"It's really fun, with insight and leadership skills." - Lidia Morales
The day was filled with anticipation and excitement. My Women's and Gender Studies 311 service-learning class worked all semester planning a series of workshops about topics that are of interest to young girls including friendship, nutrition, and body empowerment. Long-standing community partner Circle of Sisters brought a large group of girls from from several surrounding cities to Sonoma State University for the Power of Know Conference. College students designed the conference to be a fun and interactive experience of learning. The girls' ages ranged from 9-14 and many of them had never been on a college campus before.
My job during the semester was to do the behind-the-scenes work of the conference and help work out the logistics. This was my first time having to do event planning, so I was unsure of how much work I would need to put in. Thankfully, I had a team of two other student leaders to help me. It involved several weeks of research from the whole class to know the type of people we would be engaging. We reviewed WGS concepts and themes to make sure we understood what to expect. Although my research did not quite match my duties of planning as it did for groups who presented, it did prepare me for knowing the group of girls. I had to know what types of things they liked, what it was like to be their age, what things they thought were important, and what issues they encounter everyday.
Since this was a service-learning course, we had to make sure that this event would really benefit the community partners who we were working with. Graduating senior Emma Fuller says that being able to see the girls in person put the service in perspective. "Seeing the people you work with made you realize the importance of what you are doing."
The conference proved to be a valuable resource. According to Circle of Sisters group facilitator Mira Fielding, "College is now an experience that's very real to them."
Logistics were not my only task. My group led the girls in a simple up-beat Zumba routine to get them feeling energized. It showed that the girls really enjoyed getting to dance around with their peers and newly made friends. This event gave the girls a chance to have fun with us, but also to see that college does not have to be a far off concept for them. "I think it's really important girls that age have something like this. It's really important for them to see what they can do," says WGS student Alania Sabankaya. Feedback from the girls after the event was also something that helped us know that our service was appreciated, but also very needed.
Student Johnna Feneck who presented on friendship says, "I really feel like we inspired those girls." The levels of reciprocity make service-learning an attractive choice to professors and the community. Many students have yet to take a service-learning class, but those who have show say it is well worth it. The dynamic action of group involvement had incredible impact on my class and a great group of young girls.