Volunteering for Service on Saturday
Waiting for the first coat to dry, Service on Saturday volunteers take a short break from painting at the Hult Center near Proctor Hospital. Front row: STEPHANIE HOREJS ’14, LAUREN CAMPBELL ’13, and EMMA WALSER ’16. Back row: Site leader LATIFA BODDY ’13, SARAH LIPSKI ’13, and CHADD KEEPPER ’13.
Visit bradley.edu/studentleadership to learn more about volunteer and leadership opportunities.
It’s just 10 a.m. on a Saturday, and a dozen Bradley students armed with paint rollers and brushes are already at work at the Hult Center for Health Education. Their task this chilly February morning: to apply fresh paint to the family life classroom.
Across Peoria, scores of other Bradley students are chipping in at the American Red Cross, Camp Wokanda, Wildlife Prairie Park, Crittenton Centers, the Children’s Home, and Heartland Nursing Home. So, why aren’t these college kids just taking it easy back on campus?
“I like to give back to the surrounding community. I did a lot of community service in my hometown, too,” comments RAYANNA WILLIAMS ’16. “I just do it because it’s fun,” says CLARA TOSTOVARSNIK ’16.
Volunteers sign up online for the Service on Saturday program, which began in April 2011 with 76 students. The unique program was successful enough for the Jenzabar Foundation to select Bradley’s Burger Center for Student Leadership and Public Service for a $5,000 national award last fall.
Service on Saturday began when KATIE McGINN ’08 MA ’11, Burger Center director, realized that many Bradley students want to volunteer but don’t know when and where to go in Peoria.
“Service on Saturday provides them with a variety of service projects to choose from, and it coordinates transportation,” McGinn explains. “The program is planned and facilitated by members of SERVE, an organization we started that focuses on coordinating volunteer opportunities for students. They reach out to community agencies to secure volunteer projects, recruit student volunteers, and act as site leaders during Service on Saturday.”
Hosting activities with children, serving meals, doing yard work and landscaping, and playing games with seniors are a few of the volunteer activities. Students have also cleaned, planted community gardens, and helped set up for events.
“Students also learn about the agencies and the people they are helping. Each site provides an overview of the agency’s mission and a tour of the facility,” McGinn says. “This adds more meaning to the volunteer experience.”
Offered six times during the school year, the program typically draws more than 200 students. Bradley alumni interested in volunteering with Service on Saturday on April 20 should call 309-677-2240 to preregister.
“The SERVE members work very hard to provide a variety of volunteer projects for our students and to have new sites each time,” McGinn reports. The Peoria Zoo, Common Place, Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts, Friendship House, the Dream Center, Habitat for Humanity, Peoria Park District, and the Center for Prevention of Abuse are among the places and agencies the volunteers have helped.
– Gayle Erwin McDowell ’77
Bradley’s aspiring teachers are adding to their educational arsenals with the University’s participation in Operation Educate the Educators.
Launched in 2011 by first lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden, the national program aims to make education students and classroom teachers aware of the unique stresses and problems faced by military-connected students from preschool through high school. These issues include parental deployments overseas, frequent school changes, and families adjusting to civilian life after military service. Bradley was one of the first schools to join the program, which includes more than 100 colleges and universities.
“The program is really about heightening awareness and understanding,” said Dr. Dean Cantu, chairman of Bradley’s Department of Teacher Education and a former U.S. Army intelligence officer. “We’re looking at it preparing our teachers as well as helping students at the university level who have served or are members of military families.”
The program is a partnership between the Military Child Education Coalition and the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education. More than 2 million U.S. children have a military connection, and 80 percent of them attend public school.
Bradley’s Department of Teacher Education has integrated the program’s principles into its required course on educational diversity. “It’s part of how we define diversity. It’s like a mosaic or a quilt. This is just one of many pieces,” Cantu explained. “We owe it to students from military families that their teachers have this understanding in order to effectively teach them.”
– Bob Grimson ’81