10 Community Service Opportunities at Grinnell

Friday, Jan. 4, 2013 2:24 am | By Liting Cong '11

Issue: Spring 2011

Author: Liting Cong '11

Social responsibility is one of the College’s core values. Hundreds of students, faculty, and staff are involved in dozens of community service programs. Here are 10 that hint at the variety of opportunities available.

Liberal Arts in Prison Program. A great combination of Grinnell’s emphasis on social justice and its innovative scholarship, the fully-accredited program enables Grinnell students to teach classes of their own design, to tutor ESL or math, even to direct a choir in one of two nearby prisons. Last semester, the program featured 18 student-taught academic courses, four tutoring programs, and one student-directed choir. Recently The Chronicle of Higher Education featured our prison program, praising Grinnell’s dedication to both the liberal arts and social responsibility.

College Buddies. This is a program within Big Brothers Big Sisters that matches Grinnell students with children, kindergarten through fourth grade, from three nearby elementary schools. Every week, College students spend an hour or more with their buddies and participate in large-group gatherings throughout the year.

Alternative Break. Through a rigorous application process, the entirely student- run program selects students to complete fully-funded service trips during the one-week fall break and two-week spring break each year. These trips to U.S. cities and international sites focus on alleviating problems related to poverty, the environment, and health.

Renew. Begun in the fall of 2006 as ReNew Orleans, a response to Hurricane Katrina, ReNew has since supported nearly 100 student and alumni volunteers as they help to rebuild New Orleans.

Stonewall Resource Center (sRC). Named to commemorate the Stonewall Riots of 1969, the center opened at Grinnell in 1986. The SRC, in the basement of Younker Residence Hall, serves as a safe space for LGBTQ students and allies. The center supports nine student groups and contains a library of more than 1,500 books and 150 movies.

Feminist Action Coalition. This student-led organization aims to raise awareness of feminist issues in both the College and town. It is open to all students, faculty, staff, and town residents who are interested in issues of gender and women’s rights.

English as a second Language tutoring. Grinnell students may volunteer as ESL tutors at a bilingual elementary school on Thursday afternoons and help organize group activities on Saturday mornings. It is a great opportunity for tutors and tutees to learn from one another.

Student services Committee. Part of the Student Government Association and open to all students, this group organizes all-campus service activities and allocates funding for student service groups. Committee responsibilities include a used book sale and a poster sale for students, and a blood drive and Halloween carnival that benefits the wider community. The committee also organizes Fogfast, which distributes student-donated meals each semester to designated groups in need.

Friday Fun night. Student volunteers work with children in a low-income neighborhood in Des Moines every Friday. The program serves 20–40 children ranging from 5 to 13 years old, providing themed activities such as science and art projects, performance opportunities, and cultural nights. Ni Ka na Meskwaki Buddy Program.

“Ni Ka Na” means “friend” in Meskwaki. It’s also the name of a mentoring program at the Meskwaki Settlement School in Tama, Iowa. Each student volunteer is paired with one Meskwaki student as a partner and mentor in learning. Student volunteers visit weekly to help Meskwaki students with homework and also organize activities with guest speakers, artists, musicians, and craftspeople. This program serves as a mutual learning opportunity for Grinnell and Meskwaki students.

Liting Cong '11 is a Sociology Major from Shanghai, P.R. China.