Getting Fired Up About Social Issues…and Actually Doing Something About Them (by Guest Student Blogger Emily Jasperson)

Note: In the next few days, I’ll be posting the action plans of three students who have given me permission to share their work here.  These three students have all committed to expanding their roles as involved community members and will be experimenting bravely with the ways they become more deeply involved and invested.  Read on (and for the next few days) for some excellent and practical ideas about how to keep the work going.

Our first action plan comes from Emily Jasperson, a future teacher who is finding ways to integrate community work into her daily life.

How easy it is to get all fired about social issues, like all the things we’ve discussed in class this summer, just to finish the final project and go about life as it was before. Why is this? This has happened to me a few times throughout my college career. First after taking ED 420 and learning about the ills of the education system, and second when I took a minorities class that detailed the struggles of various minority populations around the world now and in history. I became so frustrated and wanted so much for things to be different. It all comes down to a feeling of powerlessness because these issues are so huge. Although I personally cannot erase poverty and racial disparities, there are little things I can do to make a difference for people in my community. This is what I have learned this term while working with SUN at James John. I realized that there are so many programs out there like SUN, that really need extra help in the way of volunteers, and this is something I can do. My helping to stuff envelopes or to clean up a cluttered office space translates into more time that the staff of such organizations gets to spend actually helping people.

                  I have decided that I would like to continue my community involvement beyond the scope of this class. I am going to talk to Koali about continuing my service with SUN at James John into the school year to continue the relationships I have started with the children and staff. I feel that SUN does such great things and I really would like to be a part of the positive change they are creating for many families in Portland. I really like the resources they have for families outside of the programs at elementary schools, like health services and school-readiness programs, among many others. All of these things are set up to benefit children in the long run, which is something I am passionate about. Having worked with kids for quite some time now, I really appreciate the importance of a good education for them and would like to work to see it happen. I am grateful that through this Capstone experience I have been presented with so many ways to get involved and help make a change.

                  My plan for continuing community involvement is going to last for six months. This is about the amount of time I have left in school, which means I won’t be working very much, thus freeing up more of my time not spent in class. These six months will start in September, when school starts and SUN is back in session. Until then, I have the Oregon Zoo Urban Overnights trip with the James John SUN kids to look forward to and I am going to start looking for one-time volunteer opportunities through Hands On. This will give me a chance to get involved with other organizations not necessarily affiliated with schools or children, thus enriching my volunteer and community involvement experience. There are so many great things to help out with in Portland! In addition to this, I have chosen three steps from “Fitting Activism Into Your Daily Life”:

  1. Share Your Sources of Information with Others

I have already been doing this a bit since I started following PDXEAN on facebook and d2l. Through that, I have found Rethinking Schools and The Huffington Post education section which I have now also been following. I share articles with friends that I find to be particularly poignant or outrageous, or that deserve discussion. I have always felt that I didn’t know very much about current issues, especially those in education, and having access to these things has greatly widened my understanding of educational issues affecting our kids today. I will continue to follow these and share them with friends and family through facebook.

  1. Check Out or Join a Movement or Organization

This is something I have never done before, but have always wanted to. It has always seemed to me that I haven’t had time, or that I wouldn’t know where to look for organizations that I could possibly be a part of. Again, I am thankful for all this class has opened up to me! I joined Women for Change and Children First for Oregon, in hopes of staying current on education and general issues that are affecting children here in Oregon, and also to be able to find out ways I can physically help out in the effort. The sources of information I follow aren’t always about issues that are affect those in my own state, so this is a good way to keep informed about things I can really make a difference about and hopefully see results.

  1. Go Big and Go Small

I have never participated in something for a BIG cause, but I would like to. By paying attention to issues detailed through Women for Change and Children First for Oregon, I may be able to find some ways to help out or speak out on some big issues that affect the nation or the world, not just here in Portland. I did a bit of volunteering a few years back to get people my age to vote, and I don’t know how successful I personally was, but it felt good to be involved in something that was a lot bigger than myself and even my community. The small things I would like to do will most likely be found through volunteer opportunities on the Hands On website. I have looked at these for the past couple of weeks but haven’t done any of them yet. I like how they seem so simple but really can make a big difference for a neighborhood or organization. Some are as simple as pulling ivy or cleaning trails, and while this doesn’t seem like a big deal, it can mean that people enjoying nature can have a positive experience making them want to come back and ultimately help preserve our natural areas. Small things turn out to yield big benefits!

                  All of this sounds great on paper, but how am I going to actually commit to it? Since I will be accountable to the SUN staff at James John, it will be easy to stick with that commitment. Also, I would be spending so much time with the kids that I would feel I would be letting them down if I didn’t show up. Fortunately for me, right now my schedule is pretty open so I should be able to find time to do a lot in the community. Aside from SUN, I am going to look at the Hands On website each week to find an opportunity to help out in some way. I would also like to enlist the help of my friends as well for volunteer buddies! It’s a great way to hang out while also doing something positive for our neighbors. I would also like to start a volunteer journal to track my progress and record my experiences. I have heard that altruism is a great way to lead a fulfilling life and I think that writing about it will present the personal benefits of volunteering, which I don’t often think about. I don’t mind having my plan shared on PDXEAN, it may actually make me feel a bit more accountable to the words and thoughts I have written here. Also, periodic check-in emails would be great! It’s always nice to get a bit of reinforcement. I look forward to the next six months of community involvement, and will strive to continue volunteering far beyond that date. 

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