Center for Civic Engagement Director Melanie Brown, left, Erica Vieira and CCE Assistant Director Kim Freier. (Photo by Richard H. Miller)
They don’t give the T-shirts to just anybody.
WSU’s Center for Civic Engagement reserves them for people who complete more than 25 hours of service, said student involvement coordinator Michael Schwartz-Oscar.
But when a student said she volunteered, but hadn’t tracked it through the CCE, Schwartz-Oscar relented. He gave her a T-shirt. In return he got her to promise she’d start tracking her hours.
That was a year ago. Now WSU Online student Erica Vieira has not only tracked 117 service hours, but also has become the first online student to win the Excellence in Civic Engagement Award.
“I am so glad I trusted her,” Schwartz-Oscar said Thursday. “I think we owe Erica another T-shirt.”
Each year, WSU’s Center for Civic Engagement recognizes students, a student group, a faculty member, and community and campus partners for their service and commitment to learning, Schwartz-Oscar said.
The other 2010-11 winners are Pullman student Michael Herseth, faculty member Ole Sleipness, community partner Palouse Clearwater Environmental Institute, campus partner Kathleen Parker of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and student group Lambda Chi Alpha. All were recognized Thursday at an awards ceremony in the CUB.
Vieira, vice president of WSU Online’s student government, heard about her award while at a government meeting in Spokane.
“I was speechless, which is rare,” said the Seattle resident. Her husband was very proud, she said, and her mother sent her an email: “Well, look at you.”
Vieira is a social sciences major, with a concentration in human development, and a mother of three.
She volunteers at a Tukwila preschool working with 4-year-olds.
“They’re at the perfect age of development,” she said. “They’re free-spirited; they don’t have a worry in the world so it’s really fun to work with them.”
Vieira’s volunteer work helped the co-op preschool program survive budget cuts, said her supervisor, Marlus Francis: “She’s been a blessing to us and the kids.”
Volunteering was an “overall great experience,” Vieira said. She recalled one little boy who gave everyone the silent treatment.
“He talked to nobody. Nobody. Then he decided he would speak to me. If he tries to communicate with the teacher, he communicates through me. That was one of my favorite experiences.”
Is she interested in a career in early-childhood education? Possibly, but she’s also considering becoming a counselor for an older crowd.
“I definitely have an impact on the preschool level,” she said, “but I figure students are almost equally confused when they’re entering college.”