Stony Brook’s Center for Service Learning and Community Service, which officially launched in Fall 2022, is finding ways to get students involved in short-term and long-term community service projects.
Launched as an entity of the Stony Brook University Career Center, the Center for Service Learning and Community Service was created to organize community service opportunities on campus and in the local community. Urszula Zalewski, director of Experiential Education, Career Center, says that being able to create and organize programs housed in one place has made it easier for students to find volunteer service opportunities that allow them to participate on their time and without having to find a way off campus.
“We have a lot of different activities that are connected not only with individual students, but with student groups and community agencies,” explains Zalewski. She and Alexandra Fryman, program outreach coordinator, Center for Service Learning and Community Service, really focus on making sure that a variety of causes and organizations are represented to ensure everyone can find something that piques their interest.
“Regardless of students’ backgrounds, their majors, and what they’re interested in, the goal is to have at least something for everyone,” says Fryman. She explains that the center has projects that fall into two buckets: Low impact, which is a donation drive or something similar that requires only a few hours of commitment; and high impact, which involves being a student mentor or working on longer-term projects.
“Part of the work that we do really focuses on meeting students where they’re at and figuring out what they are interested in and then how we can deliver that,” Fryman says. “We primarily do all of the organization to make it really easy for students to get involved.”
Zalewski notes that the center also spends time “bridging the gap” between the university and students in middle and high school. This initiative is designed to get more students interested in attending Stony Brook, especially those underrepresented students who may not know that they have a path forward into higher education.
Part of this initiative is the Pre-College Day series, created with the intention of bringing together Stony Brook and the surrounding communities by inviting high school and middle school students from underrepresented school districts to campus. Students are given a preview of college life, learn about various programs and opportunities, and connect with current students. The center hosts between five and six of these per year.
“We work with the College of Business; we work with the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences, and other campus partners, to actually focus on a specific population to target these underrepresented students, not only to introduce them to college life, but also introduce them to specific academic programs,” she says.
Fryman says spending even a small bit of time volunteering is important for character building, problem solving, mental health and an overall feeling of doing good. Activities during the center’s first official Week of Service drew in 370 SBU student participants, 18 SBU faculty/staff participants, 53 non-profit partners and 94 agency representatives.