Students Should Take Advantage of All College Has to Offer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4. I wish I had done more volunteering.

5. I wish I had joined an Engineering club.

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

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

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

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

10. I wish I had switched majors.

11. I wish I had traveled abroad.

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

10 Suggestions from current students, teachers and alums:

1. Go to Class!

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

3. Sign up for a club.

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

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

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

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

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

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

10. Reach out and meet new people.

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

 

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

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

A Case for Volunteering with Family

Posted by Natasha Derezinski-Choo on Thu, Jun 12, 2014 @ 03:49 PM

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

As summer arrives and the school year comes to an end, there is time for families to spend more time together.  Many families look forward to going on vacation, going to the park, relaxing at the pool, or spending more time at home together. But what about spending more time volunteering in the community? This summer, as you put together plans for a fun and relaxing summer, be sure to set aside some time to volunteer as a family.  When families volunteer together, they increase the number of helping hands working to help others while also spending quality time together and strengthening their bond as a family.

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Volunteering as a family provides more help to the community, but it is also full of learning experiences and benefits for your family. When families volunteer together, they are able to gain greater insight into social issues.  Volunteering as a family often leads to more meaningful reflection after and during your volunteer project.  Around the dinner table or in the car ride home, families are more likely to engage in discussions that give perspective on the community issues they hope to tackle and how they can play a role in improving a situation.

Both children and adults can learn new skills from volunteering, or they can use the knowledge they already have and apply it to situations where they can make a positive impact.  By volunteering together, families also work on problem solving skills and communication.  This enables them to accomplish more as volunteers, but also helps families become more supportive as they transfer these conflict-resolution skills to their relationship as a family.  The benefits of volunteering as a family are important for all age groups, but the impact service can have on children also makes it a valuable parenting tool.

Children learn by doing, and volunteering helps reinforce positive behaviours and habits. Children who volunteer and observe their parents volunteering will be more likely to volunteer in the future.  In addition, volunteering has the capacity to enrich children’s learning and development. Volunteering helps improve self-esteem and social skills.  It shows children that they have the ability to make a positive impact. By learning to be comfortable working with others, children become more confident and start establishing leadership while still being humbled by the work they are doing.  They also learn responsibility, as they often will be assigned to work on a particular task during the course of a volunteer project. 

Children can also learn compassion through volunteering; in becoming more confident leaders and responsible individuals, they are compelled to treat others with kindness.  In addition to helping develop emotional health, volunteering can also increase physical health.  Furthermore, children who volunteer are also less likely to engage in at-risk behaviour as they grow up.  Volunteering as a family ensures that the next generation in a community will be both accountable and caring to others. 

When deciding how your family can help out in your community, it is important to find opportunities that interest everyone in the family. Volunteering should not feel like a chore; it should be something everyone enjoys.  To find volunteer opportunities in your community, consider the types of activities your family already enjoys and discuss as a family what important community issues you would like to tackle.  Different volunteer opportunities also serve to teach different lessons.  For example, if your family likes being active outdoors, outdoor clean-ups in parks, rivers, or beaches would be the best fit.  These types of service opportunities reinforce your family’s responsibility to the environment.  If your family is more interested in giving their time to people, working at food banks or homeless shelters and visiting nursing homes helps those in need in your community. 

Alternatively, if your family cannot agree on an opportunity, you can take turns supporting each other.  For example, if one family member wants to participate in a fundraiser, marathon, or sporting event, the other members of the family could find opportunities to help facilitate these events.  If some family members are more active and like to be the organizers and planers of a community project, the other family members can still be supportive by doing little things like stuffing envelopes, folding brochures, passing out flyers, or participating as volunteers on the day of the event.  However, what your family decides to do is not as important as the fact that you are doing it together.

When volunteering as a family, it is also important to have an open mind about your definition of family.  Family does not have to be confined to your immediate family nor to what others may consider to be the definition of family.  There’s no reason grandparents cannot volunteer with grandchildren or cousins cannot volunteer together.  In today’s world the meaning of family is becoming more open and complex than before.  In simple terms, family is the people you love and care about.  Volunteering serves to strengthen these relationships, and when we strengthen the relationships in our families, we reinforce the bonds at the root of our communities.

 

Image used through a Creative Commons License via vastateparksstaff

 

Topics: volunteering, community, opportunities

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

Carrying a Torch for Service: Volunteerism in the Olympic Games

Posted by Natasha Derezinski-Choo on Thu, Feb 27, 2014 @ 11:00 AM

Volunteers are an integral part of the Olympic Games.


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

Topics: volunteering, opportunities, youth impact, millennials, community service, development, olympics

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

The Future of MOOCs & Online Learning: A Student Perspective

Posted by Natasha Derezinski-Choo on Thu, Feb 06, 2014 @ 03:00 PM

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.

MOOCs and online courses can provide students with many different experiences.

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. 

Online learning can make higher education more accessible.

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

Topics: highered, opportunities, millennials, high school, college admissions, online learning, elearning, MOOC

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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