There are lots of on-campus volunteer opportunities at Gonzaga that are great ways to get off campus and to get to know the people surrounding us. Many students both live in and interact with the Logan Neighborhood every day, but getting to know the people that live in it is essential, said those involved in Center for Community Engagement (CCE).
Megan Ching has been involved with CCE all four years at GU. She began as a mentor for Campus Kids her first year, became a Campus Kids leader her sophomore year and continued to be a leader at Garfield Elementary during her junior year.
“All the stuff that the programs does across the city is very important whether it be like the middle schoolers, the elementary or the high schoolers,” Ching said. “We live in this bubble here at Gonzaga.”
Ching said what motivates her is seeing the connections made during programming between leaders, mentors and mentees. She said she believes that simply being there for a kid is incredibly valuable.
“If we can take the stress off a 10-year-old kid for two hours, you know, I think that's totally worth it,” Ching said.
Ching said people have been pouring into the CCE office the past few weeks for interviews. She hopes CCE is a good avenue for someone to find the right fit for them.
“Don't be afraid to be a mentor to someone,” Ching said. “I was really nervous about it my first year because I was really nervous I wouldn't be able to relate but they really just want someone to listen to them.”
Programs offered by CCE:
Youth mentorship programs:
Walking School Bus: GU students walk elementary school students to Logan Elementary to school in the morning.
“It’s really cool because if you're really busy throughout the day you can go to the walking school bus in the morning and you're done walking around 8:30 to 9 a.m.,” Ching said.
Smile: This is a partnership with elementary after school programs where GU students do various activities like gym-style games and arts and crafts with children.
"I've liked getting to know the Spokane community better," said Lisa Brinton, a Smile leader. "I know that before [Smile] I didn't know much about the Logan Neighborhood, which is where many of the schools [we work in are]."
Campus Kids: One-on-one mentoring for fourth to sixth graders via weekly lunch visits on-campus. Quarterly weekend field trips are part of programming as well.
“I literally just fell in love with it and what it stood for and my leaders at the time were amazing, and they just genuinely wanted to help,” Ching said. “They weren't here to build their resume, they want these kids to succeed and know that they have infinite worth and that they can do whatever they want no matter the situation that they're given.”
Connections: Middle School mentorship program that pairs Zags with seventh and eighth graders. It includes weekly lunch visits and quarterly field trips.
Sparks: High School mentorship program that includes weekly programming to help encourage social and educational success in students.
Eye to Eye: This mentorship program pairs young students with learning disabilities with college students with similar learning disabilities.
Zag Study Buddies: Afterschool program that aids elementary schoolers with school which involves bi-weekly homework help.
Zag Volunteer Corps:
Saturdays of Service: This service opportunity pairs students with local nonprofits for one-time volunteering experiences on the weekend. Not only are there volunteering options during the week, but also service trips.
Mission Possible: Trips during spring break all over the U.S. to explore social justice issues within America.
Justice in January: This is a trip during winter break that immerses students in new cultures. Past trips include Tuscon, Arizona ,and San Diego, California, and they often learn about border issues.
This next Justice in January will include a trip to El Paso, Texas. Joe Johnston, an assistant professor of sociology and criminology is the faculty adviser this year for the trip. There is an eight-week class developed for the trip to learn about the history of the border and how the immigration system works.
“The moments I love the most from that are the times where we're trying to process and reflect what we've done that day,” Johnston said. “So it could mean all kinds of things, that could mean our meetings with border patrol, It could mean going to various nonprofits on both sides of the border, it could mean going and looking at the actual border itself or speaking with a group of deported mother's which all of those are very heavy and deep things.”
There's something for everyone
CCE is a tool for students because it is a means to connect students with the outside world. Johnston is very involved with CCE, and he sees incredible value in these types of programs.
“I just love the opportunity of really getting to know students, really getting to know my colleagues, really getting to know staff members," he said. "The community-engaged learning stuff has been phenomenal to get to know everyone in the Center for Community Engagement and then Spokane residents that aren't affiliated with Gonzaga University.”
Johnston often implements service opportunities within his classes that he teaches. He hopes that students make connections with others based on our equity as people and that if we live in the community, we should get to know who lives in it.
“We are a university that is an urban campus in Spokane, Washington, we aspire and need to do better to actually be good neighbors to the residents of this city,” Johnston said. “The diversity of the programming that they have available to them from very little kids all the way up through adults to one-time, one-day service opportunities to yearlong commitments.”
Many times volunteering is difficult because of how easy it is to stay on campus and fill days with other things. Johnston said that something beautiful happens when we put aside our individual needs.
“The moments where people actually put aside their perceived individual betterment for something beyond just an individual within their family and thinking about something bigger than all of that, the common good is in those moments of collective action or collective efficacy,” he said. “One of the reasons I came to Gonzaga was I read that mission statement and became very excited that those words might mean something in actuality. For me, if we really mean what we say and that mission then it feels impossible to me that someone could come to this University and only spend their four years without getting to know anyone outside of Gonzaga University.”
Applications for CCE programs this semester close on Friday.
The applications for Gonzaga University Specialized Recreation (GUSR), Zag Volunteer Corps-Semester of Service, Campus Kitchens and Wolff Fellowships have closed but are also offered through CCE.
For a full list of opportunities available through CCE, go to gonzaga.edu/student-life/community-engagement-and-service.