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Working with the Community

As a service-learning student, you work directly with the community. Here we have some helpful resources to aid the process of connecting and working with the community.

Choosing a Community Partner

Depending on your class, you may or may not choose your own community partner with whom to work. Some professors have closely established relationships and projects with organizations, and others give greater leeway to students to establish their own service-learning placements. Consult your professor and your syllabus if you have any questions about this.

When choosing an organization or a project to work with, here are a few questions to think about:

  • Does the service relate to my course topic?
  • Do the organization and the work interest me?
  • Will I learn from the service I'll be doing?
  • Will the organization benefit from the service I'll be doing?
  • Will I be able to fit this service into my schedule? (For example, if you have class in the afternoon every day, you probably can't work with an afterschool program. Also keep in mind the location of the service and the length of transportation time.)

Be sure to find a service-learning placement early in the semester. If you wait too long it may be too late. Keep in mind that some organizations will have requirements beyond the class requirements (such as an application or orientation process or a minimum number of hours), and many organizations may not be able to work around your schedule at the last minute.

You can contact us if you need help finding an organization to work with.

We have special partnerships with a few organizations where we have placed Advocates for Community Engagement (ACEs). ACEs serve as liaisons between students, professors, and community partners, and help to facilitate the service-learning experience. To see a list of the ACEs and their organizations, contact ACEs. If you are interested in working with any of these organizations, contact the ACE.

Contacting Community Partners:
Getting the Most Out of your Call or Visit

Remember to be professional, polite and courteous in all your discussions and inquiries.

Ask to speak to the person who coordinates volunteers or service for the organization in the beginning of your conversation.

Briefly explain: 1) who you are (name), 2) where you are from (USF) and 3) why you are interested in this service opportunity (respond beyond "it is a class requirement" - why this agency, why does this interest you). Name the course, describe its focus, and offer to provide a copy of the syllabus and contact information for the Program Coordinator.

Be prepared to share your talents, previous service experiences, skills, etc. that would contribute to the community partner.

Ask what opportunities are available and for a short description of service options.

Make sure you are clear about expectations of time commitment (what they encourage or require) and know your own schedule (or have it in front of you) so you can begin to make decisions with a timeframe in mind. Determine what kind of transportation you'll use to get there and factor this into the scheduling.

Be aware that organizations may require orientation meetings, applications, interviews, training, workshops, fingerprinting, background checks, etc. (especially working with children). It is good to ask ahead of time so you can make time in your schedule.

Find out if there is a facilitator or other primary person and get their name and contact information.

At the end of the contact, re-confirm dates, times, appropriate attire and expectations as well as offer your contact information.

ADDITIONAL TIPS:

Treat this like a job in terms of conduct and maturity. For example:

Once you commit, stick with it! Be there when you say you will be there. Be on time and focus on your service. In other words, if you are giving your time, give your mind and your heart.

If something comes up and you cannot make it for a service session, be sure to contact the organization and the facilitator.

NOTE: Repeatedly missing service sessions, having problems with consistency, and/or unprofessional behavior has an effect not only on you, but also on the people with whom you are working, AND it impacts the lives of the clients served by the organization. It also extends to the reputation of USF.