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Community impact on Pleasant Valley’s Service Learning program

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Community impact on Pleasant Valley’s Service Learning program

PV Students volunteering in the garden at the Quad City Botanical Garden

PV Students volunteering in the garden at the Quad City Botanical Garden

PV Students volunteering in the garden at the Quad City Botanical Garden

PV Students volunteering in the garden at the Quad City Botanical Garden

Hannah Lederman, Video Editor

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Pleasant Valley has a requirement for all students to complete a minimum of 70 service learning hours throughout their four years of school. Emily Jepsen, the service learning coordinator at PV, characterizes this program as, “a blend of community service and learning activities so that both occur and are enriched by the other.”

A popular organization for students to volunteer at is the Family Museum; a center to aid in the education of youth. Carissa Dewaele, the volunteer coordinator at the Family Museum, loves the service of the PV volunteers. “The students excel as special events volunteers who make it possible for us to have high-quality activities for thousands of visitors.”

Dewaele believes volunteering at a young age lends to creating quality members of the community. “Volunteering in high school, or even earlier, has been shown to promote civic engagement later in life.  So, the volunteering you do now might just help you be a better citizen in the future,” Dewaele said. “The more you volunteer, the more you open up to new experiences and learn about yourself, making you better prepared for your future.”

Students are able to choose from hundreds of places to provide service to the community. Many follow their interests and help with certain organizations that help give clarity to their future career path. For the Family Museum, they specialize with elementary aged children. “Many of our service learning students also use volunteering as a way to see if they would be interested in children’s education as a career path,” Dewaele said.

Another organization hosting many PV students is the Quad City Botanical Center. Kate Mapes, the Center’s office project coordinator, agreed with Dewaele’s statements regarding the great help that PV volunteers bring. “The PV students are a huge help to us. We are a small non-profit, with only 9 employees.  Our volunteers are the only way we can make everything happen,” Mapes said. “Volunteers come to us a lot of different ways, and working with PV has been a huge benefit because it gives us a specific audience to tap into.”

Mapes believed in the benefits of youth involvement in volunteering. “ It gets people out of their own bubbles and can learn about new places to go or what lives other people are experiencing,” Mapes said. “Volunteering helps teach how to interact in an unknown environment with unfamiliar people.  It provides a safety net and a safe space to learn, grow, and practice these skills.”

Along with the impactful effects of service learning on the individuals who volunteer, their work with these organizations has paid off.

Dewaele said, “Volunteers contributed 6,250 hours of service at the Family Museum last year—that’s equivalent to 3 full-time employees.” Dewaele added, “Pleasant Valley service learning hours make up a quarter to one-third of that total.”

At the Botanical Center, they have an annual Winter Nights Winter Lights exhibit that is possible due to the help of the volunteers. “We utilized over 350 volunteer hours to hang light strings all over our gardens and plants to create an amazing experience,” Mapes said.

Volunteers provide a significant amount of work and become a part of these organizations. Mapes said, “Our guests had a great time and enjoyed interacting with our volunteers. One example was during the weekend Santa and Mrs. Clause visited the exhibit.” She continued, “We had over 500 people each night and there was no way our staff could have taken care of all the work to make the night so enjoyable to our guests.”

Students have been able to contribute to the growth of service learning in Pleasant Valley as well as impact their community.

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Community impact on Pleasant Valley’s Service Learning program