Students Speak at Assumption’s first Community Service Learning Colloquium

By Michael Smith '11
Public Affairs Intern

Assumption offers more than a dozen classes that involve Community Service Learning (CSL). In addition to the basic course requirements, students engage in 15-25 required hours of community service. They combine concepts from the classroom with experiential learning through volunteer placements in the greater Worcester community.

Recently, Assumption’s first Community Service Learning Colloquium featured six students who spoke about their CSL experiences. While the students’ community service placements were very different, each of them found the CSL experience to be eye-opening and profound. The students were introduced by English professor Mike Land and journalism instructor Jody Santos.

Initially, senior Brian Collier, an organizational communication major, was hesitant about opting for the CSL component in Prof. Carol Harvey’s upper-level management class, “Diversity in the Workforce.” He soon realized that the time he spent in community service was invaluable. Brian worked in a soccer program with a child named Brian, who had minimal motor skills. “I was not confident at first because I have never dealt with a situation like that before,” Brian Collier said. After a few weeks, he was able to make physical and mental progress with young Brian, who began to respond to him in a more positive way.

“It was a very humbling experience because I wanted my kid to be the best on the soccer field,” Collier said. “It also made me grateful for the things I have. I learned to slow down and adjust my expectations. I didn’t realize until the end of our time together that Brian taught me so much more than I could ever teach him.” Collier plans to volunteer with the soccer program again this spring, but on his own.

First-year student Victoria Flynn, a sociology major, and sophomore Ivanna Mercedes, an accounting major, volunteered at Burncoat High School in Worcester for the CSL requirement for Prof. Susan Perschbacher’s “Principles of Sociology” class. Once a week, Victoria and Ivanna helped some Burncoat seniors with their college application process. “I was part of this program when I was in high school at Burncoat, so I was quick to jump on the opportunity when I had the chance here at Assumption,” Ivanna said.

“We share our ‘cultural capital’ for college life with the students – and help with applications. It’s not an easy process for them,” Victoria added.

Students who signed on for the CSL option did not regret the extra time it demanded from their busy schedules. Two students in Prof. Nanho Vander Hart’s “Teaching Students with Special Needs” class gained new insights and found new directions for their lives after graduation. Junior Alexandra Prizio, a mathematics major, decided she was going to pursue a master’s degree in special education after teaching students with special needs for her CSL requirement. Sophomore Alyssa Papia, a French major, also realized how much she loved working with children and now wants to become a teacher.

Senior Lise Keeney, an English major, gained hands-on experience by volunteering at a local radio station for Instructor Jody Santos’s “Writing and Communications Capstone” seminar. “This course was a great preparation tool for me to start my career, and I even got to talk to a live audience at the end,” Lise said.

The students who presented their experiences found that they became very passionate about the community service they were doing along with their classes. In fact, it no longer felt like a requirement for them. For some, the experience offered a life-changing opportunity they would not have found if they had not challenged themselves by participating in the Community Service Learning Program.

Kimberly Dunbar, Director of Public Affairs, Assumption College @AssumptionNews