Student stories

Learning through community service

Sarah Ravlic

Saanich Volunteer Services Society (SVSS)

In 2012, UVic offered its first two courses focused on community service learning (CSL). UVic Co-op and Career partnered with the Faculty of Social Sciences to provide a 300-level CSL course called Working in Community (SOSC 300) in the Fall and Spring 2012 semesters. Co-op and Career and the Department of Pacific and Asian Studies also offered a second-year CSL course called Intercultural Service Learning (PAAS 209) last September, which had 15 participants and was supported by the Learning Without Borders Fund offered through UVic’s Learning and Teaching Centre.

I was one of 39 students who participated in the new Working in Community course this year, which included four weeks of classroom theory, followed by seven weeks (30 to 40 hours) of volunteer community work. We spent the final two weeks back in the classroom to reflect on our experiences and ended the course with a final presentation. Throughout the course, the instructors’ diverse areas of expertise made for a dynamic learning experience.

For my CSL placement, I worked with the Saanich Volunteer Services Society (SVSS) to research accessible transportation for seniors in the Capital Regional District. This experience related directly to my career interest in urban planning and helped me secure a place at the University of California Berkeley’s [IN]City summer institute in city and regional planning.

The people I met during my CSL placement and their gratitude for my work impacted me greatly; at no other time in my undergraduate experience can I remember feeling so valued for my skills and education. Since graduation, I have continued to volunteer on the SVSS board of directors.

The SVSS has been an extremely warm and welcoming organization to work with, and have benefited significantly from the CSL program. “Sarah’s engagement, knowledge and approach brought fresh energy to a longstanding need for seniors’ transportation improvements,” said my workplace supervisor, SVSS executive director Susan Zerb. “SVSS and our greater Saanich community will experience direct benefit as a result of UVic’s community service learning project.”

CSL is exactly the creative approach to teaching and community involvement that UVic strives for according to its strategic plan. Many community organizations are stretched for resources, and the CSL experience directly benefits these organizations while providing students with valuable, relevant experience. CSL brought my learning to life, improved my leadership skills and helped me to become a more engaged citizen and better able to contribute to my community. I couldn’t wish for a more fulfilling experience for future students.

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