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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 core idea about service learning is a powerful one, but how does a program start? This was the liberating and formidable challenge that I faced nine months ago. How was this program going to work? What is a metric of success? Fortunately, I had an exceptional, enthusiastic and driven group of students whose interests helped define and give direction to what this experiment was going to become.

The first undertaking that Common Grounds Service Learning took on was the Cazenovia Cropwalk — a great event that involves a good attitude, a lot of teamwork and a mountain of logistics. Teams needed to be signed up, donations needed to be collected, the course needed to be mapped and marked and, ultimately, a couple hundred people — students, community members and more than a few miniature horses — needed to be shepherded through a three-mile course. And while Project Café and Common Grounds Service Learning look forward to an even more robust turnout next year, it stands as a great example of how generous our community can be — which, looking back, was a great sign for the success of the program.

After the Cropwalk, Common Grounds Service Learning continued to develop its role within the community — from the Project Café Toy Shop to the student-designed “Explorer Workshops” at the Cazenovia Public Library, to lending a hand (or many) at the Caz Cares fresh food delivery each month — Common Grounds Service learning started to find its place in our town.

And happily, people in the community were noticing.

“The high school students who interacted with the younger children during the library’s school break Explorer Workshops added an element of community building to the programs,” said Cazenovia Public Library Director Betsy Kennedy. “We appreciate them taking time from their vacation to be involved with the library. John’s enthusiasm and connection with the older students made this collaboration happen.”

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