In this edition of Horizon we are fortunate to be able to present the perspectives of two students from the Eagle Rock School in Estes Park, Colorado. Their reflections on first encounters with service learning attest to its power to transform as it teaches.
REDEFINING SERVICE LEARNING: Service isn_t just about doing good for those in need; it_s about doing good work wherever you may find yourself.
By Katie Wiseman
During my second trimester at Eagle Rock I enrolled in the service program (ER-38). I engaged myself in two service areas, both in Estes Park. On Tuesdays I worked with Jane Lopez at McGregor Ranch on marketing initiatives and restocking the meat freezer, and on Mondays and Fridays I dedicated my time to repairing furniture through Furniture Connections. Part of the ER 38 curriculum is to set academic and personal goals. My academic goal was to begin my service credit early. (Each Eagle Rock student puts in more than 500 hours of service by the time s/he graduates. Many students don_t start working toward that goal until at most a year into their Eagle Rock careers. I started my chunk in my first academic trimester). One of my personal goals was to connect with the Estes Park community. I feel more attached to the community I live in now because I worked with local businesses and was an active member of the Restorative Justice program. I was also striving for a new perspective on what service is. When I worked in the wood shop, I felt that it was more of a hobby than a service. And that was one of the things I loved about the service I did during ER-38. It didn_t just feel like a service, but a learning experience and a hobby. While restoring furniture, it truly felt as if I was taking the saying _ones man_s trash is another man_s treasureinto my own hands.
One of the skills I came to appreciate and associate with service was dedication. I developed a greater understanding of what dedication means while working at MacGregor Ranch. At first it felt as if I was there to just restock the freezer, but as time went on I realized that I had to be fully into what I was doing or else it wouldn_t benefit me. It was during this time I learned that service wasn_t just for the person I was serving, it was also for me. But the biggest challenge I faced was in the woodshop. When I first started I wanted to get as much done as possible with as little work as possible. I came into the woodshop thinking I could get so much done because I had refinished furniture before. It took me a few weeks to accept that I would only complete one project in the 10 weeks allotted. The first few weeks I didn_t know whom I was helping by fixing up a table. At MacGregor I knew directly whom I was helping. The indirect nature of the service project at Furniture Connections was challenging because it felt as if I was just doing work to fill up the class time. Only when I did my first furniture pick-up did I realize the positive repercussions of what I was doing in the woodshop. I was turning this once thought of trash into someone_s new table. I was now more affected by the community I was doing service for and I could now identify it.
My understanding of service and community has changed over the past two months while working with businesses in the Estes Park community. I came into service with the only notion of service as community service. Now when I hear service I get a mental image of tutoring, woodwork, moving someone_s furniture, gardening and many other things. Now I feel that service is a two-party enjoyment instead of just a recipient-oriented process. I truly believe I have learned so much as a person and as a person of service. I also have refined what is important to the people for whom I do service, and when people come in to help it really is appreciated. When I went to the ranch at first I felt like I was just there to do the little jobs, but as time went on I felt more important as marketing came into play. I was now having a direct impact on the success of the place for which I was doing service. I learned that service is more than just odds-and-ends jobs and that it is about making a difference in whatever place one works.
My suggestion to future service students is to challenge all the thoughts you came into service with. Take on roles that you thought you could have never taken on. Try to do things that positively reflect on Eagle Rock and benefit Estes Park. I would encourage students to develop new ideas of what service is and to get past the credit part of doing service. Service is a great thing, and I am so thankful that I got to experience it in my first academic trimester because I think I would have gone on with the idea of service as a punishment and a wilderness requirement.
About the Author: Katie Wiseman, 16, grew up in Windsor Colorado. She enjoys spending time with her mom and three dogs. Her service paper was written after six months of serving the Estes Park community, where Katie is currently attending the Eagle Rock School. Since arriving at Eagle Rock, says Katie, _I have come along way from where I was to where I am now! Service is now an active part of my life._
A FRESH PERSPECTIVE: You get as much as you give when you work with kids.
By Jonathan Petty
This trimester I have done the most service I have ever done in my life. Before coming to the Eagle Rock School (ERS) the only time that I did service was when it was court-ordered. The projects were always picking up trash and I rarely learned anything from it. This trimester I did a lot of service and I learned how it was beneficial to the community. The service projects I did included barbwire clearance, chopping wood, fire-pit removal, tutoring, trash pickup and campus demolition, which consisted of tearing down a part of our amphitheater. Even though I didn_t volunteer, I enjoyed and learned a lot about contributing to the community.
The main service project I am going to reflect on in this report is tutoring. I have been tutoring 5th graders at the Intermediate School in Estes Park. A few other ERS students and I go there on Tuesdays and Fridays. The community needs us to do this service because kids always need extra help with their academics. The goal I set for myself was to be the best tutor I could possibly be to these kids. I didn_t want to let them down like my tutors had done to me in the past. I really didn_t have to practice any skills. Most of the stuff I helped the kids with I already knew although I had to figure out a way to explain multiplication an easier way. I also had to practice socializing with the kids so we were comfortable with each other. Making sure the kids were comfortable with me was an important task. What made that difficult was that I am a young black male. Estes Park isn_t that diverse and I know I seemed intimidating to the kids, yet I didn_t let that hold me back from getting to know and helping the kids. As a result I learned that I could make a difference in someone_s life and help out other kids. I also learned that Estes Park has a very good school system. These 5th graders were working on stuff I didn_t learn until 7th or 8th grade, and they have the potential and drive to be very successful.
The greatest challenge I met with during this project was just getting on good terms with the kids so they felt comfortable working with me. I did that by asking them about their background and family and pointing out the similarities between them and me.
When I first started with service, I wasn_t planning on learning anything_I just wanted to get the credit out of the way, but as you can see I have learned a lot. I see many changes in myself as a result of tutoring the kids. I feel that I can help make positive changes for children, and that makes me glad because most of my life I have been a bad influence on kids and it feels good to repent from that and do some good. I_ve also learned that the meaning of service isn_t just helping the community, though that is a big part of it. I feel that service is about finding peace within myself and doing positive things that aren_t necessary for me to survive but are good for me. The advice that I would give to a student before they start a service project is don_t just do the service to get it done, try to get something for you out of doing the service. If they are working with kids like I was, I would also advise them to give 100% to helping the kids because the kids need as much help as they can get.
In the other projects, I feel that I didn_t learn nearly as much as I learned while tutoring the kids. I say that because when I was doing the other projects I didn_t see the importance and priority. When I was tutoring the kids I knew I was making a difference, which made me put a lot more energy and care into it. During the wilderness course I did the barbwire clearance and the fire pit removal. The purpose for the barbwire clearance was to keep the wildlife from getting caught in it. The purpose for the fire pit removal was to make the desert more wild and for people to not use up all the natural resources. I picked up trash and demolished part of the amphitheater for _Sunday Sweat._ I feel proud that I embarked on so much service this trimester, and I plan to continue to help out the community.
About the Author: Jonathan Petty, 17, grew up in Denver, Colorado. He plays football, lacrosse and basketball and boxed for a little while. Says Jonathan: “I drive a baby blue ’85 Cutlass Supreme and plan to fix it up to a clean old school. My life before ERS was pretty rough and going down the wrong road. I got into some trouble with the law, was involved in gangs, drugs and alcohol abuse, violence, theft, robbery and a whole lot of other things. I was living the stereotypical life of a gangster. I was kicked out of two Colorado school systems, so I wasn_t enrolled in high school when I came to ERS. I had broken my probation for the second time the Saturday before I left for ERS, so pretty much ERS is my only chance to succeed. I feel I bring leadership, humor and compassion to this community.