The Pepperdine Volunteer Center utilizes their social media to advertise Active Global Citizenship week from Feb. 22-26. PVC Director Peter Thompson said these campaigns are used to educate and encourage students. Graphic courtesy of Pepperdine Volunteer Center Instagram
After the move to virtual volunteering, the Pepperdine Volunteer Center found new ways to both serve the area around the University and engage students within their communities at home. At the same time, the PVC transitions from direct service to learning about the communities being served.
The PVC suspended service opportunities such as Project Serve for the year, and programs like Jumpstart are discovering ways to operate within a virtual setting. This allows the programs to evaluate how to best fit their communities.
“Learning is the real key this year,” PVC Director Peter Thompson said. “And learning and serving are always tied together, but this year since serving looks different— engaging the community looks different—we’re really hoping that students are taking the chance to think about themselves, about the community, how to engage effectively and what they care about, what issues that are relevant and important to them.”
The PVC Asses Project Serve
Project Serve is a service opportunity for students to spend spring break helping communities in need across the United States and abroad but was suspended for the 2020–2021 academic year. Team leaders on Project serve are able to take a class through the nonprofit management minor, Thompson said. The PVC looked for a way to offer this class in a meaningful way with the spring break trip unable to happen, but ultimately suspended it.
“We just know without the rootedness in the week of service and engagement, this class would not be as effective, and so we are taking a break this year from that class,” Thompson said. “But it’s still in the course catalog and we’ll still be bringing it up next year, and we’ll be revamping Project Serve.”
The PVC acknowledges the challenges that come with sending Pepperdine students to a community they are not familiar with, Thompson said. The PVC is stepping away from the traditional program and assessing the skills students need when participating in the program.
“We can learn about historical narratives of different communities and different populations as you are immersed in that, in their community, in their setting and learn what’s happening there so that you’re, you get to again deepen your knowledge, deepen your commitment for justice and deepen your portfolio of how to make change happen,” Thompson said.
PVC Focuses on Pathways To Service
The PVC is centering on four areas of social justice issues, said senior Kayla Washington, a weekly service intern. Interns help the four teams find service opportunities in their social justice area.
The areas are, Washington said: All Ages and Abilities, which works with people with exceptional needs and provides resources to the elderly and younger students; Human Rights, which provides resources to marginalized communities; Sustainability, which focuses on environmental programming; and Education Equity, which works with students and English learners.
Senior Service Intern Konnor-Ashley Randlett said each of the four teams has five service members and the teams strive to create a more holistic view of service.
“We try to have something that’s ongoing that just engage in your backyard, your community, your neighborhood, something that we know you can do so it’s an encouragement there,” Thompson said.
The PVC also partnered with Stanford University’s Haas Center for Public Service, Thompson said, and is highlighting six different ways to serve within different areas of their website. Direct service is most common within the PVC but there is also Philanthropy, Policy and Governance, Social Entrepreneurship and Corporate Responsibility, Community Mobilizing and Activism, and Community Engaged Learning and Research.
The groups are creating a quiz where students can find out which of the six pathways fits them best, Randlett said.
“We’re noticing that not everyone’s form is direct service,” Randlett said. “And it’s also very hard in a pandemic to have service opportunities.”
The PVC tries to educate and connect people to different social justice opportunities, Randlett said. The goal for the teams is to make the PVC not only a place of direct service but also a place of change.
“Education is a big part of service and activism, and we really want to be able to have a well-rounded view of service in the PVC and not just, like, ‘Oh, you can go and do something and then you’re fine,'” Washington said. “‘You don’t have to worry. You don’t have to do anything else you can only do it once and they’ll be fine,’ because all those aren’t true.”
Jumpstart Volunteers Connect With Preschools Virtually
Jumpstart is a national service project run through AmeriCorps, Jumpstart Coordinator Stacey Rouse said. The majority of the students in Jumpstart sign a contract with AmeriCorps for the year and receive an education award. Each year, there are 5 to 10 slots for students who do not contract with AmeriCorps but still participate in the same activities AmeriCorps students do.
This semester Jumpstart is over the usual recruitment level, Rouse said. There are a total of 89 students who are core members and team leaders and an additional 6 students who are office leaders. Office leaders are non-AmeriCorps students who do not work in the classroom but help with training and recruitment.
This year, there are a total of 12 teams of students and 15 preschool classrooms, Rouse said. Jumpstart students work virtually, and 14 out of the 15 classrooms were virtual as well. Jumpstart was able to add more classrooms because of the virtual nature of the program.
“I think jobs are needed this year, and a lot of jobs weren’t transferable into an online setting so Jumpstart being able to be online and being so flexible with time zones and in jobs and being hands-on, it was a good option,” Rouse said.
As a team leader, Derek Pinto, senior Jumpstart intern and team leader, said he works with five core members twice a week. In his two classes, he has 20 preschoolers in total, and the team works to provide resources to the classroom and give the teachers a break.
“We try to make it engaging and fitting with the teacher and their topics,” Pinto said. “We have our own curriculums but they, the teams that we work with, have worked with us for a while so they kind of know. So we sometimes work with them based on what they’ve done in class.”
In total, about 250 children between the ages of three to five utilize the Jumpstart program, Rouse said. Volunteers use asynchronous learning tools, such as pre-recorded videos and synchronous class time to provide a safe learning environment for the preschoolers.
“They’re trying to be really visual and also just slow down and have it not have maybe so much quantity but keep the quality of a back and forth exchange between the students and the preschoolers,” Rouse said.
In the synchronous meetings, volunteers focus their lessons and activities on the book of the week, teaching vocabulary from the book and emotional vocabulary in addition to reading comprehension, Pinto said. There are also centers such as a writing center, an art center and a center for dramatic play. This year, Jumpstart added a motion center to keep the preschoolers moving.
“We try every time to be able to have something kinetic or kinesthetic in some way, where the kids can motion it out, or where they can enact it physically,” Rouse said. One of our centers is dramatic play, and so they try to do lots of imagination and pretending.”
Some team members who know American Sign Language are incorporating movement through sign language lessons, Rouse said.
This semester Jumpstart is taking what it has learned about being virtual in the fall and incorporating creativity, Rouse said.
“It’s exhausting for preschoolers and teachers and college students to be online and so I think the variety and the different energy kind of makes a difference,” Rouse said. “And helping the teachers, all of us are new at this so having that collaborative space to talk about what works and what we can help can hone our craft and learn.”
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