to attend other service activities).
For more information about how to help students to transform from participants of a one-time service plunge into long-term committed volunteers, leading lives of service, can be found in Don’t Just Count Your Hours, Make Your Hours Count: The Essential Guide to Volunteering and Community Service and by continuing to read our blog. Please be on the lookout for our next post discussing how to help students get involved in and prepare for Spring Break Service Trips.
Empowering NobleLeaders through Service Learning and Community Engagement
Hello NobleHour community! We're happy to announce that Dr. Kristin Joos, UF faculty-member, and recent college graduate and service-oriented young professional, Liz Harlan, have teamed up to write for our new “Empowering NobleLeaders” blog series. They both found their passions through service learning and community engagement and are eager to educate, inspire, and empower others to do the same. This first post introduces Kristin and Liz, as well as the topics they'll be covering in upcoming blog posts. We're excited to have them on board. Welcome, Kristin and Liz!
I am the Coordinator of the Innovative Sustainability & Social Impact Initiative in the Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation in the Warrington College of Business at the University of Florida. I also direct the Young Entrepreneurs for Leadership & Sustainability High School Summer Program at UF, the only summer program in existence where college-bound high school students learn and practice the skills of successful business and community leaders, while being inspired to solve social, environmental, and economic problems.
As a high school student I participated in a youth organization where I learned the importance of community engagement; I was inspired by the director, a social entrepreneur, who challenged youth to risk their dreams and make a positive impact on society. We were exposed to a plethora of social problems and were encouraged to be part of the solutions. When I was 16 years old I was asked to speak in front of an audience of 2000+ people. I opened my speech with “So many times there is no peace outside our windows: extinction, pollution, unemployment, homelessness, racism, discrimination, disease, neglect, abuse... in our society the list goes on and on...” After early-admitting to college later that year, I decided not only did I want to learn how to solve social problems, I could have a bigger impact on the world if I educated others to do so as well.
I first learned of Social Entrepreneurship in 2000 when attending a conference for an international NGO, and met an Ashoka Fellow. At the time, I was completing my dissertation and studying high achieving teenagers who aspired to make a difference in their communities and the world. From then on, I was committed to dedicating my professional career to educating, inspiring, and empowering students to become changemakers. In 2005, I brought Social Entrepreneurship to UF. My current research and applied interests center around social entrepreneurship, sustainability, corporate social responsibility, service learning and community service, civic engagement, and creating positive social change. I am passionate about teaching and empowering students to use the skills and strategies of business to create innovative and sustainable solutions to social, environmental, and economic problems locally and around the world.
In 2006, I had the pleasure of being named Service Learning Professor of the Year at UF, because of the community service completed by my students. In fact, each year my students complete more than 1⁄4 of the UF President’s Goal of 1 Million minutes of service for all UF students. I am the author of Don't Just Count Your Hours, Make Your Hours Count: The Essential Guide to Volunteering & Community Service, a valuable resource for both service learning students and faculty and greatly appreciate the help of folks at the Corporation for National & Community Service, Campus Compact, and the National Youth Leadership Council.
I believe that education is a life-long process. In 2012 I participated in the International Social Entrepreneurship Programme at INSEAD. In 2013 I graduated from the AACSB PostDoc Bridge Program and was awarded Academic Scholar status. This spring, I will complete a Certificate in Social Entrepreneurship, sponsored by USASBE and the Kauffman Foundation and will also attend the Executive Program in Social Entrepreneurship at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business.
I delight in living in a historic home built in 1912. I find happiness in checking items off my never-ending to-do lists, practicing yoga, reading The Sun Magazine, supporting local farmers, learning to standup paddle board, and collecting quotable cards.
A bit about Liz:
I had the pleasure of working with Dr. Joos in high school with her Windows of Opportunity college and career advising program. In May of 2012, I graduated from Emory University with a B.S. in Anthropology and Human Biology and a minor in Global Health, Culture, & Society, and could not be more grateful to Dr. Joos for helping me in my acceptance to the perfect college fit.
My introduction to service began as a young child with two parents in the military. When I was not playing sports as a teenager, I loved to volunteer at my local library, homeless shelter, or middle school science summer camp. These volunteer experiences soon turned into ongoing community service activities. My mother believed spring breaks at the beach were too luxurious for high schoolers, so I traveled to Nicaragua on a medical service trip with a local church. I fell in love with medicine, other cultures, and decided I wanted to be a doctor. This led me to study Pre-Med and choose my major and minor at Emory, with professors who emphasized community engagement, taught courses in Community Based Service Learning, and urged us to reflect on everything from all perspectives. I was very involved in community service in Atlanta, as well as in Honduras and South Africa.
I value community service for the connections and relationships they create between people. All of my volunteer, internship, and community experiences recently helped grant me acceptance at the University of Florida College of Medicine. I am passionate about my future career of service. I balance work, family, traveling and staying active with helping at the Catholic Worker House in downtown Gainesville, Florida. As an independent and frugal adult, I am pursuing sustainable, local, and free ways to be fully immersed and involved in my community… and loving it!
A bit about the Empowering NobleLeaders Blog Series
We are thrilled to be working with NobleHour to help service learning faculty and community service coordinators find ways to get their students excited about volunteering, the benefits of long-term involvement in community service, and the personal transformation that often occurs. We will explore various topics, learning strategies, and community service programs on this blog, including social entrepreneurship, community service in higher education, how service helps both in college and a career, and leveraging community partnerships. Be on the lookout for our next blog coming soon highlighting how to leverage enthusiasm from MLK-Day service activities (or other Service Plunges) to maintain and sustain long-term involvement.
We're excited to launch this blog series and hope it helps you achieve your goals of engaging students with the community. Please let us know your favorite topics in the comments!
ATTEND THE ULTIMATE EVENT FOR ANYONE COMMITTED TO CHANGING THE WORLD WITH YOUTH.
MONUMENTAL brings together youth and adults from across the country and around the world for three and a half days of learning, inspiration, and connection at the 25th annual National Service-Learning Conference and the 26th annual Global Youth Service Day, April 9 – 12, 2014 in Washington D.C. This one-of-a-kind learning environment is an extension of the classroom, allowing youth and adults to come together to be part of something bigger.
|Secretary of Education
|Student and TGIF Founder
MONUMENTAL Learning Opportunities
Join us in the Nation’s Capital for an event that
- inspires social innovation and civic action for a generation who is eager and able to lead effective change in their schools and communities.
- models and enables effective youth-adult partnerships.
- shifts perceptions of youth from that of a social liability, to one of respect as important and capable leaders of today.
- equips educators and youth with the skills to foster authentic youth leadership and innovation in and out of the classroom.
Register today! Rates are the lowest they have been in the last ten years! Send a group of youth and adults from your school or organization. Nearly 70% of our conference participants attend as part of groups, which are most often intergenerational. Conference housing and registration closes March 17. Don’t delay!
Visit MONUMENTAL at www.nylc.org/conference to learn more.
NobleHour is proud to be a Gold Sponsor of MONUMENTAL. See you in Washington DC!
Valentine’s Day is coming up, and the best way to show your love for others is volunteering. Usually when we think of Valentine’s Day, things like chocolates, flowers, and cards come to mind, but this year why not extend Valentine’s Day to caring for others, perhaps total strangers, who are in need of some kindness. There are countless people in need in our communities and abroad, and this February 14th I encourage you to show your love in a unique manner. Giving time and thought into improving your community is a true measure of compassion. To demonstrate how Valentine’s Day is such a great excuse to volunteer, I spoke with a high school student whose Valentine’s Day themed service initiative is encouraging her peers to help others. Then, I thought of a few other Valentine’s Day service projects that you might adopt in your community.
Zainab Hasan, a high school senior and president of the Global Citizens Corps club at Grimsley High School, shared with me how her “Spread the Love” campaign celebrates Valentine’s Day with service. Around fifteen students are involved in the project. The group is collecting jars of peanut butter to donate to Food Assistance, a local organization that helps low income senior citizens.
Zainab explains, “One specific preferred item was peanut butter, so Grimsley Global Citizen Corps decided to do a peanut butter collection, calling it the ‘Spread the Love’ campaign since it's in February . . . Food Assistance helps out 450 families each month and 20% of senior citizens live at [the] poverty level.” Grimsley Global Citizen Corps’ peanut butter collection is one of their many service projects carried out each year. The club has also collected shoes and glasses to send abroad to children in need.
I asked Zainab why the peanut butter collection was important to her, and she said, “I like to know that I'm able to help out people in my community. I've been to countries outside of the US, and I see how poverty stricken those places are. One day I'd like to help them as well, but we have to start out small to eventually span out and make a larger difference.”
My final question for Zainab was to describe how she thinks Valentine’s Day and service relate: “Most people on Valentine’s Day tend to celebrate themselves and their friends . . . its important to put that love towards others as well. The less fortunate senior citizens don't really have anyone to visit them, and [they benefit from] a small amount of food or money to make the holiday something memorable for themselves. If we can give them something, even if it is just peanut butter, it shows them that they're not alone, that there is someone out there who cares about them. It may not be a whole lot but its more than enough to make someone smile and feel loved.”
If you want to make people in your community feel loved through acts of service, here are a few suggestions for Valentine’s Day service ideas:
Send Volunteer Valentines: For nonprofits, sending thank you notes or cards to volunteers is a nice way to remind them you value their commitment. Volunteers who are appreciated will feel that the time and effort they put into an organization is worthwhile. Developing a relationship with volunteers will build a reputation of respect and commitment that will encourage community members to take interest in your organization.
Advocate Love: What are some causes you feel passionately about? What would you like to see changed or improved in the world? Who do you feel society should approach with more kindness? Raising awareness about issues and advocating change is an important part of civic engagement. Make people aware of the issue you are focusing on through posters, social media, and presentations. Celebrate Valentine’s Day by showing where change is needed and striving for a world with people who are more considerate of each other.
Bake Some Sweet Treats: Bake sales are a fun way to fundraise for your favorite nonprofit. Make your cookies, cupcakes, and other treats festive with pink and red frosting and sprinkles. Get other people involved to help you decorate your baked goods and plan the event.
This Valentine’s Day, we can all show a little more love for each other through acts of kindness and service. Perhaps it's no coincidence that it's also "Random Acts of Kindness Week." To find ways to volunteer, search for local opportunities and organizations on NobleHour. Find a friend and ask him or her to “be your volunteer” this Valentine’s Day, and share this holiday of love with those in need of it most.
Last Friday, February 7, 2014, Chicago marked the 22nd day of temperatures at zero degrees or
colder. We’ve still got a long way to go with no end in sight. And, we are not alone! All over the country, states are feeling the effects of the Polar Vortex dealing with frigid cold temperatures,
horrible 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, this week there’s something happening that just may thaw our hardened dispositions and warm our hearts – Random Acts of Kindness (RAK) Week, February 10 – 16.
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 practice 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 junior 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 this past August. “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.”
Each day this week, Kumar’s RAK chapter will use Facebook and social media to post one new source of inspiration for performing random acts of kindness.
The Bone Student Center at Illinois State University will provide free treats and giveaways during RAK week. The school’s Division of Student Affairs will promote new acts of kindness each day and encourage the community to pass it on.
At the University of New Mexico, the Division of Student Affairs has planned a variety of activities to celebrate RAK, including their “Pit of Kindness” where students can “Take a seat, Make a Friend” in a ball pit! Students can also donate new teddy bears or make Valentine’s Day cards for children at the UNM Children’s Hospital Trauma Center and Regional Burn Center. At their student union, students can enjoy free kind words, candy, “Be Kind” buttons and take part in a kindness flash mob. Their RAK flyer encourages 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. Their goal is to inspire, encourage and cheer on their community to make a difference on campus. Challenges include 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 has events planned all week and is working with other university clubs and groups to “create a community of kindness.” Their goal is reach 2,000 acts of kindness by the end of the school year.
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!
- Give someone a compliment.
- Post a positive comment on social media.
- Donate old towels or blankets to an animal shelter
- Do a chore without being asked (Moms will really love this one!!).
- Eat lunch with someone new.
- Say good morning to people on your way to school or work.
- Send a thank you note to a friend, student, teacher, custodian or co-worker.
- Visit a senior citizen home or volunteer at a shelter.
- Walk a neighbor’s dog
- Students can start a kindness chain and add a link for every new act of kindness.
- Put up “Kindness Zone” signs at the entrance of classrooms to remind people to practice Random Acts of Kindness.
- Hold the door open or hold the elevator for someone.
- Babysit for a friend or neighbor.
- Bring a treat to a friend who is tired or has had a long week.
- Surprise your team or study group with coffee or snacks.
- Make an extra sandwich in the morning to give to a homeless person.
- Prevent road rage and let the car in front of you merge.
- Pass out hand warmers or an extra pair of gloves to the homeless.
- Shovel a neighbor’s driveway or sidewalk.
So, as we prepare for the next big wave 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!
Photos: Dolly Duplantier
This post was written by NobleHour Special Contributor Natasha Derezinski-Choo, a student at Grimsley High School in Greensboro, NC.
The evolution of online learning poses many questions about the future of education. Is online learning effective? Do online courses provide the same quality of education as traditional classrooms? Will online classes someday make classroom teachers obsolete? Like many innovations in the digital world, online learning is constantly being reviewed and modified. But I don’t feel that online education is a threat to the traditional classroom. Rather, it is another way the Internet spreads ideas, creates opportunity, and facilitates connectivity between people.
My experience with online classes has been at times both fulfilling and disastrous. The first online course I experienced was a writing course. When the books arrived
in the mail and I received my username and password, I knew little about formal writing. However, by the end of the course I had learned basic structure, techniques, and editing tools that compelled me to continue improving my writing. I learned more from this class than any other English course I had taken in school. Because I enjoyed it so much, the following semester, I signed up for a second writing course in the program. These courses challenged me not only in my writing but also in becoming an independent learner. In both cases, I acquired knowledge and skills related to my writing, and I also gained experience in time management, a strong work ethic, and practice in adaptability as a student by facing a different form of learning.
However, not all online classes are created equally. A couple years later, I signed up for a summer math course to earn an additional math credit. The program for this course was different, and I did not enjoy learning the material. The course consisted of reading the material and answering questions about it. I finished the course with good grades, but I did not feel that I had personally gained anything from this experience. The difference in this course was that it lacked the feeling of a regular classroom. In the writing courses I took, my instructor communicated regularly with me, continuously provided feedback, and engaged in live chat conversations with the class. I also interacted with my fellow students in class discussions and peer review. However, in the less enjoyable math course, a lack in human interaction with my teacher made the class unrewarding. My experience is not a critique of any particular course, but rather an insight into the nature of quality online education. For online courses to truly benefit students there must be a seamless liaison between teacher and student. In my opinion, the only significant difference between a successful online course and a traditional one is that the teacher and pupils are in different rooms. Online courses should facilitate typical class discussion, lessons, and feedback.
A popular format for online learning is the readily available Massive Open Online Course (MOOC). MOOCs are free online course accessible by anyone, unique for their unlimited enrolment. In a typical MOOC, a professor will upload a video of the lecture, reading materials, practice problems, and assignments comparable to those the professor would provide in the course he or she teaches. A computer typically grades assignments, and completion of the course does not usually entail university credit. In 2012, MOOCs gained attention when Ivy League universities began uploading full courses free of cost to the public. Some popular MOOC websites include Udacity, edX, and Coursera. The spirit of MOOCs is one of equality in education—the idea that wider access to higher education promotes connectivity, collaboration, and equal opportunity. MOOCs were developed to solve the problem of higher education by making it available to anyone at little to no cost. However, they are still young and not as fool-proof as they seem. The challenges educators face in achieving the accessibility and quality of learning that MOOCs attempt to provide represent the evolving state of online education.
MOOCs are often less successful than anticipated by their creators because the unlimited enrolment of the course means little human interaction between the student and the instructor. The instructor merely provides lectures and materials, but learning the content is left up to the student. Educators find that the students most successful in these types of courses are already high-achieving, educated, motivated students. MOOC developers and professors originally envisioned the MOOC as a way to bridge the education gap by making higher education accessible and affordable, but this has not been the case. Millions of dollars have been invested into MOOCs. Millions of students enroll, but only a fraction actually complete the course. MOOCs’ shortcomings are partially due to the lack of human connection between the teacher and the student. Without the ability to personally engage with an instructor students often find their experience with MOOCs to be less enriching than they had expected. Instead, MOOCs often prove mechanistic and unfulfilling. The teacher simply is irreplaceable in the classroom. MOOCs remain an experimental area of online education, and perhaps someday they will become a pathway for a universally accessible higher education experience. For the time being though, the mishaps of the MOOC show that quality education to the masses cannot be achieved without investment in the human connection between teacher and student.
The future of online education is exciting. It presents the opportunity for wider access to higher education. However, online courses cannot supplement traditional classrooms without considering the latter’s experience. For an online course to be comparable to a conventional classroom, the student’s learning experience must be one that mimics the ways in which teachers bring out students’ potential.
images via: CollegeDegrees360, velkr0
UNCG’s Institute for Community and Economic Engagement (ICEE) announced today that they have signed a software licensing agreement with NobleHour.com, LLC. UNCG will collaborate with NobleHour® over the next year to develop the next version of the Community Engagement Collaboratory™ (The Collaboratory™), a web-based software application that tracks partnership and public service activities between universities and communities. The Collaboratory will facilitate measurement of activities, identify patterns of engagement, and provide ongoing data collection to convene people and resources around important community priorities.
“We created the software system to satisfy UNCG needs – to know who is doing what where when and with whom for what purposes – but sought a commercial partner to help us get it onto a shareable platform because of the many requests we received from colleagues across the US and world who had seen our tool and asked us to share it with them,” says Emily Janke, director of ICEE. “They saw our unique ability to keep track of and get the word out about hundreds of activities and relationships for planning, research, and recognition purposes.” Janke and Kristin Medlin (ICEE communications and partnerships manager), along with Barbara Holland (ICEE senior scholar), are co-inventors of The Collaboratory, which uses a web-facing database to create a portrait of community engagement and public service for planning, research and recognition.
“Understanding the portrait of an institutions’ engagement with communities is essential for schools, institutions of higher education, and communities to move from accidental, coincidental, or random service activities of individuals to intentional and coordinated agendas of institutions with their communities,” says Holland. “This tool will allow us to work more systematically to effect significant and positive changes in our communities.”
UNCG will serve as the home for the Collaboratory Research Program that will facilitate “big data” types of scholarship on community engagement and public service. “We chose to collaborate with NobleHour because of their great reputation. We knew that they could provide ongoing, secure, and high quality services, which is critical to our larger goal of transforming the practice, scholarship, and outcomes of community engagement, here in the region, but also state-wide, nationally, and internationally,” says Medlin.
“NobleHour is honored to share its core vision with quality educational leaders such as UNCG. In an attempt to enable valuable strategic partnerships, NobleHour will endeavor to create and sustain an international repository dedicated to research that furthers community engagement, professional development, and student learning,” said NobleHour Managing Partner, Scott Fore.
Based out of Lakeland, Florida and with a nationwide staff, NobleHour provides web-based software that helps any type of organization manage service-learning, intern, employee, volunteer, and community service initiatives. NobleHour.com offers hour tracking, opportunity and event listings, and hour reporting tools that are used by notable school districts and higher education institutions such as Guilford County Schools, The George Washington University, and UC San Diego. NobleHour, started by a student in 2005, grew from a simple online database of service-learning opportunities to a strong presence with over 125,000 users, and over 4,500 organizations with thousands of opportunity listings. Since January of 2012, NobleHour users have tracked over 3 million service hours, with an economic impact of over $73,000,000.
The current version of the Collaboratory™ is viewable online at http://communityengagement.uncg.edu/advanced-search.aspx, and contains information on more than 250 ongoing or completed community-university projects. A commercial version of the Community Engagement Collaboratory™ is expected to be available for purchase in late 2014. More information can be found at www.CEcollaboratory.com.
For more information, please contact Kristin Medlin, communications and partnerships manager, at (336) 334-4661 or email@example.com.
The UNCG Institute for Community and Economic Engagement encourages, supports, elevates, and amplifies faculty, staff, student, and community colleagues from across all sectors who are involved in teaching, learning, research, creative activity, and service in ways that promote strategic goals of the university and address pressing issues which have important implications to communities across the Piedmont Triad, state, nation, and world.