RIC students, alumna reflect on AmeriCorps volunteer experiences

Two Rhode Island College students and one alumna have recently been featured in Serve Rhode Island’s 2011-12 Rhode Island AmeriCorps annual book of reflections, where 31 AmeriCorps members look back on volunteer work they have completed around the state in the last year.

Michael Campbell and Alexandra Chavarriaga, current RIC students, and Sarah Masoin, a 2011 graduate of the college, were featured in the latest “Stories of Service, Member Reflections” booklet.

The Providence After School Alliance's 2011-2012 Everyday Explorers
Serve Rhode Island, a volunteer center and agency for national and community service in the state, was established in 1994 to administer the federal government’s AmeriCorps program. Each year, AmeriCorps offers over 75,000 opportunities for people of all ages and backgrounds to volunteer with nonprofit groups at local and national levels.

Michael Campbell – a communications student at RIC with a concentration in speech, language and hearing science – serves as an Everyday Explorer at DelSesto Middle School in Providence, made possible through RIC’s partnership with the Providence After School Alliance (PASA).

Campbell, who previously had a job behind the circulation desk at a local library, always felt he wanted to do more to help others, and was eventually advised by a coworker to apply to the Everyday Explorer program.

“The thought of working in an educational setting was appealing, as so many children need and rely on young adults to be mentors and role models for them,” said Campbell in the “Stories of Service, Member Reflections” booklet.

The Explorers are essential to PASA’s AfterZone program, which facilitates science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) learning activities and projects for students at the DelSesto, Roger Williams and Nathan Bishop middle schools in Providence.

Everyday Explorers work with rotating groups of students for three hours each day, four days each week, and serve a total of 450 hours between September and June. Volunteers are required to participate in ongoing professional development activities that allow them to improve on skills needed to provide support for students.

“I have seen so many kids who look up to us [Everyday Explorers],” said Campbell in his AmeriCorps reflections. “I am honored to be a small part in making this world a better, safer place for these middleschoolers with my fellow AmeriCorps team members.”

Campbell says he plans to re-apply for the Everyday Explorer position next year.

Eight additional RIC students also serve as Everyday Explorers, including Alexandra Braga, secondary education and math major; Dan Naylor, elementary and English major; Kristen Fox and Ruby Lazo, each majoring in elementary and special education; Liana Viveiros, elementary education, modern languages and Portuguese major; Luke Diez, secondary education and math major with a middle school endorsement; Mariama Kurbally, political science major who received the John H. Chafee Award for public service in September of 2011; and Meury Inirio, social work major.

Alexandra Chavarriaga, a sophomore radiology major, volunteers with the Americorps' Scholarships for Service Student Civic Fellows program with the Pawtucket YMCA. This program requires students to serve 300 hours or more in exchange for a $1,132 Education Award. She also completed a portion of her volunteer work in the Radiology Department at the Memorial Hospital of Rhode Island.

“Volunteers at the YMCA offer children a safe place to play and learn, impacting them in ways both seen and unseen,” Chavarriaga said in the AmeriCorps booklet. “It is inspiring to see what an impact can be made on a child in a short amount of time when they are shown someone cares about them.”

Standing from left: Liz Garofalo, coordinator of community service learning at FSEHD, with students Gustavo Rodriguez, Bre'Yanna Miller, Stacey Collins, Alexandra Chavarriaga, Maria Spanos and Donnie Taveras. Kneeling from left: Rebecca Petrarca and Lauren Reeves. Members not in the picture include Kaitlin Mullen, Susan De Macedo and Franklin Guzman.
Chavarriaga has been working with Liz Garofalo, coordinator of community service learning at the Feinstein School of Education and Human Development (FSEHD), and Karen Barard-Reed, assistant professor of health education, to get the support and approval to bring organizations like Relay for Life and Colleges Against Cancer to RIC to raise money for The American Cancer Society, and increase awareness on campus. These organizations should be available at RIC by the spring of 2013.

Ten other RIC students also serve in the RIC Scholarships for Service program, which is administered by Kathy Sasso, assistant director of RIC’s career development center. Members include Gustavo Rodriguez, elementary education major; Bre'Yanna Miller, dance major; Stacey Collins, nursing major; Maria Spanos, special education major; Donnie Taveras, communications major; Rebecca Petrarca, secondary education and English major; Lauren Reeves, Spanish major; Kaitlin Mullen, art major; Susan De Macedo, marketing and management major; and Franklin Guzman, biology major.

Sarah Masoin, a May 2011 elementary education graduate, currently serves as a fulltime AmeriCorps member for Inspiring Minds, which has been in partnership with FSEHD at RIC for almost 10 years.

Inspiring Minds is a non-profit, educational organization that offers several programs to assist students of all ages to succeed. FSEHD has placed RIC students in schools across the state as reading buddies and tutors so they may earn the 15 hours of service learning required for students preparing to enter a teacher education program.

In “Stories of Service, Member Reflections,” Masoin remembers John, a second grade student she tutors who, upon initial contact, disrupted his teacher, didn’t get along with classmates and was at the bottom third of his math class.

During their math tutoring sessions, Masoin began to use different teaching methods with John and was able to focus on his individual needs.

“He is gaining confidence in his abilities and is starting to see himself as a leader,” said Masoin in the AmeriCorps reflections booklet. She still works with John about four times each week for small group math instruction. “I have given him the tools he needs to help himself … [and] the abilities he needs to be of service and make an impact.”

“Every day of this job is a struggle, but the students who respond to the work I’m doing with them give me hope and keep me going,” she added in her story.

RIC alumni Julie Fisher, Danielle Gravel and Andrew Medeiros also secured full-time AmeriCorps positions at Inspiring Minds.

“These experiences have definitely had an impact in my life and on my career goals,” said Chavarriaga in a recent interview. “If it had not been for AmeriCorps I would not have the motivation I have today to start an organization, and continue with community service. It is something I can look back on and feel proud of because it is the base of what I will continue to keep building on.”

For more information on Feinstein School of Education service opportunities and community partnerships, contact Liz Garofalo at (401) 456-8877 or mgarofalo@ric.edu. To learn more about Rhode Island College’s Scholarships for Service program, contact Kathy Sasso at (401) 456-8031 or ksasso@ric.edu.