WCSC Celebrates 40 Years of Service Learning

By RANDI B. HAGI '14 | December 15th, 2016


Alumni and friends gather to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the WCSC program. (Photo by Molly Kraybill)

Greek food, a walking tour and fellowship time brought together more than 50 people to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Washington Community Scholars Center, known for many years as the Washington Study-Service Year (WSSY). Program leaders, current students, internship supervisors and alumni – one from the program’s inception – gathered in Washington D.C. on Oct. 22 for the celebration.

Director Kimberly Schmidt, who has been with the program for 17 years, welcomed guests to the Nelson Good House in the Brookland area, home of the program since 2005.

She spoke of arguments over “homemade granola with wheat germ sprinkles” versus “Captain Crunch with extra high fructose corn syrup chocolate,” and “50 flat bicycle tires” found stashed in the basement of the former WCSC location.

Underneath the humorous stories of “13 to 15 energetic and enthusiastic university students … all required to live together in a funky house in Brookland supervised by a busy professor and two patient and dedicated staff members,” though, is the program’s mission of learning through service and servant leadership. She recalled one student describing their work as “serving the nation’s poor in the nooks and crannies of the nation’s capital.”

“WCSC is more than going out on the town,” said Schmidt. “Our students have consistently received rave reviews from their internship site supervisors.”

Many participants are offered a position when their internship ends. Others find they like the D.C. metro area and return to the area to stay.

Connections are also made that last a lifetime. Nathan Kauffman ’10, who attended WCSC in 2009, interned at the Chesapeake Climate Action Network – a grassroots, nonprofit organization which fights global warming in the Chesapeake Bay area. This internship led to a staff position after graduation. He went on to marry current WCSC Associate Director Kelsey Anderson Kauffman ’08 who had lived in the same room in the Nelson Good House the year prior.

Phil Baker-Shenk ’79, one of the first WSSY students, attended the celebration with his daughter Jennifer Shenk 13, MA 15 (counseling). Shenk spent a summer term at WCSC in 2011.

His internship with the Quaker-established Friends Committee on National Legislation led to a career in Native American Indian tribal advocacy. “WSSY was, for me, a safety net, a network and a nest that served as a springboard into broader relationships, more diverse passions and vocations, and lifelong commitments.”

The event also coincided with a campaign for the WCSC 40th Anniversary Endowed Scholarship Fund. More than $39,000 has been raised towards the goal of $100,000. The fund will help students with significant financial need to reduce room and board costs. Those who most benefit from the fund include commuter students, first-generation college students, students of color and non-traditional students.