Adopt-A-Grandparent Multicultural Fair

The Adopt-A-Grandparent Multicultural Fair on Friday, February 20, brought together a wonderful group of AAG volunteers, Whitman students, and Odd Fellows residents in an educational and fun cultural experience. The Multicultural Fair consisted of presentations from students who studied abroad in Ecuador, China, Senegal, Spain, and Denmark; musical performances including a Chinese instrumental piece, a love song from India, and a Brazilian dance; and a world trivia Jeopardy style game. Residents were extremely impressed by all of the student performances and presentations and had a blast playing jeopardy with their adopted Whitman grandkids! DSC_0347

This event was a wonderful opportunity for adopted grandparents to learn more about their Whitman grandkids and made for a lot of interesting conversation in the room! It was especially fun to see the residents get competitive at the end during the jeopardy game as they competed in teams against one another. DSC_0368

An extra special thanks to all of the performers and presenters who attended the event – Aly Counsell, Wenjun Gao, Caitlyn Smith, Kamna Shastri, Rachel Palfini, Melissa Shaffer, Andrea Chin and Ludmila de Brito and her dance crew! You made this event possible and did an awesome job!

College Coaches: Putting College on Their Radar

Over the past four years, a small pool of Whitman students have been dedicating an hour in their busy weeks to volunteer with Walla Walla High School students. Volunteers have the option of going to Guided Study in the morning, taught by the adoring Sherry McConn, a fellow Whitman alumni, or dropping by Academic Lab in the afternoon, overseen by the amazing Gear Up program. Both options have Whitman students working with high school students on their homework assignments and for the upperclassmen, beginning the daunting process that is college applications.

The model of College Coaches has evolved significantly over the years. In the years past, the program adopted a one-on-one mentoring system that, while very successful for a few participants, proved to be too time-costly for the College Coaches intern to execute. Last year, the intern successfully placed one student at Lincoln High School, a local alternative high school, to teach improv. One of my projects this semester has been to continue this partnership with Lincoln by having Whitman students teach a class or two on something their passionate about. This year, we established partnerships with Gear-Up’s Academic Lab and Wa-Hi’s afterschool Forward program. Because of the program’s small size, volunteers have the option of tailoring their volunteer experience to something more aligned with their passions and/or desires.

Being part of College Coaches enables volunteers to interact with dedicated and inspiring community leaders. Volunteers working with Sherry McConn have raved about her welcoming, bubbly personality and infectious warmth. Alison Danko, a senior who has volunteered for Mrs. McConn’s Guided Study class for several years, echoes these sentiments, “Sherry’s passion and commitment to the students is amazing and inspiring to see–I’m glad I can be a part of it!”

While our country’s education system has a long way to go before all students have access to the resources necessary for their academic success, College Coaches enables Whitman students to provide Wa-Hi students with academic support as well as a supportive role model figure that they can depend on.

Clara Merlino, a Junior, touches on the significant role that volunteers play in the classroom, “When a student doesn’t understand something I can offer a fresh way to look at the problem, and I know I have made their day easier by giving them the tools to be independent and finish an assignment on their own.  I think it’s important to assist education in whatever small ways we can and with College Coaches I see an immediate impact.” Whether it be the conversations that the volunteers have with the students or the math tutoring help they provide, College Coaches imparts a deep appreciation on the volunteers of how a few minutes of interaction can give high school students a stronger set of tools that they can utilize to assist in their path towards higher education.

While juggling senior thesis, ASWC, job searching, I’m still able to find my College Coaches internship to be meaningful worthwhile work. While I devote a large chunk of my time forging my future path, College Coaches allows for me to appreciate the interactions and experiences that have made me who I am today. College Coaches gives us college students the opportunity to be that guiding force for the members of our community, and that is why I love being part of this program.

Whitman Students Flock to Volunteer Opportunities

By Michelle Ma, Originally Published in the Union Bulletin on February 7, 2015

Every year and often under the radar, more than 1,000 Whitman students volunteer in Walla Walla. It’s the college’s Student Engagement Center that brings them — the students and dozens of local schools, community groups and nonprofits — together.

Community service isn’t required for a Whitman diploma; regardless, students have made it an important part of the Whitman College experience. More than 70 percent of the student population participates annually in community service, and that service pays dividends to the student participants and the community.

Alumna Kenna Little remembers her volunteer work as a source of “best friends, hilarious memories, new skills, and a deeper awareness of my role as a global citizen.”

A 2013 graduate, Little worked to connect other students to volunteer roles within the community as a community service intern at the college.

Through the work of 11 community service interns like Little, and under the supervision of staff members Susan Prudente and Abby Juhasz, Whitman students invested 11,089 hours in service outreach projects during the 2013-2014 school year.

An online calculator at independentsector.org is used to translate those hours into a “donation value” for tax reporting purposes. Punch in that time figure and you get $296,298 in value to the Walla Walla community.

So what compels 320 students a week to get out and volunteer, even when they don’t have to?

Juhasz says, “All of this service is done because students view themselves as global citizens who have a desire to engage in their community, tackle difficult social justice issues, and meet unmet needs in the community.”

The college offers many options for students to volunteer, ranging from work at a one-time event to committing as a regular volunteer for an established weekly service program like Whitman’s Buddy Program.

Since 2010, the Buddy Program has been connecting Whitman students with intellectually- and developmentally-disabled adults in the Walla Walla community. In this program, Whitman students meet with their community buddies twice a month on Friday afternoons to take part in a variety of organized activities, including dances, movie nights, arts-and-crafts projects, bowling and more.

Through these structured interactions, in addition to student-initiated interactions, Whitman students are able to form meaningful one-to-one relationships with their buddies.

“The 28 Walla Walla buddies who are a part of our program have taught me so much more than I have learned in a classroom,” reflected Michaela Lambert ’14, student founder and leader of the Buddy Program. “These buddies have taught me to not be afraid to laugh at myself when I make mistakes, which I do quite often. They’ve pushed me to value and appreciate the small joys in life, no matter how trivial.”

A meaningful experience — like the one Lambert describes — is what Whitman’s Student Engagement Center strives for.

It’s about “sharing their talents, exploring their interests, responding to community needs and become active citizens,” says Juhasz. “But it’s also about the community teaching them.”

Besides the Buddy Program, the college offers five additional weekly service programs. Students can sign up to serve as mentors to elementary school students, visit senior residents at Odd Fellows, provide tutoring and support to local high school students, support early literacy efforts within the community, or provide classroom support to bilingual classes at Walla Walla’s elementary schools.

Laura Neff, a senior who will graduate from Whitman in May, serves as an America Reads America Counts intern at Blue Ridge Elementary. She hopes to become an elementary school teacher one day and finds tremendous value in seeing bilingual education in action.

At the same time, the classroom benefits from an additional adult being on-site, working with and supporting the teacher.

As these existing partnerships grow over time, the college hopes they will spur new ideas and relationships and lead to new opportunities for Whitman College students and for the community.

“With 400 or so new students coming to Whitman every year, we’ll never run out of volunteers,” says Juhasz. “Thankfully, our community keeps coming up with great ideas and opportunities to match that demand.”

Michelle Ma joined Whitman College in 2014 to lead the college’s communications and public relations efforts as chief communications officer. She can be reached at mamk@whitman.edu or via phone at 509-527-5768.

Asking the Hard Questions

Throughout these few months as a member of the Community Service staff, I have been lucky to consider the SEC my home. I’m grateful to have been surrounded by a welcoming family of staff and fellow interns. I think that I’ve grown quite a bit during my time here in the SEC, learning the ropes of organizing events and facilitating reflection; more than that, though, I have begun to truly struggle with hard questions surrounding service. What is the real value of short-term communityStory Time service projects? How do we enhance and fully appreciate that value? How does one find the right place for meaningful service in their life? These difficult questions have always been present and necessary, but it has only been as an intern that I’ve felt the most prepared and challenged to grapple with them. I believe that my position as a capacity builder has given me a unique opportunity in this regard.

 

At the SEC, we create space and opportunity for others to learn and serve; that’s where the term capacity building comes from. Initially I struggled to understand my new place in the process of serving my community. After quickly growing accustomed to getting my hands dirty and serving directly, it was hard for me to understand the value of the new kind of work that I am now doing as an intern. This was a necessary struggle and led to some very meaningful conversations within the SEC about the process and value of service. Gradually, I came to the realization that the work I am doing – to provide opportunities for my peers to do service and reflect on it – is just as important as the direct Eugene SBST 2014service work that I help facilitate. My realization leads me to other pondering, such as those mentioned above. This was indeed a gradual process of coming to this new understanding, but I think that above all it must be a continual process. As much as I’d like to congratulate myself on some sort of earth-shattering epiphany, there is always more work to be done; there are always more difficult questions to ask.

 

Whitman Connect Training

So you’re interested in connecting with alumni through the alumni database? You’ve come to the right place! We’ve prepared a step-by-step guide and a video for using Whitman Connect, Whitman’s new alumni database. Either follow the steps below or scroll to the bottom of the page for the video.

Let’s get started!Alumni Directory

Step 1 – Visit www.whitman.edu/alumni and scroll down on the right side of the page to where it says “Connect with your classmates through the alumni directory” (Highlighted in this image)

Click that link.

Whitman Connect

Whitman Connect Homepage

Step 2 - After clicking that link you should be redirected to a new page or a new tab within your current browser. Once redirected you should see a page that looks approximately like this:

Depending on if you have already logged into the alumni database you may see a slight difference in the top right. In this image the “My Profile” and “Logout” buttons are visible. However, in your browser you may see a “Login” button.

Step 3 - If you see the Login button then click it. If you see the Logout button skip to step 4. Once you click the login button you should be able to search for your account (if you’ve never used the alumni database before). Otherwise, you should be able to sign-in using your previous login credentials for the alumni database. You can also reset your password if you need to and sign in with the new password.

Directory Search 2

Directory Search

Potential Searches

Search Fields

Step 4 - Start searching for alumni by hovering over the “Directory Search” button and clicking the “Advanced Search” option. Once you’re done you should see a page containing search fields that you can fill out. Enter information in these fields to narrow down your search for some of Whitman’s 16,000 alumni within the system. Keep in mind not to narrow your search too much or you wont get many relevant alumni!

Results List

Search Results

Step 5 - Look through the results at individual alumni profiles by clicking on their names. You can also email alumni by clicking the mail button next to their name or the “send mail” link on their alumni profile.

Sample Profile

Sample Profile

When on an alumni profile you can look over the various information they have decided to share. The best way to get in contact with an alumni is to update the email you use for Whitman Connect to whichever email you would like to email them with. Then, click the send mail option on their profile to send an email to them through the system. When they reply, an email will be sent back to your Whitman Connect email from their email and you can email as you regularly would.

Step 6 - If you get stuck, email your questions to sec_info@whitman.edu for help! Alternatively, take a look at this video for a more visual explanation.

Happy Networking!