How to Make It Awesome
Congratulations on choosing a course with a CSL Placement! The experience can be a meaningful, fun, and positive way for you to learn and grow. But a great experience doesn't just happen to you, YOU make it happen. So here are some tips to help you maximize the positive impact you can have for yourself and the community organization.
Choose Your Placement Carefully
Be proactive! The earlier you begin your search, the better. Know that many agencies accept a limited number of volunteers. For many agencies, once you miss the orientation date, you might miss the opportunity to be able to serve at that agency.
Research the host agency ahead of your orientation/interview. Know and understand the mission and history of the organization and the programs and services they offer. Learn about the population the agency serves and be mindful of cultural (organizational, ethnic, etc.) differences and expectations.
Attend any orientation sessions and/or interviews that your agency requires. This is your chance to ask questions and for you and the community partner to determine if you are right for the position. Together, you can review your learning objectives (as set out in your course syllabus) and set clear expectations about what you can learn and how you can add value.
If you are interested in the agency because it personally, academically, or professionally excites you – that's good! If not, keep looking, or create your own CSL placement.
This is important – for the organization and you. Agencies rely on the Laurier CSL program for consistent, trustworthy, and hard-working volunteers that fill much needed services. For you, this is great practice in a professional field. Many students leave their placements with recommendation letters, references, and sometimes even jobs. Being professional throughout your placement can open doors for you in the field.
Treat your CSL assignment like a job - be prompt; set-up a schedule and stick to it; call your supervisor ahead of time if you can't attend and arrange to make up missed hours.
Dress neatly and be well groomed.
Have fun, and be yourself, but at the same time make sure to keep a professional attitude. Refrain from unprofessional remarks about colleagues, students, or clients. Respect client confidentiality – don't use the names and identifying information of community members and clients in discussions or writing. Be courteous and respectful at all times.
Never report to your service site under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol.
Practice good phone/email etiquette. On the phone, speak clearly and slowly when leaving information on a message. For example: "Hi, my name is _____ and I am a Community Service-Learning student from Wilfrid Laurier University. I have signed-up to volunteer at your agency. When you are able, please call me at ____, on this day and time _____." For email, make sure you use full sentences, proper grammar and correct spelling.
If it is going well – great! If it isn't - that's okay! The important thing is to work toward making it better. Talk to your community supervisor if you are unsatisfied with your assignment and/or contact your TA Facilitator or the LCCSL. If you do end up leaving your CSL placement, inform your community supervisor.
Keep It Safe
We don't expect you to have problems, but we do want to inform in advance of workplace issues to be aware of:
Make sure that you are familiar with your agency's health and safety protocols (provided during orientation). Don't take part in activities at your placement that make you feel unsafe.
Don't give or loan someone money or personal belongings.
Don't give out your personal contact information.
Don't agree to meet clients outside of your placement.
Don't use your personal vehicle to give someone a ride or provide services for your partner agency.
Don't tolerate verbal exchanges of a sexual nature or engage in behaviour that might be perceived as sexual at your CSL site.
Don't tolerate verbal exchanges or engage in behaviour that might be perceived as discriminating against an individual on the basis of his/her age, race, gender, sexual orientation, ability, or ethnicity.
If you do see or experience any of the above, it is very important to communicate this to your community supervisor and/or CSL facilitator. Even if it seems small and insignificant, or you're just not sure, please let someone know.
Connect the Dots
It is just as important for you to reflect on your CLS experience as it is to do the work.
You will already have assignments linking the placement to course learning objectives. However, feel free to go beyond those assignments – write a CSL journal, share stories and learnings (blog posts, articles, etc), or have a CSL buddy you chat with once a week. These types of activities help you process, document, and remember what you are learning – about the course and yourself.
The amount of intention you put into this step will be directly related to what you get out of your CSL experience.
The questions which one asks oneself begin, at last, to illuminate the world, and become one’s key to the experience of others. One can only face in others what one can face in oneself. On this confrontation depends the measure of our wisdom and compassion. This energy is all that one finds in the rubble of vanished civilizations, and the only hope for ours. -James Baldwin, Nobody Knows My Name