Calvin service-learning opportunities plentiful

Photo courtesy calvin.edu.
Photo courtesy calvin.edu.

As you’re poring over your syllabi and mapping out your spring semester accordingly, Jeff Bouman, director of the service-learning center, hopes you will consider taking some time out of it to participate in some of the service-learning opportunities Calvin offers.

If you do, you will be in good company. Citing the 2011-2012 statistical report on service-learning at Calvin, Bouman said that last year, over 2,000 Calvin students participated in service-learning opportunities almost 4,000 times.

Some of those hours fulfill Calvin class requirements. Almost half of the students recorded were a part of Streetfest and another 1,600 hours came from academically-based service-learning, though Bouman notes that the number of students involved in ABSL opportunities is hard to pinpoint, since some students either participate in ABSL opportunities voluntarily, or do not record their hours.

Although many students get involved through classes, Bouman encouraged students to take advantage of the numerous opportunities offered outside the classroom as well.

Noah Kruis, associate director of the service-learning center, urged students to consider spring break trips as one way to serve.

“Most of these trips are designed such that students have the chance to observe and participate in an intentional Christian community that is responding to the needs around them,” Kruis said, adding that the trips can be a great way for students to receive Cross Cultural Engagement (CCE) credit as well.

However, Kruis noted the trips were filling up fast, so he encouraged to sign up soon.

For those who already have spring break plans, Bouman offered plethora of possible volunteer options. And although he expressed skepticism about students being too busy for volunteer work, he had plenty of suggestions for students short on time.

“I would say we have many opportunities that require very little time.  Giving blood, for example, or signing up to be an organ donor. This is a minimal commitment that makes an impact . . .There are one-time events in collaboration with the Plaster Creek Stewards planting trees, or cleaning out areas of invasive plant species,” Bouman said.

For students seeking more long-term volunteer opportunities that are both individually and communally fulfilling, Bouman recommends getting involved with after-school tutoring.

“Calvin students have, for nearly fifty years, been spending some of their time coming alongside teachers in the GRPS system and have experienced deeper learning as a result.  Many schools offer after-school programs. Calvin students have often been helpful in these programs, but also the beneficiaries of good community learning as a result.”

Bouman has also found developing relationships with area immigrant families to be a valuable experience for students and a good way to support a growing immigrant community, especially for those planning to go abroad. Referring to students studying abroad, Bouman explained:

“It has often been a good fit for them to spend some of their time coming alongside a refugee family for a semester or a year, to bring them to the grocery store, help them with language skills, drive them to church, all kinds of ways to help learn a new culture.”

Bouman emphasized that these were only a few of the possible ways to serve the community, recommending students get connected to the service-learning center by signing up for weekly email updates, checking the website for regularly posted new opportunities or liking the center on Twitter and Facebook.

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