The Center for Civic Engagement teaches Blogging!

It seems appropriate after presenting a workshop on Blogging for GSU’s FSI (Faculty Summer Institute), to write a blog post about the experience!

I must admit I was nervous about the entire endeavor, I had prepared in the days before the event with a 20+ slide PowerPoint presentation. It was a format I thought would be familiar and comfortable for the folks I would be presenting to. The PowerPoint wasn’t particularly flashy, but it did have a lot of bullet points and information. The day before the presentation however, I became increasingly worried that I would simply be reading off of a PowerPoint (please never do this, generally your audience is just as capable of reading as you are) and boring folks with a long and non-interactive presentation. I was also struck by the irony of presenting on the merits of interaction as a learning technique while using one of the least interactive mediums possible. So, true to my neurotic and indecisive nature I ditched the PowerPoint at the last minute and started anew.

Actually doing the PowerPoint gave me the advantage of being very comfortable with the material I was presenting on, which despite some evidence to the contrary was not a topic I felt I was an expert in, and allowed me a bit more freedom in choosing a new, hopefully more interactive workshop format. I ended up choosing to show the direct sources (webpages) of some of the information I had gathered. So, armed with a day of fervent research and a browser overflowing with tabs I went into the workshop somewhat more manic and loose than may have been appropriate.

The workshop itself was, I think, benefited from this energy. The loose structure allowed people to ask questions they were interested in, and allowed us to discuss topics that were related to social media but weren’t strictly about blogging. Questions of privacy, millennials, and journalism all came up during the workshop. It was my hope that I was able to clearly express the many benefits of blogging while also giving the attendees enough tools to go out and create dynamic blogs. One of the more difficult things about presenting on blogging is the incredible diversity of platforms and mediums with which one can blog. So, I found myself relegated to explaining the different blogging platforms and recommending different platforms and medium based on an individuals interests. On a constructively level, I think perhaps the workshop would have benefited from slightly more structure (although I enjoyed the energy that was brought to the discussion as a result of its lack of structure)  and a greater emphasis on the actual minutia of creating a blog (although, that is difficult to accomplish because, again, it varies by platform.

I would be very interested to hear what other had to say! Participate in our poll, or leave a comment below!

Earth Day of Service

Eager volunteers, excited to begin their day of service

Eager volunteers, excited to begin their day of service

The Earth Day Service Project was created to protect the environment around Governors State University’s campus. Inspired by the Thorn Creek Woods Nature Preserve that lies just outside of GSU and our institution’s renewed commitment to sustainability, particularly through the adoption of a sustainability cohort for freshman in 2014, a number of students, faculty and staff took on the mission of removing waste from our campus. Volunteers arrived excited and energized at the prospect of working with like-minded individuals on a common goal.

Our day began with volunteers signing-in and gathering together in student commons for lunch. We were pleasantly surprised at the number of volunteers who had not originally signed up, but wanted to join us regardless. We were particularly gratified to have such a turn out when the weather was less than ideal as it had snowed the night before, and much of the ground we planned on cleaning was still covered with snow.

Volunteers were instructed on safety procedures, and what to expect on the grounds before we left campus. Our volunteers were then divided into groups of three, given gloves, 56- gallon trash bags and trash grabbers, and sent to their respective zones for the clean-up effort.

The day was one full trash bag after another being filled and carried to the dump trucks. Some of the bags were heavy, weighted because of the sheer density of heavier trash like glass bottles, car bumpers, and even PVC piping, and required two people to carry. Many objects that were found required a lot of labor to remove, such as hubcaps, engine parts, fence hinges, rusted buckets, tires, and pole wires. The group that went to the Field Station was able to pick up old abandoned laboratory experiments.

Students seemed more energized and motivated every time they picked up something interesting. Many participants stumbled upon the same question: “How did this even get here?” Analyzing how old the materials looked, it was suggested that these were left behind by residents from the past decade, who were more likely farmers.

The day ended with the three dump trucks filled with trash bags and large items picked up off the grounds. Our mission was accomplished, although it felt like there was a lot more that needed to be done. After the event volunteers were seemed to have a greater sense of responsibility towards their own surroundings, as well as a greater respect for nature. The volunteers agreed that it was a project that should be continuous around this and future years, as there will always be much more to do.

 

Truck 3 of 3 filled with trash

Truck 3 of 3 filled with trash

Truck 2 of 3 filled with trash

Truck 2 of 3 filled with trash

Truck 1 of 3 filled with trash

Truck 1 of 3 filled with trash

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GSU’s First Alternative Spring Break!

GSU recently wrapped up its very first Alternative Spring Break trip. It was a pilot program designed to serve impoverished Chicago youth. It was also designed to determine the efficacy of creating future more expansive Alternative Spring Break programs. We are pleased to say, that as a result of the dedicated twenty students that accompanied us on this trip, it can be called a success on both fronts.

The Alternative Spring Break trip began at GSU at 11:30 AM on March 19th, 2014 students packed themselves excitedly into the bus ready for whatever the day might hold for them. Students were treated to juice boxes, water bottles, gummy bears, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and a whole mess of other snacks that had been loaded onto the bus for their enjoyment.

Our first stop was World Vision Chicago in the Austin neighborhood of Chicago. There we would serve from 1PM to 4PM. World Vision is one of the largest relief and development organizations in the world today. Our focus during this trip was assisting impoverished youth in neighborhoods in Chicago that do not often receive much relief or attention. WorldVision has a wonderful series of programs specifically related to children including the much lauded child sponsorship program. World Vision Chicago provides school supplies to teachers and students within the CPS network at little or no cost to them. We spent our service there helping with this program specifically. We were divided into teams, one team tore down temporary shelves and helped to reorganize and resupply their teacher supply area. Teachers come to the warehouse where they are presented with numerous school supplies in an area that looks very similar to an OfficeMax or Staples, they can then stock up for the semester or year. Our other team worked on restocking WorldVision’s mobile unit. WorldVision takes this mobile unit directly to various schools across the CPS network where teachers and students can take numerous school supplies such as binders, notebooks, pencils, crayons, colored pencils, etc.

After several hours of difficult work in the WorldVision warehouse we were all ready for a break. So, around 4:15 we hopped back on the bus and headed down the street to Austin’s famous MacArthur’s Soul Food Restaurant. There students were treated, courtesy of GSU to a full dinner buffet. We all were gratified with the skillful way the staff at MacArthur’s handled such a large group, and even had a separate area reserved for us. After some very delicious food, full and sleepy we got back on the bus and headed down south to visit the Greater Chicago Food Depository located in the Archer Heights neighborhood.

We started our service at the Greater Chicago Food Depository at 6 P.M. Several of our students were kind enough to bring several cans of food to this service site to donate before even beginning our service. The Greater Chicago Food Depository is the Chicago’s largest Food Bank, providing food to a network of over 650 food pantries, soup kitchens, shelters, mobile programs, and children’s programs. The Food Depository receives their food items in incredibly large bulk quantities, it was up to volunteers like us to break down these bulk quantities and repackage the food for individual distribution. Governors State University’s Alternative Spring Break group was given the task of unloading several crates of bread, checking their expiration dates, assessing the quality of the bread, and then if they passed both levels of inspection boxing them up and sending them out to the various organizations within the Food Depository’s network. Over three hours of work our students managed to send over three hundred boxes of bread, totaling 5,000 pounds, to these organizations!

At 9PM we headed back on the bus to GSU. We were tired from an extremely long day, but pleased with all the great service we had done.

Our student volunteers came primarily from a Psychology and Social Work background, education was also well represented.

GSU’s First Alternative Spring Break Photo Gallery!

We started our day at WorldVision Chicago. We would work at their warehouse helping to restock shelves full of school supplies!

We started our day at WorldVision Chicago. We would work at their warehouse helping to restock shelves full of school supplies!

World Vision has a mobile school supply unit! They take this trailer to different Chicago Public Schools and give teachers and students a chance to snag cool school supplies.

World Vision has a mobile school supply unit! They take this trailer to different Chicago Public Schools and give teachers and students a chance to snag cool school supplies.

We managed to restock the entire trailer, as well as the actual warehouse unit!

We managed to restock the entire trailer, as well as the actual warehouse unit!

We headed down to the Greater Chicago Food Depository, the largest supplier of food to Shelters, Food Pantries, Soup Kitchens, and Churches in Chicagoland!

We headed down to the Greater Chicago Food Depository, the largest supplier of food to Shelters, Food Pantries, Soup Kitchens, and Churches in Chicagoland!

Through our efforts at the Food Pantry, we managed to pack over 300 boxes and provide 5,000 pounds of bread to  the over 650 organizations in the GCFD network!

Through our efforts at the Food Pantry, we managed to pack over 300 boxes and provide 5,000 pounds of bread to the over 650 organizations in the GCFD network!

Meet Neel Rana and Dennis Dent, they helped organize GSU's First Alternative Spring Break!

Meet Neel Rana and Dennis Dent, they helped organize GSU’s First Alternative Spring Break!

 

No 1 Should Go Hungry

No 1 Should Go Hungry

CCE&CS Proudly Welcomes a New VISTA!

The Governors State University Center for Civic Engagement and Community Service is proud to welcome it’s newest member, VISTA Rima Nimri. Rima joins us from Arab-American Family Services. We look forward to her time here and are excited for all the new programming and events Rima’s work will allow us to take on!

Here’s what Rima has to say about herself:

“My name is Rima Nimri. I graduated with a major in Communications at UIC. I love life, like really love life for the many things it has to offer and the many experiences that it gives me which is why I tend to believe that I will be living long unless I get into a car accident. Stress is not in my dictionary, never experienced it unless I am driving. If you are ever riding with me, assume that it might be your last day to live.

I decided to be on the mission of VISTA in giving to my community with my language skills. I speak Arabic, so I applied to Arab American Family Services. I wanted to expand on my experience and give more in my community so I requested to transfer to Governors State. After I complete my VISTA service I might be a VISTA again; I am going on a journey with life to where ever it takes me with its variety of options.”

The Center for Civic Engagement and Community Service welcomes our new member Rima Nimri.

The Center for Civic Engagement and Community Service welcomes our new member Rima Nimri.

Martin Luther King Jr Service Day Summary

Martin Luther King Jr Day, Monday January 20th, is the biggest service day of the year. It is the singular national holiday that is treated as a day on… not a day off. In 1994 federal legislation was passed urging all Americans to consider MLK Jr. Day a national service holiday. Governors State University was more than willing to pick up this call. In the months before January 20th GSU applied for a Campus Compact grant and was awarded $500 to assist in the construction of a very ambitious pilot program we called GSU’s Martin Luther King Jr. Service Day (it was not the most inspired of titles). Governors State then connected with National Louis University, Columbia College, The Chicago School of Professional Psychology, Lewis University, the Veterans Housing and Employment Assistance, and Illinois chapters of the Student Veterans Associate. A task force was created between these institutions to pool resources in creating a large MLK Day of Service that would span the entire Chicagoland area. The event was set up such that there were three main assembly points students could travel to: Downtown Chicago hosted by Safe Haven and coordinated through National Louis University, the West Side of Chicago hosted and coordinated through Louis University, and the South Side and South Suburbs hosted by VFW Post 311 and coordinated through Governors State University. Between the different organizations in the task force over 15 events were hosted, and 137 students participated.

Governors State held its assembly at 9 AM at the VFW Post 311, which would also function as a service site over the course of the day. Coffee, doughnuts, and lunches were given to the volunteers present, and they were assigned (or assigned themselves) to one of four different service locations. There was the YWCA in Chicago Heights where volunteers would create a play room out of what had previously been storage space; there was Riegel Farm in University Park where volunteers would help perform the daily farm chores as well as repair any damage done to the infrastructure of the barn during the polar vortex that had occurred the previous week; there was the Benton House on the South Side of Chicago where volunteers would assist the 100+ year old community resource center with archiving work and setting up a free library for the community; and there was the VFW a veteran focused event where volunteers worked to repaint their great hall. Charter buses were provided to transport volunteers between their service sites and the assembly point. Students were also encouraged during the down time in between events to decorate birthday and Easter bags for the elderly as a project sponsored by Little Brothers Friends of the Elderly, an international organization dedicated to the selfless care of our seniors. Students spent the day, between 9 AM and 4PM working on their service projects and then from 4PM to about 5PM they all gathered at the assembly point again to have pizza and engage in civic reflection. Overall this event attracted over 50 volunteers from the GSU community.

One volunteer had this to say about the service day: “For the 2014 MLK Day of Service, I served at the YWCA of Chicago Heights with a group of fellow Dual Degree Program students and a few other GSU students. The site contact was an alumnus of GSU, so she automatically made us feel at home! The YWCA is a sexual assault center and our task for the day was fixing up the children’s playroom. The YWCA had received some toy and furniture donations, but no one had put them together or made them use-able for the kids. Some of our group focused on building the donated items while the rest of us spent our time cleaning and reorganizing the playroom. When we were finished, it looked like a totally different room! The best part of the day was seeing the way the room looked when it was done. It was fulfilling to know that we had all really made a difference. After we put the playroom together, the whole group sat down and made a mural to hang on the wall. Hopefully every time the children look at it, it will inspire them to make a difference, too!”