What People Are Saying
During my time at Laurier, I was able to take three different CSL classes. I enrolled in adolescent psychology, community psychology and sociology of aging. Prior to taking a CSL class I had no idea what to expect and was very surprised at how beneficial they were. I was able to apply the knowledge I learned in lecture and that helped make the connection to the material. Instead of just reading about how teenagers behave and develop I was able to go into a school and see it first hand.
Currently, I am the Youth Recreation Coordinator for the City of Kitchener and I love it! I get to work everyday with an age group I really enjoy within my community. My CSL placements helped me to get here in a number of ways. It provided me with interviewing experience and job responsibility. The placements allowed me to be in certain roles, and experience certain jobs that I never would have done otherwise. My placements for community and adolescent psychology both sparked my interest and helped direct me to the job I have today.
The 20 required hours for a CSL class may seem hard to coordinate with the life of a student, but I assure you it will be 20 worthwhile hours.
Alison Vasey, Former Laurier Student
Community Service Learning has become a central part of my teaching and research at Laurier Brantford. This has happened for a variety of reasons and let me note some of the key ones here. I have for many years looked for ways to immerse myself in the communities where I live, and the development of the campus of Laurier Brantford in the downtown of a city which was in the midst of re-inventing itself, meant that my teaching and research activities were in the heart of the community here, and it seemed a natural step to tie these two university-oriented responsibilities to the community with which we were so closely meshed. With the community at our doorstep, I quietly began finding ways and means to open the doors of my classes to allow the students to take part in 'community' in ways which permitted them to see the close connections and learning possibilities inherent in what we spoke and read about in class, with what we can engage with outside the classroom -- the work, hopes, and activities of the community organizations, groups, and community leaders that define community here in Brantford. The insights and learning that come from finding connections between what we do in class, with what happens in the places where we live, is a means for myself and my students to engender heartfelt and concrete understanding and appreciation for who we are as citizens, community members, and as learners. This is what community service learning means to me.
Robert Feagan, Community Internships (CT403)
CSL is integral to the experiential learning that students enrolled in our Global Studies Experience accomplish. Through their engagement with their community placements, the theoretical framework of the course "Social Justice at Home and Abroad" is brought to life. With regard to my teaching, the impact of CSL is twofold: it widens the notion of the 'classroom' to include those outside the university in the learning community. Second, it offers a field experience in which students are able to make connections between classroom learning and social life. Students have described their participation in CSL as high‑impact learning because it allows them to bring their learned knowledge and critical skills to relevant experiences outside the academy. This brings them a feeling of engaged citizenship with regard to contributing to the larger community in which WLU is situated, as well as opening new possibilities for their future careers and post‑graduate endeavours.
Sarah Matthews, Global Studies: Social Justice at Home and Abroad (GS399)
When I think back to our very first student who we placed through the WLU field placement program, it was September 2003. We had recently been selected as one of the new Early Years Centres. Many people did not know who or even what we were about. We had just opened our main site in Kitchener and we were desperately in need of volunteers. A student found out about our volunteer program on her own, and she was willing to give us 20 hours of her time during the day, which was when we were most in need of volunteers. This was a new experience for us, a volunteer who came to us, offering her help. There had to be more to it. Later that year, with the CSL Coordinator, we discussed the possibility of placing multiple students with our organization. It was like Christmas had come to us at Our Place. I began to get very excited about the possibilities, but what we have evolved to has gone way beyond what I ever imagined.
Currently we place approximately 30 WLU students each year who are completing their hours through Community Service Learning. They each complete a minimum of 20 hours in a volunteer capacity which spread across all of the students is equal to 600 hours. This is roughly 13% of our total volunteer hours each year. The reality for us is that the majority of these students continue to volunteer beyond their original commitment of the 20 hours. Most of the students who begin in September ask if they can come back to volunteer with us again in January. This is a huge benefit to our volunteer program as the students are already trained and settled in, so they can jump in immediately when our new session begins during the first week of January. If I had one wish – it would be for the university to keep students until the end of June as that is when our programs change for the summer. In May, you see a dramatic change in our volunteer workforce after most of the students have left to take on jobs and return to their home towns. But that is a trade off for what the workforce offers to us from September through to April.
As you can imagine, without the resource of Laurier students our volunteer program would look drastically different. Our recruiting strategies have changed to where I no longer need to go out and recruit in person like I once did. Now the volunteers come to us and our best recruiters are actually our former volunteers. I have received emails from students who volunteered 2 years before and who now want to come back because they miss our programs and the children. The energy and enthusiasm that they demonstrate, greatly enriches our children’s programs. Having the students participate directly in a “hands-on” capacity with our children’s programs allow us to offer our service to more children from our community that we would otherwise be able to offer.
I think one of the key’s to our success in working so positively with the students is the opportunity for them to make a connection to the community in which they live as well the opportunity to make a difference. They can see the direct effect of their involvement immediately when a child asks them to read, or to play with them in the kitchen centre or simply when a baby just gives them a smile. These positive, reactions to their involvement is what keeps them coming back. They get to have fun. They get to play and interact and be part of the early learning opportunities that are present every day at our centre. The students benefit from this involvement but most importantly the children benefit. They have the opportunity to meet new friendly faces in a safe and trusting environment. The can make a new friend and look forward to seeing that friend again the next week. They can reach out to someone who has a free hand to play a game, do a puzzle or play dress up.
I am very proud to be connected with the Laurier Community Service-Learning Program. It has been such a wonderful component of the volunteer program at Our Place. It makes me proud that our organization has touched the lives of students and been with them as they opened the door to future volunteer opportunities. I look forward to continuing to provide a variety of volunteer opportunities for WLU students at Our Place. I am also very excited at the thought of more institutions considering incorporating a volunteer component to their programs. This will can only benefit and strengthen our community. The possibilities are endless.
Bonnie Caza, Volunteer Coordinator, Our Place Family Resource and Early Years Centre