newsletter |spring 2010
welcome to education in action “My heart is moved by all I cannot save: so much has been destroyed I have to cast my lot with those who age after age, perversely, with no extraordinary power, reconstitute the world.” –– poet/activist, Adrienne Rich
It is difficult to sum up a year in the life of be able to see clearly in order to transform the Service-Learning Program at Dominican these realities. Service-learning provides all because our program is intertwined with of us the opportunity to see more clearly and inseparable from so many other lives. and then to learn from and act with those I am filled with awe at the learning in which who have the strength and commitment to I have participated with my students, other do this work day in and day out. For me, the faculty, our community partners, and that learning from service-learning comes in all collective and teeming forms, from being exposed life which emerges from to and immersed in a com“Service-Learning is about all the individual experi- compassion and love, but not as an munity different than our ences and the “thinking own, to the lessons that are extrapolation based on your own together” that we do taught by those we never to reflect on and vulnerability and pain as it measures expected to be our teachbetter understand up to those around us. No. Service- ers: the four year olds with Learning is much more complex, these experiences. whom we water the garden, much more primal. It is something I am moved, as the fourth-graders we are Adrienne Rich that grows in the gut and takes flight doing art with, the clients expresses so through the windows of the heart.” at Marin AIDS Project, aptly, by those the high school students --Lauro Vazquez, Humanities ‘10 who continue, whom we are trying to day by day, to convince that algebra mat“reconstitute” the world and by ters when we aren’t sure ourselves. The list the expansion that occurs in each goes on and on as do the many connections, one of us who participates in this the ah-ha moments, and the subtle shifts in educational endeavor that chal- which change happens. The following pages lenges us to see difficult societal offer glimpses into our dynamic commuissues. Yes, at times, the suffering nity partnerships and the transformative and inequities certainly fill us with a learning and relationships that continue to sense of futility, yet certainly we have to emerge and flourish.
Julia van der Ryn, Director of Service-Learning, visiting with a youth theatre group in Salvador, Brazil.
13 Service-Learning Faculty 18 Service-Learning Designated Courses 25+Community Partners 285 Service-Learning Students 4,449 Service-Learning hours with community partners
What is Service-Learning? Service-learning is a course-based, credit-bearing educational experience in which students (a) participate in an organized and sustained service activity that meets identified community issues and interests and (b) reflect on the service activity in such a way as to gain further understanding of academic content, a broader appreciation of the public application of the discipline as well as the root causes and larger context of the service, and an enhanced sense of civic responsibility. --Adapted from Bringle and Hatcher, A Service-Learning Curriculum for Faculty
Marin County Community School (MCCS) &Phoenix Academy
Over the past 3 years, we have built a vital partnership between our schools, MCCS, Phoenix Academy and Dominican University of California. The relationship is strengthened through consistency, regular reassessment, and seeking to meet the needs and interests of the recipients and the providers this approach creates a really rich program for all involved.
Each year new Dominican students join us with trepidation and then find a niche they didn’t know existed for them. Our students discover someone who is almost a peer, but not, someone new to explore their identity, focus with, or try to connect with at some level. For teachers ,the gift of capable tutors translates to a possibility of more success, which is imperative for a student population that struggles for a positive role in our society. ––Teresa Ashby, Program Coordinator MCCS
The Dominican Service-Learning Tutoring Program and MCCS, an alternative high-school that offers a small, highly supportive, and closely supervised educational environment to at-risk teenagers, have collaborated on the development of a structured tutoring and mentoring program aimed at providing academic enrichment while raising self-esteem and confidence. This partnership also benefits the Dominican students by enriching course content, broadening their world view, breaking down stereotypes, and understanding core social issues.
A Sobering, Yet Wonderful Experience: A Year of Service with Phoenix Academy by Maureen Rodriguez, Pathways Humanities ‘10
Maureen was introduced to Phoenix when she began tutoring at MCCS to fulfill the service-learning component of an ethics course. In her senior year, she decided to do her thesis project with Phoenix Academy, a therapeutic high school that shares the campus with MCCS and specifically addresses the issue of addiction. She attracted to becoming even more involved with these students and to explore her desire to pursue a Masters Degree. This internship has solidified my decision to pursue my Masters in Rehabilitation Counseling. I feel that I will be tremendously more prepared because of my exposure to Phoenix. My time has been challenging and rewarding, it has exposed me to issues of addiction, many of the behaviors that are associated with it, and the challenges that are not only faced by the affected person, but also the professionals that support them. I have had to learn to be flexible in my thinking, and to find ways to be comfortable, even when I have felt outside of my element. I was afraid on many levels when I first arrived at Phoenix; would I know how to relate to the kids, did I know enough about addiction to be of help, did I know how to act in this environment, the list of my worries was endless. I soon realized that the students and I had much to learn from each other, and from the daily experiences that we would share. No two days
were alike, but as long as I showed up ready to serve and to learn, things would be okay. I have been forever changed by my experience at Phoenix, and I am thankful that it stretched me in ways that I never anticipated. I will graduate in May, but I will continue at Phoenix until June when the students’ school year ends. I will leave with a heavy heart, and know that they will be in my thoughts for a longtime to come. The students and the staff were kind enough to let me be part of their community and have taught me so much. I will forever be grateful. I will leave Phoenix, however, I will continue to feel responsible for impacting change. Because of my exposure to the students I can no longer live without them, we are interconnected, and as humans depended on one another. I now experience the world through their eyes, in addition to my own, and will be forever compelled to impact their future in a positive way. My time with them will prepare me for many of the challenges that I will face in pursuing my maters degree. Yes, I learned about treating addiction and the different methodologies used, but more importantly, I got to experience what it takes to work in such an environment, and the passion one must have to be successful.
A Little Space to Grow by Nick Merlo, Psychology ‘10 In one of my earliest and most memorable interactions at MCCS, a stu- could function in an academic setting when he had basic survival needs that dent responded to my plea that he do his schoolwork because I cared weren’t being met. about him and wanted to see him succeed by saying, “Yeah right. You’re This was one of the most profound experiences I had during only here because your teacher is making you.” “It was cool, it was a good I was embarrassed, because part of me knew he was experience. One-on-one with a my service at MCCS. The combination of the reading and this right. While my service at MCCS may have originated tutor was good. Hopefully others experience showed me that even in service we can still be selfish. as a sort of selfishness disguised as kindness, it provid- enjoyed it. The tutors were taking I was placing unfair expectations and pressure on the students, ed an opening for a deeper, more genuine kindness to time from their schedule and all. because I was concerned about how their performance reflected upon evolve. As I let go of my judgments and expectations It was a real inspiration to learn. me. When the students failed to meet the expectations I had imposed upon them, I initially gave in to my urge to rationalize it by blaming and I allowed myself to be a part of the experience, I be- They’re laughing with you and the students and making judgments about them. Being able to recgan to see a bigger picture and I began to learn as much talking with you, but still on track ognize this was a very powerful and important learning experience as I taught. That same week, I was again having a hard doing your work.” for myself and it also allowed me to change my pessimistic time with one of the students refusing to do his work. MCCS Student--Senior, Age 17 stance,which allowed me to empathize with the students and ultimately This had been a problem for the past two or three weeks. form more meaningful connections with them. I had continually met his resistance with increased prodding and criticism, which only exacerbated the situation. I decided this time not to become The dissipation of my own expectations and judgments created space for defensive, but rather try and understand what was going on with him and why new experiences and insights. Whereas I was reflexively defending myself by he wasn’t able to focus. We started to talk a little and I offered him half of placing the blame and judgment on the students, I began to see deeper roots my bagel and strawberries that I had packed for lunch. He seemed genuinely to the problems that were showing up in the classroom. This is a critical point, shocked at the offer. He took the food and ate it as if he were starving. As it because it is this open space, this freedom from judgment and preconceived turned out he was starving. He explained to me that he had spent the night notions, that allows for the possibility of solutions, rather than rationalizations in juvenile hall and hadn’t eaten since earlier in the previous day. I remember for the continuing of the problems. thinking that it was completely unrealistic and irrational to think this student
MCCS Right Thought, Right Action, Right Feeling by Emily Holguin, Humanities ‘10 in its own right than a pressing into service a host of other virtues—selfknowledge, strength of will, courage, honesty, loyalty, humility, civility, respect, and self-respect.”
Action, though, was still a challenge for me this semester. Ms. G. pushed me to overcome my shyness, to speak up more, to be more proactive. While I feel that I eventually accomplished this, it was difficult. It seems ridiculous, but I was afraid of looking stupid. It took realizing, again, that what I was doing wasn’t about me. I had to risk failing to truly offer something of value. And when I stepped In Ms. G’s Media Literacy out of myself, of my own egoism, I received ten-fold. class, I seldom had the Service-learning, like the human experience in option of working with general, is full of contradictions and irony. Selfstudents one-o-one. For satisfaction comes from walking away from “that quite some time, I didn’t centering on the self.” Self-satisfaction comes get the opportunity from giving. And once you give, to relive the sense of “What is thinking you can receive honestly. accomplishment I and doing without But is this really enough? Is right a love that had felt helping thought and right action sufficient? permeates every that student rewrite Emily wrote this paper as part of the course work for I don’t think so. By far my favorite action?” his essay. I felt rather lacking in efficacy. Self, Community and Service: Modern Identity and text this semester, and the first book But simply this notion of moving from Meaning in fall ‘09 we read, was Herman Hesse’s integrity as something that is merely self-serving Siddhartha. The passage that meant the most During this past semester, I completed service- to something that is both self-protective and to me is also applicable to service-learning (as is, learning work by tutoring at Marin County constructive in everyday life helped me to see perhaps, the whole volume), and in a very important Community School. With each step I took, I something greater. way. In this excerpt, Govinda has just asked learned something new. And isn’t this the aim of Siddhartha whether existence as we perceive service-learning anyway? I am an instrument of I realized that I was focusing on personal virtues alone, on what I was getting out of the it is real, whether things as we know them are teaching, but I am also expected to learn. As Paolo Freire wrote in Pedagogy of Freedom: “Whoever experience. It was all about me, me, me. I didn’t mere facades, whether everything we experience is a part of maya. Siddhartha answers: teaches learns in the act of teaching, and whoever stop to see that I was helping—by fulfilling mundane, yet time-consuming, tasks like re- Whether things are semblances or not, I too learns teaches in the act of learning.” arranging folders and setting up the projector, am a semblance, after all, and so they are I was assuaging Ms. G’s immense burden. always my peers. That is what makes them so Ms. G was the teacher that I worked with more dear to me and venerable: they are my than any other. I assisted her class, Media Literacy, This relates well to Charles Taylor’s The peers. That is why I can love them. in a variety of ways—but before I worked solely Ethics of Authenticity. Taylor writes about individualism, first And now this is a teaching that with her, I also served as a tutor during Mr. T’s calling it “what many people you will laugh at: Love, O science class. My first noteworthy experience was consider the finest achieveGovinda, seems paramount “Emily came alive at some point here. ment of modern civilization,” to me. Seeing through in the class. She started sharing, Mr. T was having a bad day—there’s really no but going on to state the world, explaining it, giving kids food for thought. She was other way to put it—and one particular student was that “the dark side of despising it may be crucial open, and bright, and now, after reading giving him trouble. Mr. T asked me to help the individualism is a centering to great thinkers. But all her essay, I’m learning, very reflective.” student revise essays that he had written—practice on the self, which both I care about is to be able essays to help prepare him for the high school exit flattens and narrows our to love the world, not to --Sheridan Gold exam. Another Dominican tulives, makes them poorer in despise it, not to hate it or Teacher at MCCS tor had just finished doing this “This experience of- meaning, and less concerned myself, to be able to view it ten seemed less like very same thing, but I noticed with others or society.” By and myself and all beings with that there were still many spell- a responsibility and thinking only of myself, I was love and admiration and awe. more like a journey.” ing and grammar mistakes in making my duty poorer in meaning This brings to light the importance the essay that she said they were by having little consideration of others. of feeling. If we tolerate the other, there is finished with. I pointed out the spelling mistakes, I was entirely devoid of integrity, of humility, and no room for true appreciation. We must move past and he corrected them. I then proceeded to correct of Freire’s “right-thinking.” toleration to a love of all. Bryan S. Turner writes the most obvious grammar error in the piece—this I failed at my first service-learning attempt two in “Cosmopolitan Virtue, Globalization and student did not know the difference between the years ago, and perhaps this was part of the reason. Patriotism” that “most accounts of moral relativism words there, their, and they’re. I had trouble with doing. Freire writes: would imply that the contemporary cultural world I explained the difference by using things and … right thinking belongs intimately to right doing. is made up of a collection of tribes that have people around us. Then I quizzed him. We had In this sense, to teach right thinking is not something almost nothing in common. We need arguments to repeat these steps several times, but by the that is simply spoken of or an experience that is merely that flesh out the commonalities of the human, end of the hour the student comprehended that, described. But something that is done and lived while especially social, experience” (56). If, instead of “There are some kids. Their shirts are green. They’re it is being spoken of, as if the doing and living of it viewing humanity as “tribes that have almost going to in-house.” I had him correct the errors constituted a kind of irrefutable witness of its truth. nothing in common,” we adopt Siddhartha’s in the essay himself. I felt truly triumphant when outlook and view all beings as peers, I think we’d he mumbled, “No one has ever explained that in Ironically, the text that I enjoyed more than any become better human beings. a way that I could understand it before.” But not other during my first service-learning endeavor This seems rather paradoxical, but I find comfort in all of my moments at Marin County Community was Jacob Needleman’s, Why Can’t We Be Good? the contradictions. Throughout the course of this School were so overtly significant. Something Needleman wrote has haunted me semester, we have studied the words of many great ever since, and maybe this was the catalyst for my Perhaps the most crucial revelation that I had thinkers. What I propose is not to throw all of that came weeks later, and it was in no way apparent at second attempt: “Ideas, therefore, are necessary. out, but rather to add tenderness and feeling to our But they are not enough” (106). Action is a crucial first. It came to me while I was rehashing Cheshire thoughts and actions. Actions and thoughts that Calhoun’s, “Standing for Something.” In the text, part of service-learning—perhaps the most crucial. are not charged with love seem hollow. Service Calhoun argues that integrity is not only a personal Attitude is crucial, ideas and thoughts are crucial— without feeling is nothing. virtue, but a social virtue as well. She writes, but none of these things matter if we don’t put them into practice. We must think, but we must “integrity may be a master virtue, that is, less a virtue also act.
MCCS Dominican and Marin County School Volunteers a Partnership for Learning by Jan Sugar Reprinted and adapted with permission from Marin County School Volunteers Newsletter, spring 2010, p. 2, 6
When Maggie DePond first began tutoring at not leave when the semester requirement was it’s become a part of the campus culture, rather Marin County Community School (MCCS) in the complete, but continued to tutor on a regular than a short term commitment for a few students.” fall of 2007, she laughingly admits to having been basis for the next two and a half years. In addition, terrified. As a Dominican University sophomore, she became a Service-Learning Student Leader, Responses from the Marin County Community she was only a few years older than some of these assisting other Dominican students in the program. School students are also positive. Over 90% high schoolers. Maggie’s family background and And, in the spring of 2008, as an advocate for responded that they liked having a tutor in class, that the tutors helped with their homework, and educational experience were service-learning, she presented that the program should continue. As one student distinctly different from these “My very first student was enthralled a paper at the National Col- wrote, “It was cool, it was a good experience…the students, the County’s least legiate Honors Conference in at the prospect of graduating from tutors were taking time from their schedule and all. likely to graduate from high school, and fulfilling his dream of San Antonio. It was a real inspiration to learn. They’re laughing secondary school. becoming a professional actor, he just Maggie is not the only Domini- with you and talking with you, but still on track “Every Friday morning for needed help with reading comprehension can student involved in service- doing the work.” almost 16 weeks, I sat down learning at MCCS. For the in order to pass the high school exit with students …My job, that exam. This year I met another student past two years, Marin County Julia van der Ryn, Ethics professor and Director of the Service-Learning Program at Dominican, first semester there, was to School Volunteers, Dominican who refused to read, ever, and after is equally committed to her students’ participatutor an individual for about University, and Marin County an hour, going over whatever coming back day after day, suddenly she Community School have part- tion at MCCS. “I can’t imagine ‘teaching’ ethics without service-learning because we are connectthey needed, whether it was volunteered. I tried not to look happy.” nered to provide individual ing ideas/theories/thinking to action and practice. math or English, it didn’t instruction to the students at So often my students scratch their heads at some matter, because it was always remedial.” She recalls MCCS. Marin County School Volunteers that a big part of her service was just showing up, supports these service-learners by providing of our reading and then they have the ‘ah-ha’ when they bridge that idea to the experience they are so students knew they weren’t forgotten. required screening and follow up. Since 2008, 68 having as tutors. They are putting Dominican students have contributed Though it was hard to measure progress, she realized flesh on the abstract and usually “By teaching others simple more than 1,000 hours to over 200 she was making a small impact when the students it is their experience that deepens subjects, I learned more MCCS students. started sharing their stories. “As about myself, what I want their understanding of the intelthat initial fear washed away, I Teresa Ashby, Program Coordinator lectual content of the course.” to do, what I can do, and only wanted to help…I go for Bay Area Community Resources at back to MCCS every MCCS, assists with the service-learning the kind of person I want to Maggie DePond is now a senior, week now and am orientation and supervision. She notes become, than I could by lis- ready to graduate and explore the honored to be that, “the relationship between the tening to the most complex next phase of her life. Reflecting on her experience at MCCS she one of those Dominican tutors and our students of lectures” states, “It is the only way a girl people whose has been a great blend. Dominican’s face they can service-learning tutors discover their biases and like me, someone who has never wanted for anytrust and whose their assumptions, as do the County Community thing, who just by being born, got the lucky life, opinions they and Phoenix students. One-on-one learning the good life, can positively interact with students have faith in.” can help a student gain skills that would be in my own community who want for everything… harder for them in the classroom setting. It’s Certainly my ethics education is not complete, and Maggie did really been a great gift. The relationship feels like I learn more and more every day I am at MCCS.”
Flower Power by Maggie DePond, History ‘10, Service-Learning Student Leader with
Maggie has had a huge role in the success of this partnership. Her high energy, commitment, adaptability, and creative presence will be sorely missed.
What I do know is that as I move forward, as I take what I saw and what I learned at MCCS into my own future, that is wasn’t my specific presence that was needed at the school. It was the development and the presence of a partnership between servicelearning at Dominican and MCCS, a partnership that needs to continue to shuffle university tutors A flowerpot: a best an innocuous decorative Yet, I suppose, these are not new revelations. into MCCS as more and more students filter in object that sits on someone’s porch or in their back- I learned the importance of Dominican tutors’ pres- and out of MCCS’s classrooms and programs. As yard, but at worst a potentially lethal weapon when ence while taking my ethics service-learning class long as this partnership exists, the next time Mr. smashed atop someone’s head, like what happened during my sophomore year: how the examples and T. stops class to talk about an incident there will to one of the students at Marin County Community dedication of one or two Dominican students can be another Dominican student in the back of the School (MCCS) during a gang related altercation. bolster the learning and lives of many more MCCS classroom learning their own lessons and willing The incident didn’t make the newspapers or the students. I learned that academics and service to open themselves to this experience and to find eleven o’clock news. It is even doubtful that the go hand and hand regardless of where some- ways to connect with and make an impact on the police were involved. The only way I heard about one serves, but serving at MCCS and taking lives of these students. Hopefully that student will the incident was when Mr. Hal Thomas, English on a leadership role in the program posed more be as moved by their experience at MCCS as I teacher at MCCS, discarded his lesson plan in questions than I ever answered during my continue to be. favor of a more poignant speech decrying gang semester in ethics. How do you teach someone violence and asking, why? Why risk jail time? Why ambition while simultaneously How do I tell students at MCCS If I am to have a “legacy” that’s what risk pain and even death? Why risk a future? teaching selflessness and that they can overcome when I it should be. It should be about the compassion? How do you tell questions asked but not able to be anhave never experienced a And there I was, sitting in the back of the classroom, someone to rise above their swered, about the experience of being fraction of what they have? not tutoring, as I normally would be doing, but hardships and move forward in a classroom and knowing you can engrossed nonetheless. For me the conversation when they still face those hardships daily? How do help but not knowing how, and the fact that after was unusual, never in my high school career did I reconcile my relatively easy movements through I leave there will always be someone to take my the day stop like that. In my time at MCCS, there life with the poverty or abuse of thirteen through place. Always. were many days like that one, where the classroom eighteen year olds? I still don’t know how to answer stopped because of a fight, or a drug search, or a any of those questions.
lock down, or a conversation about drugs, gangs, or poverty. Though it is certainly a school, academics almost came second to the more pressing problems in these students’difficult lives. It’s why every teacher I personally worked with wanted me to talk to their students about college, about my life, and their lives.
Young Moms of Marin Marissa served with YMM as this spring when she was enrolled in an service-learning Ethics in Healthcare course. Teresa Ashby of MCCS runs this group on her own time. Education endows us with the privilege and responsibility to actively engage as informed citizens in our communities. My service-learning project with Young Moms Marin (YMM) enabled me to experience healthcare ethics in action and to contribute to my community. Young Moms Marin is a teen pregnancy support group that meets at the Marin Health and Wellness Center in San Rafael’s Canal District. Teresa Ashby, a special programs coordinator at Marin County Community School, leads this group of Filipina, Latina and white women, ages 15-21, and their young children. The group meets once a week to discuss their life changes, successes and challenges, and receive support and suggestions about where to turn for assistance. Together they learn about child rearing and healthy lifestyle practices. Especially important, they seek to build meaningful relationships through connecting over common experiences. The group also organizes outings, such as trips to the Discovery Museum or picnics in the park. YMM seemed like a case study on Patricia Benner’s discussion of compassion and relationship building. Benner advocates an ethical framework of caring practices that involve establishing meaningful relationships based on trust, compassion, and empathy. She writes, “Effective care giving requires more than intent or sentiment. It requires skill and knowledge and being in relation with others in ways that foster mutuality, empowerment, and growth” (The Crisis of Care: Affirming and Restoring Caring Practices in the Helping Professions, 45).This description was evidenced during my introductory meeting with Mrs. Ashby. Instead of immediately discussing the logistics of the service-learning site or her expectations for my contribution, she began by spending an hour simply sharing about the young moms in the group. Ms. Ashby elaborated on the intricacies of each woman’s story—Julia’s struggle to rent an apartment as a minor, Maria’s comfort in finding childcare, Jessica’s battle to stay in school while pregnant, Naomi’s excitement at her boy’s improved potty training (pseudonyms used for confidentiality purposes). This emphasis on providing holistic care was also a priority for Ms. Ashby. She sought to support the young moms in their financial, educational, family, health, relational, and other needs. In one particular meeting, she led a time of “checkin” where the girls updated each other on life issues and then discussed the high sugar content of soda and cautioned about letting children drink too much. She provided healthy snacks as an example of positive eating options and distributed donated children’s clothes and toys. She also worked individually with each girl to encourage them with their schoolwork, check-in about their home-life, and assist them in the process of applying for and receiving necessary aid, such as food tamps, Cal Works, and healthcare. Ms. Ashby’s efforts helped me to experience in Technicolor what Benner had discussed in ink.
These young women show courage as they share about their exceedingly difficult life circumstances in a way that is honest and vulnerable to the group. They have used imagination to develop a program called “Baby Talk,” in which these women go on speaking events to schools and other groups to share about their life experiences as teen mothers. In doing so, they develop confidence by learning public speaking and reflect on their own experiences through sharing with others. Unfortunately, they often face these challenges without direct community support.According to Ms. Ashby, the County of Marin does not currently allocate financial or commPartnering with such a creative unity resources specifically toward force as Dominican’s Servicehelping struggling teen mothers. Learning Program has given our She says that this lack of support is campus unexpected possibilities and due to the abiding mentality that resources. “Collaboration” feels real, and providing support for people in not just a token description. Dominican need is the same as enabling and staff have sought grants to enlist students condoning the need. Or in this in video projects, leadership ideas, support case, that expending resources to for our teen mom populations. It’s these help teen moms will result in an enhancements to academics that help our increase in teen pregnancy. students stay positive and feel valued.
When strong programs unite amazing
The lack of community assistance things can come of it! and collective compassion in Marin County is due in part to an --Teresa Ashby, overall ignorance of teen pregnancy and misunderstanding about the socioProgram Coordinator, MCCS economic issues facing teenage women and their children. Prior to YMM, I was completely ignorant of the prevalence of teen pregnancy in Marin County.. I envisioned these teens as misdirected, or hopeless, or unable to care for themselves. I was wrong on all counts.
Teen pregnancy is a significant problem in Marin County, and is an issue that knows no bounds of skin color or ethnicity. However, it seems to be most
common among teenagers who are from families of low socio-economic means, and where relational, health, or financial problems are shared over generations. While poor choices may have been made, they were not made in isolation—external social, economic, and family background issues all contribute to why YMM women are both teenagers and pregnant. Despite challenging circumstances, I was humbled to see the dedication, perseverance, and hope that YMM women had for their lives and for their children.
by Marissa Parrinello Page, Humanities &Cultural Studies ‘12
In the final paper for the course, I wrote: Almost every Friday afternoon from October to mid-December 2008 I found myself at Giant Steps Therapeutic Riding Center on the outskirts of Petaluma, CA. It is a bustling place with horses, workers and arenas everywhere. Off in one corner are Giants Steps’ facilities, a couple trainers, an outdoor arena and a shipping container for a tack room. The facilities are by no means romantic, but they serve their purpose. Giants Steps touches the lives of almost 50 students every week and an even greater number of volunteers. In the fall of 2008 I took HONO 3500 Self, Community, and Service: Ethical Theory and Practice, a servicelearning course at Dominican University of California. Wanting to complete the 25 hours of service-learning in a way that had a lot of personal meaning for me, I received permission from my instructor to serve with Giant Steps.
Giant Steps is a local non-profit that serves students with mental, emotional and physical handicaps. The principle behind therapeutic riding is that by teaching people to interact with horses they can better learn how to interact with the world. For many of the students at Giant Steps the world has always been the easiest thing to interact with. Through my interactions with the students, horses, instructors and volunteers at Giant Steps I took more away than I could possibly have given back.
Little did I know at the time that those first 25 hours I spent at Giant Steps would pave the way for hundreds more hours. I ended up interning there over last summer and continue to gain so much knowledge about horses (a topic I already knew a lot about), people (a topic I felt I knew little about) and myself (a topic I thought I knew a lot about). Encouraged by the head instructor to participate when Giant Steps offered its first ever in-house training, in October 2009 I was certified as a NARHA Registered Level Therapeutic Riding Instructor. I now work for Giant Steps as an instructor. In addition, last January 2010, I was surprised by being selected as Youth Volunteer of the Year. I was presented with my award at the Volunteer Appreciation Dinner and Party at the Elk’s Lodge in Petaluma and later I was the first featured alumnus in my high school newsletter because of my work at Giant Steps. I really could never have imagined how much would emerge from this one class.
by Tracy Krinard, Biology ‘11
Marin AIDS Project (MAP) Marin AIDS Project (MAP) certainly derives benefit from all its volunteers. Indeed, our front desk volunteers have been filing an important role since our inception. A variety of volunteers bring a variety of skills and points of view into our agency. But when I discussed service-learning opportunities with Dominican staff, I wondered if sitting in our lobby and answering phones would provide the student with a rich learning experience. I had a hunch it would, but only practice could prove it. Fortunately for everyone, the view into the “real world” from behind our front desk has opened the eyes of many, if not most, of the dozen or so students we have had the pleasure of working with. I can forget that others, especially young people, have not come in contact with people challenged by poverty, illness and substance use. Having to suspend judgments and hold our clients in a positive regard takes training, talent and practice for everyone. Seeing these students make their best attempts to serve without prejudice is heartening for me, a sometimes jaded professional. Seeing them succeed at mine and their own expectations is rewarding beyond measure. So, over the years, I have come to rely on the time and talents of my service-learners. To be sure, they provide service for our clients. What remains to be seen is if the learning they receive will be employed to better serve a world that can often be complex and daunting. I have a strong hunch that it will be. ––Andy Fyne, Marin Life & Community Relations, MAP
MAP: A View of the World from the Reception Desk at Marin AIDS Project by Kaitlyn Rouse, Health Science ‘12
Kaitlyn served with MAP this spring when she was enrolled in a service-learning Ethics in Healthcare course.
I knew I could go to any of them if I had any questions or concerns. I did meet a variety of people and got to hear interesting stories about their lives.
It takes a lot of courage to work with people who are affected by a major disease as well as different mental conditions. At MAP, the employees look beyond any disease or disability to help their clients. My supervisor, Andy Fyne, said that each person presents unique needs, which require improvisation based on how their needs should be met. MAP operates on a shoe-string budget which they have adapted with resilience. They provide the best care possible with the money they have.
After spending over twenty hours at the Marin AIDs Project, I began to grasp the magnitude of what they do for the community. They open their doors to anyone in need- no questions asked. I understood why their presence in Marin County is so important and they continued efforts are worthwhile. They have already helped so many individuals who are affected by HIV/AIDs/Hepatitis C and will proceed to aid anyone in need.
When I chose to spend my time serving at the Marin AIDS Project, I started fearing challenges I would have to face. For example, I was worried that I would make a mistake and provide a client with wrong information. I was also worried that I would not be able to remember the numerous rules and procedures I needed to follow as the receptionist and that I would be all alone at the front desk. I did make mistakes, but I was able to learn from them and improve on my work. It did take me a few days to remember the receptionist procedures, but once I did, I felt comfortable at the front desk. My expectations of the staff being friendly and open were exceeded. They made me feel very welcome and
We are One by Francesca DiLello, ‘12
Francesca served with the Point Program, a Marin AIDS Project harm reduction initiative when enrolled in an Ethics class in fall 2009 and has continued her involvement to this day.
When I worked the Tuesday night needle exchange not many people took advantage of the services. This was both a relief and a frustration for me. I was reluctant to place needles into the hands of suffering people, yet I wanted them to be protected. This internal conflict made me think about all the people that either are unaware of these services or are using any needle they can get their hands on. Either situation puts them in jeopardy. I had difficulty coming to a resting place in my thoughts on this subject. However, as Paolo Freire says, “Right thinking is right doing.”( Pedagogy of Freedom, .39) It is one thing to think all these great things, but thinking does not make the change. It’s about putting the thoughts into action. So I finally decided that the needle exchange was “right doing.” One night, while I was working the exchange, a young man around my age
At first, I was skeptical of gaining any kind of experience from service-learning. By the end of my twenty hours as the receptionist, I began to realize the impact this kind of work can have on students. Spending time at Marin AIDs Project put my life into perspective; I began to really appreciate the supportive people in my life and my health. Although service-learning may not have changed my lifestyle, it changed my outlook on life to a more positive view. As cliché as it may sound, I also realized that no matter what someone has gone through, they are still a human being who deserves love and respect. The biggest lesson I learned was to judge slowly-- my first impression of someone could negatively impact a potential friendship.
came in. As I placed a ten pack of needles in his hands, I saw the emptiness in his eyes. I saw the sweat trickling down his face. I saw myself when I was out there using. My next thought was one that scared me. What if the needle that I had just given him was the last one he ever used? What if the needle I had just given him was the one that killed him. Then I remembered. This is life. Anyone can die at any moment. At least this young man still had enough respect for himself and others to use clean needles. He was also responsive to getting some information on treatment centers. The second needle exchange I participated in a women came who was trying to help her friend. She had a conversation with John, the man I work with in needle exchange. She told him that it was because of him that she learned about safety and was now trying to carry the message to her friends. She had already contracted Hepatitis C, but she said whenever she thought about using or saw her friends sharing needles she always thought of John and tried to pass the message of safety on. It was a beautiful moment. In small steps, what certain aspects of MAP target really work.
MarinLink Connecting with MarinLink and Gaining a New World Perspective by Gustavo Ubaldo-Peralta, Business ‘12
This was a blog post for an SL ethics course, Gustavo responded to a prompt asking him to make a connection between text and service
but it may be that this experience of transformation deconstitutes choice at some level” (21). My mindset when deciding to serve at MarinLink was to learn more about sustainable business and Being a business major was the reason I decided to see whether or not I would choose to implement help out at MarinLink. I was curious of learning these practices in the near future. Although I was what an organization like MarinLink did and not “in mourning,” my experience at MarinLink what a green business really was. led me to a type of transformaI have heard people speak of “I have really began to question tion, a transformation of who everything about myself and the sustainable business and how I was as a person. Not only did sustainable practices were ben- future plans I once had because I get to help with the business this class and MarinLink has eficial but I was never a believer. forum but with Project Homereally caused me to begin To the contrary, I dismissed the less Connect and the Northgate questioning things while statements firmly believing the Promenade Celebration. These involving myself in a more traditional practices of business experiences helped me learn new should continue to be instituted indepth thinking about things.” things about myself. The quote if something worked why change rings true for me because I it? But something unexpected happened while underwent a transformation without knowing working with MarinLink, I began to see things the result in advance and without having in a different perspective and began to think total control of the outcome. My mind was differently about everything I once knew, opened to learn new things and to respect especially about business. the ideas of others and I believe this is what A quote that stuck out to me from our class text, lead to my transformation as a person because Judith Butler’s Precarious Life, was: “perhaps I was opened to the idea of changing my views. mourning has to do with agreeing to undergo a A transformation is good in all types of situations because one changes as a person and begins to see transformation . . . the full result of which one cannot know in advance . . . one can try to chose it, things differently in life.
“We cannot express what a privilege it has been to work with service-learning students from Dominican University! In the past 5 years-going on 6!-we have had several fabulous experiences that have resulted in lasting friendships. Some of the projects that immediately come to mind are: creating a powerpoint of one of our transportation projects, fundraising letters, generating lists and phone calls, assistance with mailings and participation in events from The Marin Women’s Hall of Fame, Marin Green Business Forum, Project Homeless Connect and Warm Wishes. In addition, we have had administrative support, financial support, fabulous ideas and input, and general positive attitude and spirit. Dominican’s Service-Learning Program has enriched our organization and our lives. We would not be the effective organization we are without your support. We have deep gratitude for the Dominican students we work with every semester who continually meet and exceed our expectations.” ––Mary O’Mara and Nancy Boyce, Executive Director, and President, MarinLink
The Canal, a Local Neighborhood that Teaches Us about the Immigrant Experience by Mirel Rivera, Biology ‘10
Mirel served for 2 us morally has to do with how we are addressed by The entire experience fueled my interest in nonyears as the Service- others in ways that we cannot avert or avoid” ( Ju- profit organizations that work with immigrant Learning Student dith Butler, Precarious Life, 130). I found myself families and strive for social justice. It allowed me Leader at Canal “bound” by the students’ perception of me as a role to see many possible careers in this sector, even Alliance. At gradua- model. I was suddenly faced with demands that I influencing my future plans. As a pre-med major, tion she received the was “not free to refuse” (Butler, 131). If I were to I always aspired to attend medical school. However, Student of the Year refuse this task, I would fail not only the students, because of my exposure and increased passion for award, an honor she but also myself..” these issues, I have decided to pursue a career in greatly deserves, not ––Excerpt from Mirel’s paper “Learning About education and social justice after graduation. I have only for her academic Myself by Teaching Others” applied to Teach for America and Americorps achievements, but for VISTA positions which will allow me to be more her kindness, passion, As a student in an honors ethics course in spring engaged in education and continue to promote and empathy that 2008, I chose to complete my service-learning service-learning. at Canal Alliance because of its mission to work she brought to others with and for immigrant families in the Canal through her service in and out of the classroom. Her area. At the end of the course, I was offered the bright spirit will be missed in the Service-Learning position of Service-Learning Student Leader. This Program but it will continue to shine through to the opportunity has allowed me to serve the larger community, of this we are sure…. organization in different ways. I was able to promote Canal Alliance by visiting ser“I found myself on the first day of service at Canal Having Dominican students vice-learning courses and speaking to Alliance trying to teach middle school students to work with the students in our program at students about the organization and read in English, I hit my limit. I had no patience Canal Alliance has been a great experience. its mission. I also planned trainings, and no strategy for teaching. I was becoming aware The most distinguishing characteristic about of how limited I was. I could read, sure. But could I advised the tutors, and led reflection with DUC students during their the Dominican students who serve with us is their teach someone else to read? My frustration got the time at Canal Alliance. Working ability to be proactive and persistent in approaching best of me and I found myself feeling useless. I was with Dominican students our students. This has led to the creation of great not able to help the students who served at Canal Alliance read that day. But the follow- “When a society claims relationships where our students have come to look up allowed me to pass on my to be the provider of a ing week, equipped with some to the Dominican students as role models. This is crucial passion and enthusiasm for free life, yet fails to allow skills from my mother about not only academically, where students have become this organization and for social everyone to pursue this how to teach without getting motivated to seek help with their homework, but impatient, one of the students freedom, no one is free. issues in general. Serving as also in the context of creating an environment liaison between Canal Alliance We all carry the burden...” and I were able to read an enand Dominican gave me the where our students want to go to college. tire page in English. If not for opportunity to express my opinion --Canal Alliance the struggle I encountered while teaching him how to read, it would not have been a successful ses- about possible improvements to the programs and be more involved in planning sion. He was able to read, and I was able to help events. him. Therefore, we succeeded, as one. What binds
Safe Neighborhoods After-School Program (SNAP) at Bahia Vista Elementary School
“I am glad to see students are exposed to experience people from different economic levels and different nationalities. This experience will help them to prepare to interact with different families and situations that Marin is currently living.” -Bahia Vista Even Start
“The beginning watercolor class was my first experience with service-learning. Initially I was hesitant to change anything about how watercolor was taught because it seemed students enjoyed it ‘as is.’ After watching them interact with the Bahia Vista students and reading their reflections, I was convinced the course became that much more of a richer experience. The Dominican students not only reinforced their skills through teaching, but also were inspired by the creative freedom and “gusto” from which the third grade students worked. Since art has been cut in the Bahia Vista program, experiences like these were the few times students had to create art and use visual expression. In this exchange, it was clear the two groups of students greatly appreciated what was being offered. Another positive and less anticipated outcome of the course was the clarity and confidence the Dominican students gained in their ability to mentor younger
DUC Student Quotes:
“When my student began mixing colors and somehow created purple and then mixed in white to create a beautiful lavender shade, it made me realize that fearlessness and curiosity can lead to a flourishing form of creativity.”
“I think making art is connected to self-expression and self-identity. The reason being that art is what one makes it. No one else’s perspective is just like it. Artwork reveals something about the artist that the artist may have never known before. It is a window into who that person is.”
students. Going forward, I see more potential for mentorship as a point of departure for community outreach. In addition to making art together, students can explore significant issues, such as environmental sustainability, as content for their painting and drawing. The Beginning Watercolor service-learning course can have a central theme of landscape and environment, with a simple intention: look more closely, learn more, and develop a deeper connection to your everyday environment and yourselves. This positive shift in perspective can enable students to notice more visually – aesthetically, and hopefully create a greater connection to and caring for their everyday environments.” ––Lynn Sondag, Chair of DUC Art Department and Instructor of Beginning Watercolor and Art Fundamentals for Educators, both SL designated courses.
Bahia Vista Student Quotes:
Bahia Vista students reflect on their Dominican service-learners: Q. What did you like best about working with your Dominican teacher/partner? A. It was fun. Taught me how to draw cool stuff. The trees. Mixing Colors. Q. How many days a week would you like to make art? A. 7 days a week. 100:7. 10 days a week. Until I die – every day. 20 days a week. Q. Bahia Vista students respond to “I really liked it when you….” A. Were nice and you helped me. Showed me how to do a star. Helped me with the art.
What Dominican Students Learned... · -There is no limit to imagination. · -They taught me patience. · -I found out I’m good at teaching! · -I learned it takes time to connect with people. · -It has given me a new perspective of those who have little to no art in their school days. · -Taught me to be open about what others can teach me. · -I learned to be flexible and not to take myself too personally. · -They were teaching us how to be good teachers.
Garden of Eatin’ The Dominican University service-learning experience reinforced my beliefs in the importance of parental and educational roles in developing the whole child. I came away from the project with a deep respect for the time, creativity and dedication needed to provide children with enriching, life changing experiences. Upon reflection, I saw the positive changes we can make in our society when we support our schools and I also saw how much would be lost if we continue to slash education budgets. For my Nutrition class, I did my service-learning at The Garden of Eatin’ in Novato, CA. The garden is an interactive program for children from infancy through fifth grade. It is much more than a traditional day care center. The children’s classroom has been replaced by an organic garden. They help plant and pick a wide variety of fruits and vegetables. They engage in food tastings, cooking projects, stories and physical activities. The fundamental goal of the garden is to instill in the children a lifelong appreciation for fresh fruits, vegetables and healthy lifestyles. In nutrition class we learned that proper nutrition can play a significant role in the prevention of heart disease, cancers, strokes and diabetes. Today more than 16% of American children are obese, triple the number since 1980. As a consequence, childhood diabetes has increased tenfold in the past 20 years and 1 in 3 children will develop diabetes during their lifetime. For the first time in our history, the current generation of children will have a lower life expectancy than their parents. As a result of soaring obesity among young children we will inevitably face an enormous unhealthy adult population. One of the recurring themes in our class is the importance of teaching healthy eating habits at a very young age. The major factor that predicts future nutrition habits is how well parents eat themselves. Children are very impressionable. The habits of early childhood become their comfort and security zone. From personal experiences and academic instruction, I know that my health and dietary habits were developed in early childhood and were reinforced through school and peer group influence. I believe the solution to the current obesity epidemic rests in early childhood modeling, instruction and exposure. At the Garden of Eatin’ the children come predominantly from working class families In Novato, CA. Paradoxically, the highest rates of obesity are among groups with the least income and least education. Despite their obesity many are technically malnourished. They can suffer from nutrient deficiencies, nutrient imbalances or nutrient
excesses. Often their parents don’t have access to fresh fruits and vegetables and resort to low quality fast foods, choosing the most calories for their buck. Fast foods tend to be too high in saturated fats, sodium, refined grains and sugar. Unfortunately, often both parents work and don’t have much time to spend with their children during the week. Hopefully, this program will substitute for a portion of the parental roles and influence the children’s future behavior. It would be very interesting to follow up the children 5, 10, 15 years after exposure to The Garden of Eatin’ and document the long term positive impact. Culture and one’s immediate environment can greatly affect dietary choices. I realized that in order to solve the obesity crisis in America we need to make a fundamental change in our culture surrounding food. The Garden of Eatin’ is a microcosm of the possible changes we can make. The garden has changed the definition of what is normal for a young child. What is normal in America today is eating at McDonald’s with friends. What is normal is being rewarded with junk food for a job well done. What is normal is drinking soda and playing video games for hours. The Garden of Eatin’ shatters this culture. The patterns of healthy choices are reinforced until they become the norm. At one visit the children heard a fun short story about healthy eating. They danced and then, to my astonishment, gleefully ate beets and radishes while listening to Michael Jackson’s song, Beat It; the lyrics were changed to Eat It. What is normal at the Garden of Eatin’ is enjoying healthy food. While the children’s activities at the Garden of Eatin’ were light hearted and fun, I also observed the enormous amount of work that needed to be done behind the scenes. Picking a few fennel seeds as part of an assignment took me a long time. Then I saw an enormous bin filled with 10 pounds of previously collected seeds and looked at the entire garden. It dawned on me just how much work is done outside of actual instruction! People rarely appreciate the hours needed to both prepare and evaluate a class. I was truly amazed at how much the small staff at the Garden of Eatin’ accomplishes. I was also impressed by the flexibility
of the staff and their embrace of criticism. It was obvious that the children have very short attention spans and a great deal of creativity was required to keep their focus and interest. The instruction was hands on and interactive. I felt the children were exploring rather than being taught, a highly effective approach. I always thought that teaching young children was very easy, but now I have a new found respect for preschool and kindergarten teachers. Finally, what are the future problems facing the children of The Garden of Eatin’? I wonder what will happen after the fifth grade. The children’s parents lack access to fresh foods as well as the skills and time needed for food preparation. Even though these children may enjoy healthy food and think it is the norm, they may not have access to it in their homes when they leave the garden. Budget cuts have eliminated many physical education and home economics classes from public school curricula. What subliminal messages do we send to our children when the first programs cut for budgetary reasons are often health, nutrition, and physical education? Are we are telling our children that the most fundamental aspect of life, our health, is an afterthought, something we can focus on only if we have the time and the money? If these programs were continued through high school, the children’s healthy habits could be cemented into a lifelong pattern they could pass on to their children. At the garden I saw the groundwork laid for a healthier society. While I learned that programs like the Garden of Eatin’ are the best way to foster future healthy adults, if we abandon our children as early as the fifth grade what have we accomplished? We all need to lend our support to programs that enrich our children’s lives and protest loudly when the value of these programs is minimized. The Dominican University Service-Learning Program can open our minds to the opportunities available for meaningful social and cultural change. As Dominican students enter the workforce what they have learned about the needs of others will go with them and many will have the opportunity to make a difference.
by Michael Stofan, Nursing ‘12
At North Bay Children Center’s Garden of Eatin’ Project we teach our pre-school aged children that good health starts with eating fresh sweet tasting fruits and vegetables and getting plenty of exercise. Our program recognizes that child care programs play a major role in creating a child’s habits. At North Bay Children Center we want to make sure that those habits are healthy habits. We were delighted this past year to be the community partner for Lynne LoPresto’s Nutrition Education classes. Our little ones were very impressed with Lynne’s group of aspiring nurses. And it seemed that Lynne’s students were just as impressed by our garden and our little ones’ knowledge, appetite and love for eating fruits and vegetables. “Whoa, these little kids know more about eating healthy than I do!” was a common comment from our Dominican students. What made it special for me, as the long-serving obesity prevention program manager, was how quickly the Dominican students recognized the significance of developing healthy eating habits early in life. For them, obesity and Type-Two Diabetes are no longer abstract things that happen to other people – they are now an everyday reality for young adults and their families. I know that our Dominican students now “get it” – they understand that good health is not something you find at a hospital but it actually grows from the Earth– sometimes it literally grows on trees. A big thank you to the spring service-learning Nutrition coures for the help they provided in planting our children’s spring garden. ––David Haskell, Garden Master, Garden of Eatin’ Project
Saint Vincent de Paul Society Don’t Call us Volunteers: Learning about Liberation Theology through Academics &Praxis by Charlie Merritt, International Studies ‘13
Reprinted and adapted with permission from The Angel, Dominican Honor’s Department Newsletter, 18.1 Oct. 2009, p 3.
Charlie was enrolled in Cynthia Taylor’s fall ’09 course, Passion for Justice: Liberation Theologies and Social Justice when she wrote this piece. The partnership with St. Vincent de Paul is carried on by Sr. Carla’s spring course, Catholic Social Teachings, and has just completed its second full year with over 60 students participating. “Service-learning was a way to broaden my teaching, and make my topic more accessible to students, because liberation theology, by definition, is the tension between reflection and action,” said liberation theology professor Cynthia Taylor. She further commented that the switch from traditional teaching to service-learning was “a necessity” for her course, because the structure of strictly text books and tests didn’t work for the subject.
The focus of Cynthia Taylor’s class is on liberation theology. We spend the first half of our weekly class discussing our reading assignments, which are drawn from a collection of different liberation theology texts. Some—such as A Short Account of the Destruction of the Indies by Bartolomè de las Casas and Liberation Theology by Robert MacAfee Brown—cover liberation in Latin America. Others—namely A Black Theology of Liberation by James H. Cone—focus on the historical liberation of African-Americans. We will also be studying feminist liberation later in the semester.
The second half of each class meeting focuses on service with our community partner.
Our community partner is the society of St. Vincent de Paul, a Catholic-based national organization— a local chapter of which runs a free dining room and a homeless help desk downtown. As of last year, Dominican University is actually considered its own St. Vincent de Paul council. This means that we are recognized nationally as an independent chapter, and we have our own bank account. It also requires that we meet on a regular basis as a council. The second half of class is therefore better called a council meeting. To fill our 25 hour service requirement this semester we can work at the help desk or accompany one of the “St. Vinnie’s” volunteers on a home visit. Home visits are a unique chance to interact with people in need here in San Rafael. Typically, one or two students accompany one or two volunteers from St. Vincent’s to the home of an individual or family that has contacted the organization for help. The purpose of a home visit is to get more information about the situation, and decide if our council can provide monetary assistance. The approach is unique in that we are meeting people in need “on their own turf” so to speak, which hopefully makes them feel more comfortable and in
control. Most home visits are successful in that the council decides that the client’s case is worthwhile and that they are deserving of funds from our account. Home visits are summarized and discussed at the council meeting, students reflect on their feelings during the visit and the class brainstorms ways that these experiences can be linked to our readings. St. Vincent’s of San Rafael has become nationally known in the last year. The unique approach of creating a separate council at Dominican University has been so successful that we are being used as a guide for other universities wishing to become involved.
In my own experience service-learning is an effective way to apply the four Dominican ideals— community, reflection, study and service—to daily life. We are involved with the needs of the community, reflecting on those experiences, studying the ideal of liberation theology, and serving those in need. One of the points that Julia van der Ryn stressed at the service-learning orientation was that with servicelearning both the student-participant and the recipient benefit equally. In the same spirit, on the first day of class with Cynthia Taylor, the representatives from the St. Vincent de Paul Society stressed that, contrary to popular belief, we are not volunteers. We are students who are learning by service.
Mock Election 2010 by Laurel Druke, Politics ‘12 As a student in the course Catholic Social Teaching, I learned about the vital part of church doctrine that focuses on the promotion and practice of justice and peace. Through insights gleaned from work in the community, individual and communal reflection experiences, I gained a firsthand experience of these important teachings.
For the service-learning section of this class, I represented the St. Vincent de Paul initiative, Voice of the Poor, attending the Election Advisory Committee meetings for the County of Marin. One thing led to another and next thing I knew, I was working with Michael
Smith, the county treasurer, to put on a mock election for the third and fourth grade students of Marin City elementary school. A mock election is a tool to educate students on the process and importance of voting. Our mock election was held on April 30, 2010. A group of over thirty students all had the opportunity to vote in real booths with real-looking ballots (donated by Marin County Registrar of Voters), and feel like real voters. This creative activity turned out to be an empowering and inspiring experience for me. I feel that my service with the mock election has touched the lives of the students involved and I hope that they will pass their enthusiasm and knowledge to others within their community.
My service project reflects Catholic social teachings because my purpose was both to educate and to empower the children to use their own voices to effect change. As a political science student, I believe one voice can really stand out and if you feel strong enough you can truly make a difference in lives around you. Why not start with voting? Use the voice given to you as a right, not a privilege. “Laurel and her fellow students did an outstanding job in conducting a Mock Election for the 3rd &4th grade classes at the Sausalito Marin City School. Laurel started by attending our Election Advisory Committee meetings which lead to the mock election. In advance of the election we met with the schools superintendent. I know the younger students came away with an understanding of elections, candidates, political parties and on how to vote that will carry on into their adult lives. For me, it was a wonderful experience to support Laurel.” ––Michael Smith, Project Mentor, Marin County Treasurer and Tax Collector
“Our deepest gratitude and thanks to contributing students, community partners, and faculty. And, to all those servicelearning students, faculty, and community partners who we could not include here, thank you for your countless hours of time and energy you have given to create this amazing vehicle for learning, relationship, and community development.”
Editors: Julia van der Ryn Jenny Bray Design: Sierra Morse