So many good things come out of the productive relationships that develop between students and community partners: innovation, needed service, energy and honest enthusiasm, building capacity, skills in technology, mentoring and research. In the OCE, we seek to make those connections mutually beneficial, rich and meaningful for all involved.
Our Community Advisory Committee, made of up of staff from long-term partners in Williamsburg and beyond, has shared their feedback on ways to make the most of community engagement. While student volunteers can be an invaluable resource to community agencies, they also require time and energy from agency staff – so it’s important to be sure that we know what is most helpful to them.
As you think about how you can be involved in our community, listen to what they have to say: it can help you enrich their work rather than become a drain on their resources.
What Community Partners Need from Students
Openness: Be prepared to see what work is really like, rather than idealizing community engagement
Local focus: Find the connections between broad, ambitious impact and local engagement and learning activities
Positivity: Everything you do is a learning experience – particularly the challenging things. Seek that and you’ll find the goodness in each experience.
Patience: Social change takes time! Ask your community partner to help you see the long view.
Tenacity: Remain committed through the time you’ve agreed to; stopping mid-way leads to many negative effects
Consistency: Plan to volunteer at the same time each week
Be realistic: For example, can you really do one year, for two hours per week?
Punctuality: Show that you respect your community’s time by being on time.
Curiosity: Be willing to learn, and to take the time required in training to do so
Make connections: Define how your community engagement experience relates to your academic and career goals
How Community Engagement Can Benefit Students
- You become aware of local needs and diversity, and what you can do to be involved positively
- You learn responsibility, commitment and the reward of a job well done
- You gain perspective on struggling communities
- You explore the relevance of a liberal arts education in the world, and develop skills to engage in world issues