PULLMAN, Wash. — Meeting needs within Pullman is one of the goals of Washington State University’s Community Service Learning Center, now in its sixth year.
The CSLC exists to “promote and facilitate WSU student participation in community service in a way that is mutually beneficial to both students and the community,” says Melanie Brown, the center’s coordinator.
Students choose from an array of programs and projects available through the CSLC: Literacy Corps (K-12 tutoring); Environmental Projects (streambank restoration); Elder Care (services for older adults); and Human Care (services for individuals and families in transition). Other CSLC programs include America Reads (work-study tutoring in rural Whitman County); Campus to Community (semi-annual service day); Expanding Horizons (creative child care); Pen Friends (WSU-elementary student correspondence); and Recycling Outreach (collection and distribution of reusable goods).
Student interest in CSLC has increased steadily in each of its first five years, with this past academic year showing a 15 percent student participation increase over the year before. In 1997-98, almost 1,300 students were involved in service learning at WSU.
“Through participation in service learning, students have an opportunity to connect theory with application to bring to life a critical social or scientific issue,” says Brown. “Students also have ample opportunity to learn many valuable life and personal development skills, including communication, organizational, interpersonal and leadership skills.
Many students involved with the CSLC participate as part of a student club, organization or living group. A few seek out service to fulfill a university or court sanction, but numerous WSU students get involved just because volunteering is a “really cool thing to do,” says Brown.
Whatever the motivation, the CSLC assists students in finding that perfect opportunity, one that matches their skills and interests and meets a need within the community.
“Students interested in participating in community-service learning should ask themselves a series of questions before they make a commitment to a CSLC program,” Brown says. These questions include:
1. What type of experience am I looking for? Do I want to work with people or objects? What is more appealing, helping a senior to write a letter, helping to paint a community center, tutoring children/youth or building up a stream embankment?
2. What kind of commitment can I realistically make during the semester? Two basic options are available: one-time-only service projects, two to four hours in duration; and ongoing service placements, typically requiring a weekly commitment for at least one semester.
3. What do I hope to gain from the service experience? A new perspective on a social issue? A resume booster? Pre-employment experience? To give to others? To learn something about myself? To learn something about the community beyond the university?
To become involved in CSLC programs:
* Call 335-7708, visit the CSLC office — temporarily, next to the post office on the Compton Union Building ground floor; or permanently, after remodeling, in CUB 322 — or access the CSLC web site at .
* Read CSLC information and consider the types of opportunities available.
* Complete a student volunteer application form and, in some cases, attend a training session to prepare for the volunteer experience.