Tuesday, February 10, 2009
Spotlight on: Service learning!
Meet Erin Piddington, a second-year student at DePaul University who is always on the go. She is a full-time student double majoring in Media Studies and Journalism with a minor in Digital Cinema. She also works part-time as a Lead Desk Receptionist in DePaul Housing Services (in this photo, Piddington enjoys a Starbucks drink while giving a fellow Desk Receptionist a lunch break). If all that is not enough to keep Piddington busy, this quarter she has taken on yet another responsibility: she volunteers for three hours every Friday at the Sunlight African Community Center as a part of her Religion and Politics class at DePaul.
Piddington signed up for this class to fulfill her Religion learning domain requirement, and did not find out about the community service component of the class until the first day. "I didn't know anything about it, I just needed to fulfill my religion requirement," Piddington said. The course, taught by Elizabeth Collier, requires students to choose between writing a 10-page research paper as a final project, or doing 15 hours of community service and then presenting what they learned at the end of the quarter. The community service choice was clear to Piddington: "Honestly, I was excited I didn't have to do a ten page research paper," she said. But once Collier explained the locations students could opt to volunteer at, Piddington's excitement settled in.
At the Sunlight African Community Center, Piddington works with kids from the first through eighth grades, tutoring, working on homework, and developing life skills. "It gives [the kids] somewhere to go after school, when their parents are still working, that is safe," she said. Piddington and one to two other volunteers head over to the community center once a week. "Every Friday, it is our responsibility to come up with an educational workshop to teach the kids some kind of life skill," Piddington said. So far, this has included academically focused grammar lessons as well as skill-building listening exercises.
It may seem strange that a Religion and Politics course would have a community service component, but Piddington feels that it simply fits into DePaul's mission. "[Collier is] always emphasizing the Vincentian values of the school," she said. Giving back to the community is so important to Collier, in fact, that Piddington said she has this requirement in a number of the courses she teaches.
Piddington only has one more week to go before she has fulfilled the service requirement for her class credit, but hopefully she will be able to find a way to balance her volunteering with her academics and work schedule. "I'm seriously considering continuing going there," Piddington said. The kids at the center have begun to depend on Piddington's help and good example.
Students interested in opportunities like this should try to register for other courses taught by Collier!