For Associate Professor Jane Clemens’s Social Work Practice II and Exploring Social Work classes, volunteering with an organization around the Harrisonburg area is a requirement.
The 22 students that make up both courses are required to volunteer at least two hours each week for the length of the semester.
While volunteering, they are also required to write a reflective journal that ties into the coursework that they do each week.
“I try to take lessons learned from students volunteering in our community and incorporate that with the classroom learning for an optimum benefit.
It makes classroom ideas come alive and links the volunteer work to skills and theories discussed in the classroom,” said Clemens.
She emphasized the importance of volunteering in the community by saying, “I have a firm belief in the social work profession that there needs to be a balance between learning in the classroom and becoming involved at the community level.”
First-year Isaac Schertz and Sophomore Curtis Handy are both volunteering at Our Community Place.
Schertz said, “I’m excited to get to see outside of the EMU community and get to see the Harrisonburg community.”
Handy said, “The first day of volunteering, I learned about the history of OCP and how it connects to the Little Grill as well as where the idea of letting people who experience poverty eat for free came from.
Something that I really liked was that before the meal everyone gathered around into a circle to hold hands and say something that they were thankful for.”
Both Schertz and Handy expressed similar concerns about their volunteering opportunities. Schertz said, “I’m nervous about being able to relate to the people there. I hope I can present a good image of EMU to the Harrisonburg community.”
Handy said, “I’m nervous to think that I may have a prejudice or stereotypical thinking that may interfere with my work at the OCP.”
Clemens encourages students to pick places to volunteer in which they have a special interest in learning more about the organization itself, and of the population that it serves.
Some of the common agencies and services that students choose to volunteer at are the Boys and Girls Club, Generations Crossing, Mercy House, New Bridges, Our Community Place, OP Shop, Patchwork Kids, Patchwork Pantry, Refugee Resettlement, and Second Home: Virginia Mennonite Retirement Community. Many of these organizations are accepting volunteers all year round.
In respect to the program, Clemens said, “A value at EMU is to encourage students to be involved internationally and in their local communities. Volunteering as part of coursework reinforces that everyone has something to contribute to those around us, both near and far.”
-Devon For, Feature Editor
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