Tori Drummond is a 2005 graduate of the McIntire School of Commerce. She served as a program director for Boys & Girls Club and a big siblings volunteer during her time at Madison House. She is currently a member of the Madison House Alumni Council and serves as a liaison to the Madison House Board of Directors. Tori is currently a Corporate Philanthropy Coordinator with The Dominion Foundation in Richmond, VA.
Tomorrow I’m hosting a dinner for the McIntire Ivy Society here in Richmond and the topic is Women in Philanthropy. I’ve been thinking a lot about what advice to share with the women who will attend. I actually think my volunteer service through clubs, Madison House, and my church, have made me more knowledgeable about philanthropy than my years of working in Corporate Philanthropy at Dominion.
I think the greatest impact that women can have in philanthropy is using our natural tendency and desire for relationships. Permanent changes aren’t made in someone’s life by serving them one day at a food bank. While serving food benefits hungry citizens, the best way that you can improve someone’s life is by developing a long term relationship.
For the past five years I have served as a tutor. Over time I realized that if I checked out a book on cd from the library, Lizbeth could listen and follow along so that she would learn to read all week instead of just Wednesdays when I see her. But meeting with her on a regular basis has allowed me to see her need for more than reading help. Many people are looking for a mentor or tutor because they don’t have family or friends to provide for them. I have had the chance to take Lizbeth to the library and Chuck E. Cheese, had sleepovers at my house, made cookies in an EZ Bake Oven and made sure that she has the school supplies she needs to complete her homework.
Madison House offers this same model of regular service and I encourage you to embrace the chance to connect with students, grandparents or hospital patients- whatever the case may be- in the same way. Try to think of ways to help the people you are serving even when you aren’t with them. Can you find a book or hobby your grandparent might enjoy? Can you help a homeless person write a resume? Can you help a student make plans for the summer or their future? Through service, you have the ability to permanently improve the quality of life of someone who needs you.
Paula Sternberg graduated from UVa in 2006 with a BA in Latin American Studies. She currently works in domestic microfinance, helping immigrants in the D.C. Metro area access credit.
When I transferred to UVA from a small liberal arts school in upstate New York, I was looking for a way to get involved in the school and the community. I had never been to Virginia before and knew nothing about Charlottesville, this place that was suddenly my home. I signed up for Migrant Aid through Madison House because I spoke fluent Spanish and had done some tutoring before. I had little inkling that I was embarking on one of the more formative experiences of my college career. For the next three years, from August-November, I looked forward to my weekly visits to Covesville Migrant Camp as an ESL tutor and in my fourth year as a teacher. It was invigorating and grounding to have ties to an environment so different from the university, where I could contribute and also learn about the transient, yet important migrant population in Charlottesville. Both my favorite and least favorite part of each season was the pumpkin carving we would do with the migrants on the last night of the season. Working together to celebrate Halloween and fall, as well as the conclusion of our time together was a great way to just relax and be with our “students”, and enjoy their company outside of the traditional “tutoring” context. Why was it my least favorite part? I’d have to wait another year before the migrants came back to Virginia!
Kim Bassing earned her BA from UVA in 1979, majoring in English Literature and Sociology, and developed a lifelong interest in the nonprofit and volunteer sectors while volunteering with Madison House. She has lived all over the United States as a military child and spouse and, during which time she volunteered with the Red Cross, USAF Family Services, Girl Scouts of America, ballet companies, and various school and sports organizations. She has worked in both the for-profit and nonprofit sectors including positions in child care, healthcare, the Southwestern Illinois Tourism Bureau, and currently works as the Membership Manager at the Center for Nonprofit Excellence. Kim is excited to return to the Charlottesville area where there is such community support for the nonprofit sector.
I read a story in C-ville, an area paper on Charlottesville happenings, when I first returned to live in Charlottesville in 2009, after 28 years spent living all over the country. It listed the top 25 things considered hallmarks if you want to feel at home and more like a “local”—one of the 25 was volunteering in the community.
I first arrived in Charlottesville, like many non-natives do, as a bright-eyed and somewhat innocent young First Year Student at UVA. I loved the town, the University and the scenic beauty surrounding Charlottesville. My first introduction to volunteering in Charlottesville was through Madison House and the Charlottesville Housing Improvement Program, where I served as a Head PD in charge of recruiting volunteers to help families with rehabilitating their homes. The experience gave me the opportunity to live the lessons learned in class, and get involved in the community beyond the Grounds. I tried to carry what I learned with me as I moved on to career opportunities and life beyond college.
Upon returning to Charlottesville, I knew I wanted to stay involved, and the MH Alumni Council has been a great opportunity–I recommend it to everyone! In my current job at the Center for Nonprofit Excellence, a local resource center dedicated to strengthening the nonprofit sector and the community, I see examples on a daily basis of the wonderful work Madison House volunteers accomplish in so many area organizations. Their enthusiasm and dedication provide invaluable outreach for the University and the community. If you find yourself back in Charlottesville, I hope you’ll visit Madison House, re-live some of your own memories, and see all the exciting programs in action today.
The more hands, hearts and minds that are working to serve the needs in each of our communities, the more we can accomplish. I’m proud of my association with Madison House, our past record of service, and those who continue as volunteers today. I can’t wait to see all that lies ahead!
Beth Niehaus graduated from UVA in 2002. During her time at UVA she was a volunteer with tutoring, boosters, and Alternative Spring Break, and a volunteer/PD for HELP Line. After graduating from UVA she spent three years working with community service and civic engagement programs on college campuses before going back to school to get her Masters degree in American Culture Studies. She is currently a doctoral student at the University of Maryland, College Park, where she is focusing on the intersections of service-learning and study abroad programs for college students.
When I graduated from UVA in 2002 I had never heard the term “service-learning.” Although the idea had been around since the 1970’s, at that time it was just becoming a growing trend in higher education. As a doctoral student studying service-learning in higher education and a member of the Madison House Alumni Council, I am often asked to explain what service-learning is and whether or not Madison House is, can be, or should be doing it. I don’t have the definitive answers on the last part of that question, but here is an overview of service-learning for all who are interested.
What is Service-Learning?
Barbara Jacoby (1996), one of the leading scholars and practitioners in the field, defines service-learning as “a form of experiential education in which students engage in activities that address human and community needs together with structured opportunities intentionally designed to promote student learning and development. Reflection and reciprocity are key concepts of service-learning” (p. 5).
Jacoby’s definition provides a great summary of the key features of service learning. First, service-learning is experiential in nature – students go out into the community and actually do something. Second, the goal of service-learning is to “address human and community needs” – student’s aren’t just doing anything, but they are doing something to improve their communities. Third, and this is an important point that distinguishes service-learning from traditional community service, service-learning involves intentional efforts to promote student learning in conjunction with the service activity. Often this is done through structured reflection opportunities where students, individually or as a group, think through the activity in which they are engaging, the impact (or lack thereof) they are able to have in the community, their own reactions to and feelings about the service activity, and the larger social issues related to the activity. Finally, reciprocity– the idea that both students and the community benefit from the activity – is a key focus of service-learning
While many good community service programs include some of the key features of service-learning (e.g. they are experiential in nature, meet community needs, and focus on reciprocity between students and the community), as I mentioned above, the key feature of service-learning is the intentional focus on learning and reflection. Students who participate in traditional community service programs may learn all sorts of things from their experience, but the focus is really on performing service. In service-learning there is equal focus on service and learning.
Although some argue that service-learning can only happen as part of a formal academic course, I believe (as do many others!) that service-learning can and should happen outside the classroom, too. One reason I believe this is that the unstructured learning that happens through traditional community service has the potential to be mis-educative. Often students encounter situations in their community service activities that are challenging or uncomfortable. Without an opportunity for structured reflection and learning it is possible that those students may walk away from that experience with a decreased sense of their ability to make a difference, feeling less engaged in their community, and/or reinforcing previously held stereotypes.
On the other hand, research has shown that service-learning has amazing potential to contribute to students’ learning and development. In their 1999 book Where’s the Learning in Service-Learning, Janet Eyler and Dwight Giles outline the results of a large-scale study of service-learning programs. They found that service-learning contributes to students’ personal and interpersonal development by reducing negative stereotypes and increasing tolerance for diversity, promoting greater appreciation for other cultures, increasing self-understanding, contributing to students’ spiritual growth, fostering confidence in one’s ability to make a difference in the world, increasing community involvement, and providing an opportunity to develop relationships with other students. Service-learning also contributes to students’ academic development by providing hands-on experience that helps students come to a deeper understanding of academic content. Students improve their problem-solving skills and are able to come to a greater understanding of the complexity of social issues. Importantly, students who participate in service-learning also show gains in citizenship – feeling a sense of responsibility towards a larger community, having knowledge and understanding of social issues, feeling a sense of efficacy around addressing those issues, and committing to engage in future action to address social problems.
Can/should/does Madison House do service-learning?
So with all of the great outcomes related to service-learning, should Madison House do it? Can Madison House do it? Is Madison House already doing it?
What do you think?
Eyler, J. & Giles, D.E. (1999). Where’s the learning in service-learning? San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Jacoby, B. (1996). Service-learning in today’s higher education. In B. Jacoby & associates (Eds.), Service-Learning in Higher Education: Concepts and Practices. (pp. 3-25). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Other Suggested Readings
Butin, D. (Ed.). (2005). Service-Learning in Higher Education: Critical Issues and Directions. New York: Palgrave MacMillan.
Jacoby, B. & Associates (Eds.). (2003). Building Partnerships for Service-Learning. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Strait, J.R. & Lima, M. (Eds.). (2009). The Future of Service-Learning: New Solutions for Sustaining and Improving Practice. Sterling, VA: Stylus Publishing.
National Service-Learning Clearinghouse: http://www.servicelearning.org/
National Youth Leadership Council: http://www.nylc.org/
Campus Compact: http://www.compact.org/
Bob Keppel is the current Vice Chair and Chair Elect of the Madison House Alumni Council. A 1990 graduate with a BA majoring in history, he volunteered with the Holiday Sharing program at Madison House. Bob and his family reside outside Philadelphia and are active supporters of the March of Dimes.
When I think about the power of Madison House, five words come to mind – leadership, depth, outreach, service and impact.
Student leadership is the most remarkable aspect of Madison House, as they organize the effort to provide thousands of hours of volunteer service through their recruitment, their training and their dedication.
Depth reflects what every partner organization gains when Madison House volunteers arrive at their door. Students add capability in areas of critical need in our country, such as education and healthcare.
Outreach exemplifies the actions of every Madison House volunteer. At a school like the University of Virginia, it’s easy for a student to stay completely within their own world. Reaching out to positively affect the Charlottesville community is surely the harder road.
The principle at the heart of Madison House is Service. Some students may think of Madison House as experience for a resume, but it’s unlikely they stay in a program or reap the full rewards. The most dedicated volunteers realize the benefit of seeing others accomplish more than they thought possible.
Finally, Impact is an apt word for the mark made by student volunteers wherever they go. Whether visiting a grandparent, teaching a language or coaching a team, each Madison House volunteer makes a difference in the lives of those they support.
The spirit exemplified by these values also brings Alumni Council members back to Madison House, seeking to serve an organization which benefits so many others. Each Spring, the Alumni Council recruits new members who wish to serve in our mission of support for the student volunteers of Madison House.
Kyle Rudzinski received a BA in Foreign Affairs from UVA in 2007 and was also a member of the men’s soccer team. While at UVA, he volunteered with Charlottesville’s Adult Learning Center through Madison House. He is currently working for the U.S. Department of Energy in Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.
When I look back on my time at the University, some experiences stand out, like the NCAA quarterfinals at Klöckner (and celebrating with teammates after), all-nighters at Clemons, or watching the Purple Shadows cross the Lawn at dawn on Founder’s Day. Each of those experiences shaped my time on Grounds and helped build lasting friendships.
But one experience that endures beyond fond memories and great friends is volunteering at Madison House. Madison House is a prime outlet for students to get involved in the Charlottesville community; it provided a way for me to teach English as a second language to adult immigrants. If you’ve seen the posters with 100 Things to do Before You Graduate, “Volunteer at Madison House” is always one of them. It’s a part of the UVA experience; it’s part of the mold that shapes students while they’re on Grounds.
I only volunteered with Madison House during the spring of my fourth year, but my experience teaching English as a second language has stuck with me. Now, three years removed from college, I still want to give back to my community. I still seek opportunities to volunteer or to coach a local soccer team.
Of my friends in the DC area, it’s often those who went to UVA that still want to get involved in community service. This dedication to service distinguishes the University from other schools. Strengthening our communities—wherever they may be—by giving our time and effort to support them is part of the Wahoo way.
Most students volunteer through Madison House by the time they graduate. These are the people who will engage others in their communities when they move on to the ‘real world.’ They allow other people to breathe easier simply because they have a caring, giving heart. They understand that community service isn’t just a thing churches and students do. It’s something we all should throughout our lives. And that makes me proud to be a Wahoo.
Anne Scharff Bacon graduated in 1991 with a major in psychology and a minor in history. She served as volunteer director for the Arts Council of Fairfax County before returning to school to get her master’s degree in public policy from the Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke. Since then, she has been involved in economic, workforce and social policy issues in North Carolina. She has worked in the Governor’s Office, Department of Commerce, Department of Health and Human Services and (now) as senior director for workforce development at the North Carolina Rural Economic Development Center.
The first time I met Joy,* she sang to me.
Lean on me. When you’re not strong, I’ll be your friend, I’ll help you carry on…
She had just gone on a field trip with her class to sing this song, and now I was being serenaded by a six-year-old with a big, semi-toothless grin.
It was a great omen. For the next three years, we would carve pumpkins together, go to Madison House Big/Little Sibling parties, play with her sister and friends on the playground, hang out with my dorm-mates and apartment-mates, celebrate birthdays, make brownies, take lots of pictures, etc. She came home with me to Reston, VA one weekend in the summer, and Joy loved it when I took her to visit the National Zoo.
We had a lot of fun, but I also learned a lot from the experience. Namely, how naïve I was about the world, and that it’s a lot more dangerous than I thought.
When I started to walk home to my dorm from Joy’s home one fall evening, as the sun was starting to set, a police car slowed beside me, and the window rolled down. “Ma’am, do you realize why there are bars on the windows around here? You should not be walking around this area by yourself.”
When she was about nine, her mother was shot and killed. I tried to be as supportive as I could, but what could I say that would help? This was her mother.
I wish I could have been there for Joy to lean on me more, but she moved during my fourth year. We kept writing for a while. When I drove from Fairfax to Portsmouth, VA to visit her at her new home as planned, she wasn’t there. We lost touch.
I wish I could see Joy now. (She’s now 29.) She had a special spark, and I figure if anyone had the spunk to avoid becoming another statistic, it would be her. She would be the one that others would lean on.
I have been calling Louise for three weeks now to no avail. I just recently found out that she is in a rehab center and no longer at home. I have also been told that she has another UVA volunteer that sees her every week, and so, I am to be assigned to a new grandparent. The news is exciting in a sense because I will be able to get to know another grandparent, but in another sense, it is a little sad to be leaving someone I have gotten to know for just about five months now. I am comforted to know that she will not be alone, and her weekly visits with a student will continue.
Reflecting back on my time with Louise, I have come to realize that she is incredibly dynamic. At 91, she was able to keep me enraptured in conversation as she espoused old memories and new ones, from stories about screwing in a light bulb in the kitchen to helping her husband get ready for a yard sale. Her associated emotions were suddenly fierce at times. It amazes me how true the old adage is–age is relative–because for Louise, it seemed at times she was so young, and then, at other times she seemed so old. I suppose it is not unexpected then that she had to move to a rehab center. Age has a way of making itself heard sooner or later– it is only so relative.
I have learned from Louise that life seems to creep up on you in a way that is both fleeting and gradual. What seems to be momentary anchors to life’s constant change are the memories you make along the way (cheesy perhaps, but it is so true). From Louise I learned how valuable memories (especially of loved ones) are because life will eventually creep up on you. You will be old, and those memories will be stories to tell, moments to share and recall. And it is a wonderful thing to listen to that recalling.
Christine Payne is a 1983 A&S graduate who majored in Anthropology and French. She has worked in Washington, D.C. and Chicago where she received her MBA from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. Currently Christine lives in Louisville, KY with her family where she is a consultant to nonprofit and public sector institutions.
I joined Madison House my 3rd year at the encouragement of a friend who was already volunteering for Help Line (at that time it was Open House Hot Line.) I volunteered for both the Daycare and Help Line programs that year. While I gained a lot of wonderful experience (not to mention training) with those choices, I decided during my 4th year to focus on a single program so that I could really put my energies into one area. My Help Line and daycare experiences had really complemented one another; in the end I chose daycare and spent a great year being reminded time and again about the wonderful world outside that cocoon of my “final year” at the University.
Interestingly, my time at the Westminster Child Care Center resulted in an entrepreneurial venture the summer after I graduated. With the same friend who had first introduced me to Madison House, we hosted a summer camp for children ages infant through early elementary school. Thanks to my Madison House training, we created a program for about 15 children that was held in her backyard (she had the better yard for summer camp!) The children were mostly referrals from friends and of course we weren’t “certified” childcare providers. But those parents trusted us implicitly and I know the imprimatur of my daycare program training was critical to their confidence level.
At the end of the summer we both found ourselves in “regular” jobs in Washington, D.C. We still talk about that camp and wonder where those children are now. I hope their memories are just as fond as ours!
Kathryn Swenson graduated from UVA in 1984. She then attended law school, graduating from Boston College School of Law in 1987. She spent 6 ½ years working for the Securities and Exchange Commission in New York City suing brokerage firms for defrauding investors. In 1994, she joined Salomon Smith Barney in New York as an in-house counsel. She moved to Atlanta in 1997, joining Salomon Smith Barney’s subsidiary, Robinson Humphrey. After leaving Robinson Humphrey in 2001, she formed a partnership with another attorney, concentrating on securities and business law. In 2006, she moved with her family to Northern Virginia, stopped working as an attorney, and began focusing on volunteer work and helping at her children’s schools.
When I left UVa and Madison House back in 1983, I wanted to continue my commitment to community service, and it wasn’t difficult to find ways to do so over the initial years. It became a greater challenge after I had children. It was difficult to fit the community service into my schedule and even more difficult to think of ways to have my children participate with me in giving back to the community. I have found that it is some of the simpler ways to give back that lend themselves to including my children.
One of my favorite ways of giving back happened almost by accident. I had mornings alone with my afternoon kindergartner last year. One day we decided to take a nice walk around the neighborhood. As we were leaving, it occurred to me that we could bring along a plastic grocery bag and do a clean-up walk. My daughter was intrigued by the idea, although she was convinced that we would find no trash. At first, we had to really scour the ground to find the tiniest piece of garbage, but as our eyes became more attuned the project, we found it increasingly easy to spot the garbage.
It sounds funny to say, but this was a like a treasure hunt for my daughter. She took great pride in each piece of trash she found. By the end of our walk around the neighborhood we had filled our bag, and were feeling really good about how much nicer the neighborhood looked. I knew the project had been successful, when just the next week my daughter on her own initiative asked me if we could go on another “trash walk”. And we did. Now when we go on family walks and hikes, we almost always remember to bring along a bag, so we can leave the world a better a place than we found it.