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Common Grounds Service Learning Program has successful first year

Bob Hood, founder of Common Grounds, left, and John Dermody, the Common Grounds service learning coordinator, have been working during the past school year to build the Service Learning Program into a success.

Bob Hood, founder of Common Grounds, left, and John Dermody, the Common Grounds service learning coordinator, have been working during the past school year to build the Service Learning Program into a success.

— The end of the school year is fast approaching, and while many of our sights are set on summer vacation, I find myself thinking about the beginning of the school year.

Last August, I received a call from Kurt Wheeler, which, in my house, is an occasion that commands all hands on deck. True to form, Kurt had been spending some time thinking about how community service could be improved in Cazenovia, and he was calling because he wanted me to consider applying for a position the he and Bob Hood were in the midst of developing for the coming school year. During the initial conversation, Kurt said, “I don’t know what your plans for the year are, but if you’re around, you’d be a great fit for this job. You should call Bob Hood.”

So I did.

This “job” was undefined, but it had something to do with community service, which is something that I have been passionate about since I was a member of Project Café in high school. Bob, too, had been thinking about how to make community service a priority in Cazenovia, but wanted to find someone who could possibly work as a liaison between students and service organizations, as well as someone who could research and develop a program that would increase student involvement in community service and deepen the understanding that is developed through volunteering.

So, what is service learning? This was the exact question I was asking myself a year ago — well, a school year ago, when I decided to take on this role. Ultimately, service learning is a philosophy where students are encouraged to combine what they study in school with their own skills and interests, and apply it to community service activities. Moreover, the goal of service learning is for students to reflect on the issues and needs of the area, organization or population that they are serving, which in turn offers an opportunity for them to grow as a result of the work they do in our community.

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