Civic House has significantly increased my awareness and has encouraged me to look at multiple perspectives when addressing issues within the community. From Dr. Wagner’s Citizen Leadership class and Dr. Ryder’s Writing for Social Change, we learn to embed ourselves in aspects of the community to better understand the environment we serve. In high school, I was very active in local Mid Night Runs, where eight people would go to NYC to deliver food and clothing to the homeless. From this experience, I interpreted community service solely on a direct service understanding.
I believed that direct service was the most effective and visible method of helping a community. However, after taking Dr. Wagner’s class, we learned of the several other pathways of service: Community Research and Scholarship, Philanthropy, Policy and Governance, Social Entrepreneurship, & Community Organizing and Activism. As a class we learned how these pathways aim to coordinate sustainable change on a larger scale. While direct service is incredibly helpful to individuals in a community, there are more impactful, sustainable methods to create social change.
The concepts explained and interpreted in Dr. Wagner’s class covered ways to evolve and further the steps of lasting social change. As a class we were encouraged to embrace an asset, optimistic mindset, not a defeatist or deficit-based mindset. An asset-based mind set looks at the strengths and opportunities that already exist in a community, whereas a deficit-based minds set is driven by what the community lacks. In Dr. Wagner’s class we also spoke of the Myers Briggs personality test. This proved to be instructive and helpful in more ways than one. Together we addressed what each letter meant and spoke of general qualities of each letter. Myers Briggs prompted us to better understand our peers, ourselves and realize that everyone has individual strength and can make a contribution. As an extrovert, I learned that extroverts can focus on the end result, whereas an introvert prioritizes details and focuses on different possible outcomes. In group dynamics, both approaches need to be evenly balanced to complete task’s together and successfully. It was verbal and constructive team building. Civic House members are encouraged by mentors and professors to be more self-aware, perceptive and understanding of our peer's strengths. The skills we learned when understanding Myers Briggs can be applied in the classroom and when we volunteer in the community. Discussions and actions in the classroom prove to be different from the ones we practice in the real world. Dr. Wagner’s class encourages students to be self-aware and congruent.
I have had a wonderful freshman year. My first semester I joined Jumpstart, a program under AmeriCorps, that helps teach preschool aged children to read, write and learn other early developmental skills. Jumpstart is an organization based in the Nashman Center and there are roughly 60-70 students in Jumpstart. Students are divided into groups and led by a team leader, who is an upperclassman and with previous Jumpstart experience. The team leader leads session, and other members on the team assist. Session is an hour and half where Corps Members read a story that follows Jumpstart curriculum and reinforce vocabulary from the story. We additionally help the children recognize and spell their first and last name, every day vocabulary, go over syllables, and learn basic songs to help reinforce new vocabulary and encourage speaking with a wide new range of vocabulary. Jumpstart’s motto is “Children First.” It is incredibly rewarding to watch the kids learn their name and other basic vocabulary and concepts. Jumpstart has heightened my appreciation for the potential and capability of the next generation. Jumpstart members prepare materials for session. Materials range from making books, vocabulary cards, posters, puzzles, etc. anything that would be applicable and helpful to session. I became involved with Jumpstart from a recommendation of an upperclassmen who raved about her experience. From this strong network of upperclassmen mentors and course curriculum based on better understanding the DC and GW community, Civic House members evolve into more worldly young adults.