Students make connections with their local community

This story originally appeared in the Gettysburgian, Vol. CXV, No. 1, Jan. 26, 2012

by Erin Gallagher '15

Wondering what to get involved in outside of the College this semester? Students looking to enrich their time here might consider joining one of the many clubs and organizations on campus that connect with the local community.

The Center for Public Service (CPS) provides a great outlet for getting involved with the greater Adams County area. Through reflective service, students are given the opportunity to engage meaningfully with multiple community initiatives under the leadership of CPS Student Program Coordinators. A sampling of the service opportunities provided by CPS includes working with senior citizens of Adams County through the Office for Aging and tutoring migrant middle school children through the Migrant Education Program.

Senior and Program Coordinator for the Adams County Office for Aging Gia Galatro discusses both her job and the importance of getting involved with the local community.

Students dancing with agedRegarding the details of her position, Galatro said, "As a Program Coordinator for the Adams County Office for Aging, I work to build positive intergenerational relationships between the senior citizens in the community and the Gettysburg College students through coordinating various events and programs, such as the biweekly dinners prepared by the Campus Kitchens Project and yearly flu clinics."

Although not the central focus of the program, the dinners provided by Campus Kitchens are one the most continuous aspects of the Office for Aging.

"About six times a semester I coordinate student volunteers to help serve, talk to, eat with, and perform various types of entertainment (i.e. singing, playing musical instruments, dramatic readings, etc.) for Friday dinners. Every fall, I also coordinate student volunteers to help run flu clinics and Medicare sessions where students use their computer knowledge to help put in information for seniors deciding a new Medicare package. I have also applied for grant money to purchase a Wii gaming system for bowling tournaments. There are also a variety of special projects I have worked on ranging from fundraising to implementation of an exercise program."

Through her work with the Center for Public Service, Galatro recognizes the importance of the Center as an outlet for connecting with the local community.

"By working with the Center for Public Service, students not only get a chance to contribute service hours, but they also have the opportunity to become an active Gettysburg resident who is educated and engaged in the events, activities and issues in the area," she said.

Perhaps most important, however, is not the organization one chooses to get involved with the local community, but the action itself. After all, Gettysburg College offers a variety of other organizations. One example is Alpha Phi Omega, a coed service fraternity. Another is Habitat for Humanity, which allow students to connect with the Gettysburg community.

"I think it's extremely important for students to be involved with the local community," Galatro said. "When a student arrives in Gettysburg College, they become a Gettysburg community resident for the next four years. It is often easy for students to remain on campus for these four years without really getting a chance to get to know the community they have joined. By venturing out of the 'campus bubble', students are able to not only help build a stronger community, but also gain valuable experiences applicable to their studies and professional lives."

Junior Colleen Cable, who served as the Program Coordinator for the LIU Migrant Education Program for seventh and eighth grade students last semester, could not agree more.

"As a college student, it's easy to come and go and make few connections within your four years, but working with CPS and Migrant Education has helped me to become involved in the community like it was my hometown. I know after I graduate, I will be visiting Gettysburg for more than just the professors or the friends, but the community as well."

Regarding the Migrant Education Program, Cable said, "By tutoring, we aim to give these students some one-on-one attention and help them with anything they do not understand. More than that, we hope to build relationships between college students and these migrant students."

Chass and PeterHowever, Cable stresses that both the tutoring and bonds created by the Migrant Education Program could not be achieved without the help of volunteers.

"All of our programs can only be effective if we have passionate volunteers. Volunteering once a week not only helps the community, but helps the volunteer to connect their work with the community, and then the community with the larger world."

More information on getting involved with the local community through the Center for Public Service or other campus organizations can be found on the Gettysburg College website.

Posted: Tue, 31 Jan 2012

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