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CSSA grows in numbers and challenges

September 16th, 2010

John Carroll University prides itself on being a school that “inspires individuals to excel in learning, leadership and service in the region and in the world,” as stated in the school’s mission.  

This explains why one of the busiest offices on campus is the Center for Service and Social Action, which is projected to work with over 700 students this semester in daily service.  

This continued growth in student involvement has been quite expansive, especially when compared to the 250 students who participated in service through the center in the fall of 2006.  

According to the center’s director, Margaret Finucane, this participation increase has to do with more interest in service learning from the faculty, as well as a rise in students’ desire to do service.

“The group of students entering school is much more engaged in service, which is not just apparent at John Carroll, but also on a national scale,” said Finucane.

 This growing want to serve may coincide with the nation’s economic situation.  This is apparent in the over 60 service sites the CSSA is partnered with in the Greater Cleveland area. 

“The sites we chose to work with have to meet our mission: to serve those most in need,” said Finucane.  

And the needs of those sites and people can span a number of fields.  Many teachers are adding a service learning component to their course curriculum, challenging their students to put their classroom knowledge to use in a real world setting. 

Service learning requires students to make a semester long commitment to do weekly service at a chosen site, usually in line with the goals of the class. The faculty member usually chooses sites that allow students to bring the service back to the course.  

One way the CSSA tries to promote students to make this connection is by asking students to answer a weekly reflection prompt following a day of service. This allows conversation to occur between the student, the site, and the center, ensuring the best possible experience for all involved. 

However, student involvement in the CSSA does not stop at service learning and volunteering.  

As one of the campus’s biggest student employers, the CSSA offers a unique work study environment. 

 In addition to having to be van certified, student service leaders who work for the CSSA are responsible for making the initial student-site relationship with each service partner.  Student service leaders are responsible for transporting the student volunteers to their site, participating and engaging in the service project, and leading the follow up reflection.  

Since the service leaders are the JCU representatives to the community, they attend a summer orientation day as well as workshops throughout the year, to assure proper group communication is being used. 

Student service leader, junior Sarah Stanley, “Basically I get paid for doing community service. What could be better?”

 The CSSA works to encourage students to address the real needs of the community and challenge them to work with people they might not have contacted before in life.  

As Finucane said, “Learning happens across campus and across life, not just in the classroom.”  

John Carroll works to teach students not just to see that there is a need for service and do it, but rather to be engaged enough in the community, which is why those needs exist in the first place. 

If students are not signed up for a weekly service project, but would still like to be involved with the CSSA, they can participate in day long service projects a few times a year. 

The closest approaching project is the “Make a Difference Day,” which will be taking place on Oct. 23.  

The day consists of a door-to-door food collection in the University Heights neighborhoods, with all donations going to the Fatima Family Center.  All volunteers are welcome, and should sign up in the CSSA office.