Community service is a significant part of Willamette’s campus life and culture, functioning as a way for students to give back to the community while enriching themselves. The Office of Community Service Learning (CSL) is dedicated to addressing “community-identified needs through collaborative partnerships and service; deepen learning, teaching, and scholarship through service; and foster the growth and development of active, engaged citizens,” according to their page on the Willamette website.
“Service Saturdays are weekly service events that the CSL organizes and facilitates,” explained Maeve Axtell (’19), Community Service Learning Lead Coordinator. “We collaborate with a different community partner every week to respond to and address a variety of community-identified needs. The service events don’t solve these deeply ingrained social issues, nor do they intend to; the purpose is rather to engage students in dialogue about these systemic issues and consider different perspectives.”
The term “service-learning” is defined by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and Learning as “a teaching and learning strategy that integrates meaningful community service with instruction and reflection to enrich the learning experience, teach civic responsibility and strengthen communities.” Willamette’s service-learning program has been a part of the University since 1993, born out of a desire to integrate academic learning and community service.
The Office of Community Service Learning allows students to personalize service opportunities to their particular interests and passions, and the range of projects available is vast. Axtell shared one of her favorite Service Saturday memories, a project working at Lighthouse Farms Sanctuary, an organization where abused or neglected farm animals are rehabilitated.
“Part of the work that Lighthouse does is to re-socialize the animals,” Axtell recalled. “So for an hour of our event we were tasked with hanging out with and petting a variety of farm animals as a group.”
Students looking to get involved with CSL’s Service Saturdays can do so by visiting the Office of Community Service Learning’s page on the Willamette website. While most of the Service Saturday opportunities for this semester are full, there are multiple open spots for April 27, with volunteer work at either the CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) Superhero Race or the Mission of HOPE food service facility.