Nonprofit work never ceases to amaze me. To get your hands dirty working for a cause you wholeheartedly believe in is the ultimate prize. I’ve been a volunteer, a board member, an office administrator, and an executive director for several nonprofits over the years. I know what it’s like to receive a $50,000 grant for a groundbreaking program you’ve poured your heart and soul into. I also know what it is like to repeatedly work a 60-hour week, take public criticism too personally, and have programs completely fail. The ups and downs of life as a nonprofit worker are both rewarding and exhausting. I wouldn’t have it any other way!
It takes a certain person to “fit” the shoes of nonprofit work. First, you must have passion! You also need to be mission-driven, professional, ethical, flexible, and accountable. Step into a nonprofit office and you’ll notice that every day seems to be different from the next. Deadlines are always looming such as that next grant proposal, fundraiser, board meeting, volunteer day, project launch, etc. but the good news is, you are making a difference! Your work saves lives, the environment… the world!
One of my favorite ways to combine coursework with community work is through Service Learning. It is truly one of the best solutions for students to gain hands-on experience in their field of study by directly working with nonprofit partners in our community. Peninsula College has the unique opportunity to offer their students exceptional service learning experiences that connect students to Elwha River restoration efforts, local tribal nations, and sustainable agriculture opportunities on neighboring farms.
Keep in mind, service learning is more than an internship or volunteer work. The service experience empowers students to apply classroom learning and meaningful reflection to current social issues, environmental concerns, and community needs. Often, it is more meaningful than an internship because students connect with mentors within organizations who help the students to continuously reflect on their career choices, life challenges, and professional growth.
Additionally, service learning experiences require students to apply classroom learning to real-world settings and situations. Service opportunities make learning matter for students. Those who have participated in service learning projects have described it as “free experience” that sets them apart from other graduates or job applicants. Others cite service learning experiences as career-shaping, profound, and inspirational.
Jane Goodall once said, “Every individual matters. Every individual has a role to play. Every individual makes a difference. And we have a choice: What sort of difference do we want to make?” If you are ready to make YOUR difference and experience service learning at Peninsula College, there are a couple of ways to get started. First, check out the new Service Learning website to see upcoming events, our growing list of our community partners, and ongoing student projects: http://dept.pencol.edu/service-learning/
Second, sign up for the La Push Beach Cleanup with Washington Coastsavers on Saturday, April 23, 2016, from 8:00am to 4:30pm with transportation provided from the Port Angeles campus. Peninsula College students and faculty will work together to clean up Second and Third Beach through a fun, service learning experience that promotes meaningful environmental work, civic engagement, and new friendships. Transportation and participation is free. Click here for more information.
There is also a new Service Learning course (IS 201) starting fall quarter. The course is variable credit (2-5 credits) with one hour in the classroom and the remaining hours in the field. Students will work with community partners to complete important, mission-related projects. For example, students with academic interest in the field of science may work with community partners such as the Feiro Marine Life Center, North Olympic Land Trust, and WSU Extension. Business students may assist a local organization with program budgeting, volunteer management, or donor stewardship. Students pursuing careers in the social sciences may complete groundbreaking projects for nonprofits that address hunger, poverty, and homelessness. The sky is the limit, and many of these organizations are looking for students with skills in photography, web design, databases, and marketing. For more information about the course, please contact Jen Santry firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jennifer Santry is the instructor for the new Service Learning course at Peninsula College. Over the last two years she has worked with faculty and staff to develop resources, curriculum, and community partnerships for service learning opportunities at Peninsula College. Jen has worked in the nonprofit sector for 15 years as an environmental instructor, land and animal conservationist, and local food advocate. She received her Master’s in Nonprofit Management from Regis University. Jen also teaches online courses for the new Sustainable Agriculture and Food System Certificate at Peninsula College and in UMASS Amherst’s Sustainable Food and Farming Program.