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May 5, 2008

last day of service learning

Tomorrow (Tuesday, May 6th) is my last day of service learning this semester. It will put me up to 13 hours of volunteering at Common Bond's Skyline Tower in St. Paul. I've really enjoyed my time helping out at Skyline Tower in the computer lab. The people that work there were very friendly and easy to work with. I never had a scheduling conflict and they were flexible on the times I could go in. Overall I was pleased with the experience I had volunteering with Common Bond.

The location itself was a little less than desirable being that it is located in St. Paul and I am here at the U without a car. But I was able to take the city bus there and back every Tuesday just fine. The physical environment of the Advantage Center in Skyline Tower made it even easier to be a volunteer there. The basement, where the computer lab is, is very up-to-date and well kept. The computer lab itself is spacious and well lit which makes for a great place to spend time in. The computers are pretty new and are perfect for what the residents need.

The 15 weeks of volunteering this semester and the additional weeks from first semester have given me a little insight into what it's like for some immigrants coming to America. I do believe that I've gained some skills such as social skills when working with kids. I also enjoyed the experience because I like working with kids and they responded well to my help. Many of them would call me over just to show me something they were doing on the computer; I really felt like they respected me.

All in all it was a good experience and I would do it again. At first I kind of expected it to be a drag but it really wasn't at all. Volunteering is a good way to help other people who are less fortunate and become involved in the community. Through the time I put in with Common Bond I was able to do just that.

April 23, 2008

4.22.08

I did not volunteer yesterday (4.22.08) because the computer lab that I usually volunteer in was being used for something else that day. Right now I believe I have 10 hours of service learning complete so if I volunteer next Tuesday for two hours like usual I will be right in between the 10-15 hours required for the course.

April 15, 2008

catch up on service learning blogs

I was recently informed that we are supposed to blog every time we volunteer. I guess it was stated in some fine print in the syllabus but anyways, I've been volunteering for ten weeks now so I will try to describe my experiences over those ten weeks as best I can and from now on I will blog every week about my service learning.

I volunteer at the same place I did last semester in DF1. It is a Common Bond community in St. Paul called Skyline Tower. It is a high rise apartment building that houses a couple thousand people. The vast majority of people who live there are Somalians. Some of them are refugees and others are simply the result of a chain migration. There are often a few generations of one family living together - from grandparents to children, which is who I work with in the computer lab.

Every Tuesday I volunteer from about 4-6pm in the computer lab helping children. Technically speaking I'm a "computer lab assistant" who is simply there to aid the kids in using the computers, but it also requires an equal amount of having to keep the rowdy whippersnappers under control. It can get a little out of hand sometimes.

For the most part the kids are absolutely great. Most of them are between the ages of 5 and 15 but they all speak such good English I often forget that many of them are from a country half a world away. They know the computers pretty well already but occasionally there will be a child who needs help getting to a website or playing a game or something like that. Compared to their parents who I helped last semester they are light years ahead in knowing how to use computers. I was amazed and glad to see that when I started this semester.

The kids are always polite towards me and the other volunteers that are there when I am. Sometimes it even seems like they look up to me which is one of the warmest feelings in the world. "Hey, Jeff come check out this video I'm watching," or "Jeff can you help me pick out a picture for my calendar," or "I want to play the Spiderman game!" are just a few of the things I've heard over the weeks. Today one of the kids accidentally programmed his computer screen to be upside down and it took myself and one of the other volunteers about ten minutes to figure out how get it back to normal. That's just part of the fun of working with kids.

On one particular Tuesday about four weeks ago the computer lab was closed so I was reassigned to the reading room. That night I had the pleasure of reading to, and playing games with, two young children who's names I can't remember any better than I could pronounce them. That was a particularly pleasing experience for two reasons: one, I like working with young kids, and two, I got to read books and play games that I hadn't seen in over ten years. If you give a mouse a cookie was one of my favorite books!

As of today I have about ten hours of work done with another five or so to go. I'm very pleased with how the service learning is going so far and I expect things will only get better as these last few weeks pass and the weather continues to get nicer.