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Emily Davis

 

 

 

 

 
I became interested in working with CPS, and fighting for social justice after taking Professor Bloomquist’s course on Race, Language and Education and Professor Dittrich’s course on the Social Foundations of Education while volunteering with high school students through the LIU program.

At this time, I was discovering a passion for becoming an educator, but found myself exceedingly disturbed by the language, class, and racial discrimination I was learning about, and at times witnessing as I did observation and research in and out of the classroom. I was not satisfied with telling myself that I could make a difference later, when I had my own class. Struggling to figure out where I could make an impact, a friend of mine directed me to CPS, where I discovered the Big Brothers, Big Sisters Program (BBBS), which reaches out to “at risk” children in 1st-3rd grade.

My work in the BBBS program has involved recruiting, interviewing, organizing, and maintaining the matches between 50 college students and 50 1st-3rd graders with my co-partner. Each of these college volunteers (Bigs) dedicate two hours every Thursday afternoon to tutoring, playing, and building relationships with their “Littles” who have been recommended to the program because they are struggling academically or with behavior issues in the classroom. At various times throughout the semester, the Bigs also bond with their Littles over activities such as movie night, eating dinner at Servo, a Christmas party, and a pool party.

Through my work with this program, I have gained a more accurate and compassionate understanding about why some children struggle with their schoolwork and/ or behavioral problems. This connects with a significant life lesson which has repeatedly been engrained in me during my time at CPS: It is so easy and so shallow to take people at “surface value.” Assumptions are made or considerations are withheld due to outward identification with race, class, gender, or behavior. To truly inspire change in our communities and sincerely invest in the lives those we interact with, we must refuse to categorize people by simple snapshots we witness.

As a future educator, it was essential for me to learn that I needed to see deeper into the life of these kids who didn’t want to listen or interact. I needed to understand that these children, though only seven or nine years old, are infinitely complex and many of their completely legitimate feelings, actions, gifts, faults, and personalities are rooted in backgrounds and experiences completely beyond their control.

I needed to reflect on the fact that nobody chooses where they are born, to whom they are born, what color or culture they enter into. As an educator, and as a human being, I am called to be compassionate and patient and to lay my judgmental mind and eyes before that statement: nobody chooses how they are born. Under a different lottery, a different circumstance, a different privilege I could be that kid. How would I want to be loved?

 

Community partnerships, the core of Center for Public Service programs, strive to be mutually beneficial – fulfilling both a community-identified goals and providing a learning experience for students. Program coordinators serve as liaisons between the Adams County and campus communities to ensure a solid partnership. 


EXPERIENCE

My community partner was Leah Woodward, the program coordinator for BBBS in Adams County. My experience working with Leah involved monthly meetings in the first few months of the program as my partner and I recruited new Bigs. As the program picked up, we began to meet bi or tri monthly to go over the logistics of events we wanted to plan or issues we needed to address.

 

 
LEARNING
Through working with Leah, I learned a lot about the importance of organization, which was more difficult than I had anticipated when trying to keep track of 50 volunteers. I also learned about the importance of prompt and clear communication. At times, my partner and I accidentally crossed wires with the different Bigs we had at each of the elementary schools. Again, this was an issue of organization. I now feel much more able to effectively coordinate a large group of people and keep track of their individual tendencies and/ or needs.

I also learned to be more assertive, which is a skill needed when working with such a large group of people. Before this year began, I tended to be both shy and quiet. However, in being held responsible for my organization and communication with and between my volunteers and community partner, I quickly learned to speak out and be more stern when needed.
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 Learning Circles aim to bring people from diverse backgrounds together to develop trust, understand each other's experiences, explore social issues and work together for long-term change. For 2007-2009, there are two groups focused on race and class. Andrew focused on race and participated in eRace: Gettysburg College for Campus Unity.


EXPERIENCE

For the past semester, I have participated in the eRace learning circle. Honestly, the experience is not what anyone would call a comfortable one, but it is conducted in a safe environment for honest dialogue and has given me a healthy and needed opportunity to think critically about experiences and beliefs I have had the privilege to ignore because of my own race. Through honest discussions based on current political decisions to experiences on campus and in the classroom to the searching and sharing of one’s own prejudices, eRace has got me thinking about race on a global level, a campus level, a familial level, and most uniquely, on a personal level.

 
LEARNING

Sometimes it feels a little like watching a horror movie; I’m afraid to keep going, to keep watching, to really explore why I think the things that I do, but as a group, we keep going deeper and murkier. There is, as in watching a scary movie, the sick pleasure of encountering the gore inside and not being able to look away, the suspense of wondering what else is there, and ultimately the dissatisfaction of the entire thrill if there is no survivor, no deus ex machina, no resolution. However, what keeps me motivated to come back to eRace is that emotional discontent found at the end of even the most excellent horror movies. Unlike those thrillers, eRace runs on that element which true horror is deprived of: hope.

 

 

 
 
     
 
 Through the Center for Public Service, Program Coordinators support student volunteers through education, training, reflection, communication, logistical coordination and the fostering of community/campus partnerships.

EXPERIENCE

I was fortunate enough to have a partner during the past year working at CPS. It was a great experience to work alongside another person with different skills and way of thinking than my own. We were able tackle big events and problems a lot more efficiently because we learned how to divide our tasks based on each others strengths and weaknesses.

 

 
LEARNING

I’ve always struggled with independence in my work. Growing up, I hated working in groups or doing projects with other people. I always liked to be in control because I am prideful and competitive and want to be recognized as the best at everything. It was a great growing opportunity for my personal character to work with a partner on a task that, running aside schoolwork, another leadership position, and sincerely investing in friendships on campus, was simply too big to tackle on my own. I experienced the truth in the wisdom that communication is the base of any successful partnership. We screwed up a few times, but we ultimately got the communication down and started to work as a good team.

 

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 Through experiences with the Center for Public Service, Program Coordinators have the opportunity to connect with community, develop professional skills, and find a supportive environment to discover their voice in social change.

EXPERIENCE

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I have learned a lot about organization as it relates to people. Going into this year, I had always considered myself an organized person, however, to add interviews and paperwork at the beginning of the year and to keep track of all the Bigs each week throughout the year was no easy task. While I had been great at organizing my own activities and plans throughout the years, managing people and their relationships with others, was a lot more difficult than I had anticipated!

 
LEARNING

Another challenge I grew a lot from was learning how to confront people and also to interact with them professionally. As an introvert, it was difficult to do 5 interviews each day at the beginning of the year, to lead a large group of my peers every Thursday, to be up to date on all my information to be able to answer Bigs’ questions, and to be stern if Bigs “needed” to miss SMART for questionable reasons. However, it has ultimately made me a lot more confident and much less hesitant to step in and take charge where it is needed.

 

 
 
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