Shriver Center Helps Students Reach Out to Local Communities

For years, the Shriver Center has connected UMBC students with the community. Its service-learning programs help students develop self-confidence, leadership skills and a better understanding of their community through applied learning. It is a good opportunity to volunteer and earn credits if the service is in conjunction with a class and there are many sites to choose from and students can select a site based on their unique interests and what they want to achieve. The programs allow students gain experience in leadership and help different organizations and establishments in the community connect and maintain a relationship with UMBC.

The College Gardens Youth Program is run out of the Y of Central Maryland and has worked with the UMBC Shriver Center for about five years. Service-learning students participate in an after-school program with elementary and middle school children for three-to-five hours each week, totaling about 30 hours over the course of the semester. Students tutor and help build teamwork skills through fun creative and physical activity. The site, supported by the MACHT Foundation, is in the heart of the community and service-learning interns often work on location year-round.

One of the longest standing relationships UMBC has with the community is with the Y. At the Y MS-Swim Program, students interact with adult MS patients and assist them with aquatic therapy and motion exercises. The Shriver Center has been a partner in the program for nearly 15 years. After the activities are over, volunteers build relationships with the people they help during an hour of socializing.

At Arbutus Middle School volunteers interact with students and provide in-class tutoring during the school year. Athletes from UMBC also mentor students during activities. The Best Buddies of Maryland organization visited the middle school this past April to participate in a school-wide program to change the perception of the word “retarded” or the “R” word. They worked with students to discuss the word and make pledges to change the way the word is used and perceived. This fall the service-learning program will begin an after-school tutoring program.

For several years The Shriver Center has been working with the Westside Homeless Shelter. The shelter is located on the grounds of Spring Grove Hospital in Catonsville and provides assistance to men 18 years and older. Participants in the program help the residents develop and practice employment skills such as using email, creating a resume and developing interview techniques. Students also participate in an annual fundraiser to raise money for the shelter, which was recently renovated. They also work with the residents to plant and care for a new garden on the grounds.

Service-learning programs are year round and continue to grow. For more details, go to http://shrivercenter.umbc.edu/service.html.

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