Summer Class Gets Students Hooked on Community Service

Posted: August 30, 2004 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Jennifer Mitchell

Students in Janette Muir’s New Century College (NCC) Civic Responsibility class this summer cleaned up highways, built a playground, tutored children, and worked with abused children. In addition, they lent a hand to the American Diabetes Association, area libraries, and Yesterday’s Rose, a consignment shop in Fairfax that benefits local programs.

The course gave students the opportunity for some hands-on civic responsibility by requiring them to volunteer in their communities. The exercise also helped students increase their advocacy skills, understand civic engagement, and become more effective citizens locally and nationally.

As part of the American Association of State Colleges and University’s American Democracy Project, students in the class were asked to work at least 45 hours in a volunteer program of their choice. One student, Charles Guzek, went so far as to coordinate an entire fund raiser himself. Working with Raspberry Falls Golf and Hunt Club in Leesburg, Va., Guzek organized a charity golf outing to benefit the Loudoun County Youth Soccer Association, for which his daughter plays.

“Getting sponsors was the hardest part,” says Guzek, who is working on his Bachelor of Individualized Studies degree. “People are either willing to help out or not. Most people were fairly quick with their answers and stuck to them.” The event raised about $9,200, which will be spent on field maintenance, nets and goals, and travel team uniforms. Guzek says he enjoyed the project, working almost twice the number of required hours.

Integrative Studies major Michelle Lovell found a volunteer opportunity right outside her front door. The Arlington-Alexandria Coalition for the Homeless in Clarendon is a few steps from her apartment, although she wasn’t even aware of its existence until this project.

“Here in Northern Virginia, you never think about people who are living in poverty,” Lovell says. She worked mainly with children at the coalition’s shelter, volunteering her time in the Support for Kids in Transition program. Lovell says the time she spent there was very rewarding, and she will continue to donate her time throughout the year. “I feel like I am doing my part to better my community.”

While volunteering at the shelter, Lovell met a staff member and a case worker who were both New Century College grads, proof that Mason students are committed to their communities and citizens.

“There are so many ways you can help in your community,” says Muir, who is associate dean of NCC. “The striking thing about this class was that all the students had done little to no volunteer work before this summer. Now, just about everyone in the class says they want to continue volunteering.

“This course goes to the heart of what New Century College cares about—getting students involved in their communities, helping them understand the importance of civic engagement, and creating lifelong learners committed to making a difference in the world,” Muir continues. “These service learning activities help students to see that even in their local communities they can make a difference, and the often unintended consequence is that students gain far more than they ever imagined they would by participating in these experiences.”

For more information on the American Democracy Project at Mason, visit the web site.

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