My passion for service started when I volunteered at Riverview Medical Center at the age of 13. I started out in a surgery unit and after a couple weeks I expanded my horizons. I worked in several wings of the hospital, including the emergency room, oncology services, and the maternity ward. I wanted to know the entire hospital. There was something very fulfilling about using my knowledge and interpersonal skills at the hospital…so fulfilling that I have chosen to participate in work like this ever since.
Likewise, my study abroad program in Jamaica emphasizes the role of service learning. 12 of us students applied for this program specifically for the service-learning component. This program offers a complex teaching and learning environment that is designed to enhance learning through the process of connecting academic course content with service opportunities in the Jamaican community. Never before have I met such hard working, passionate, and inspiring individuals. I interviewed a student from each of the five service sites that we partnered with in Jamaica. It was such a pleasure to hear their stories and I want to share them along with mine.
Julia is a senior double major in Global Studies and Spanish. She chose to serve at the Rural Agricultural Development Authority because she is interested in international communities and economic development. She created a system called Farm Smart that encourages farmers to be environmentally conscious. It includes an assessment that extension officers can use to approve farms as “Farm Smart.” She hopes that Farm Smart will become a network of sustainable farmers that help and support one another.
Allegra is a junior Public Health major. She chose to serve at Yallahs High School because she is interested in teaching a Health, Family, and Life Education course. When she met with school and faculty to address common issues, they came to a consensus that they will create a life skills workshop.
Dariel is a graduate student and studies Adult & Organizational Development. Of all the sites, Dariel felt as though the Women’s Centre was perfect for her to exercise her knowledge and skills. She is currently working on a vision board project with pregnant teenagers and teen moms in order to create a visual representation of their goals for themselves and their children. Next, she will start a peer mentorship program, where former students at the Women’s Centre are paired with new students in order to provide support, encouragement, experience, and a listening ear.
Emily is a senior Psychology major with an Education minor. She has always been interested in the childhood and adolescent stages of life. When she heard that our program partners with Yallahs Primary School to work with students with aggressive behavior, she knew this was the right site for her. She meets with the students every Tuesday and Thursday to help facilitate the group. Some activities she has planned involve mindfulness, meditation, and role-playing.
I am a senior Psychology major with Sociology minor. I, too, facilitate with Emily. In addition, I do community-based research with the Change From Within team at The University of West Indies. We partner with successful urban schools in Kingston and examine how they succeed despite very trying circumstances. We look for patterns of success and then facilitate other schools in the area that could benefit from our framework. Right now, we are in the early phases but I am hoping to find significant results that the Kingston school district can learn from and use long after I am gone.
It is so refreshing to be around people who are trying to create positive change. At the dinner table we discuss our progress, during outings we point out things that remind us of our site, and before we go to sleep we lie in bed and share our hopes and fears. There is this mutual respect for each other because we all share a common goal: to learn and to serve.