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In lieu of alternative breaks, McKeen Center offers inaugural fund for winter break volunteer work

November 20, 2020

The Joseph McKeen Center for the Common Good has established the inaugural Winter Break Community Engagement Fund, which will distribute funding to around 25 or 30 students for service work at a non-profit or municipal organization between the end of the fall semester and the start of the spring semester.

The McKeen Center has approximately $30,000 of funding—that normally would have been spent on alternative breaks—that it can distribute to students for this fellowship opportunity. Students can apply to receive either $500 for 50 hours of work or $1000 for 100 hours of work.

“We have staff and monetary resources to support students being engaged in the community, and we create programs to make that happen. When those programs get sidelined, we need to be creative about other ways to support students getting engaged in the community,” said Andrew Lardie, associate director for service and leadership at the McKeen Center, in a Zoom interview with the Orient.

“This is an opportune moment—winter break is longer than usual, so we thought it made sense to try to incentivize students making some connections,” Lardie added.

Recipients of grants from the Winter Break Community Engagement Fund will also receive training before they begin their work. They will be required to create a poster and write a reflection about their experiences after winter break.

For prospective applicant Roman Parajon ’22, the funding presents an opportunity to incorporate campus support and professional development into his ongoing work with a community partner in his hometown of Los Angeles. Parajon has been doing volunteer work with Esperanza, an organization devoted to immigrant rights, throughout the fall semester.

“It seems like a really good opportunity to do with my winter break,” Parajon said in a Zoom interview with the Orient. “I was hoping to continue working with [Esperanza] during winter break and using the funding for that.”

Sylvia Bosco ’21 is planning to apply for a grant in order to fund her work with the Biodiversity Research Institute in Portland.

“I’ve done communications and other types of writing volunteer work for [The Biodiversity Research Institute], and they are a program that I found through the McKeen Center originally, and so I’m thinking about working with them again for winter break,” Bosco said in a Zoom interview with the Orient.

Lucy O’Sullivan ’23 had initially considered applying, but after attending a Zoom information session about the fund, she started reconsidering. She plans to help out with equipment maintenance for her old high school’s crew team, but she is not sure she needs to apply for funding to do so.

“I’m going to volunteer regardless, and I don’t think it should necessarily go to me if I’m not relying on that income to support myself,” O’Sullivan said in a Zoom interview with the Orient.

With a combined total of 156 students attending the two Zoom information sessions on Saturday and Tuesday, the application process will likely be competitive. Lardie said that all applicants will be considered equally, and he hopes the process can offer something to both students who receive funding and students who do not.

“I would hope that people who receive this funding are able to make a commitment to some community partner [and] will be able to deepen their sense of how community engagement can be woven into their existing juggling act from day to day and the different commitments that they have,” he said in a Zoom interview with the Orient.

“And for a student who doesn’t get it, we hope that … if the money isn’t the only factor impacting whether they can make a commitment, they’ll go ahead and still choose to spend time with an organization over break that maybe they wouldn’t have if this opportunity hadn’t prompted them developing an idea,” he added. “I would love to see that the process results in more service happening, both among those who get the funding and maybe some of those who don’t.”


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