While most people spend their Spring Break relaxing on the beach, it can also be a great time for students to help the community through reflective service learning (RSL) and volunteering with organizations. Students who are choosing to stay on campus this year can spend their time completing their RSL hours through four different opportunities led by faculty. Students will work with organizations located in Pinellas and Manatee counties. 


Director of Advocacy and Prevention Olivia London and Institutional Research Analyst Chelsea Creaturo are leading the project “Community-based Advocacy, Justice, and Empowerment.” 


This opportunity will be partnering with Girls Inc., a nonprofit that works to empower young girls through equipping them with skills to navigate barriers, as well as with the domestic violence program, Community Action Stops Abuse (CASA) and Metro Inclusive Health, a local community health center.


“Girls Inc, is really excited to have some science students come in and talk about that with their students, the girls in their program,” London said. 


She hopes that bringing Eckerd students who are pursuing science degrees will help the girls also see if they are interested in pursuing a STEM education.


Students who participate in this opportunity will attend Metro Health’s young adult social night, visit the center’s Tampa location and help lead workshops on water sustainability, conservation and health and wellness. The participants will engage in reflective conversations after visiting the non-profits, sometimes  including employees in these conversations to allow students to hear their insights.


“This is a really cool way for me to engage our students and partner with some organizations I've worked with previously,” Creaturo said. 


Another RSL opportunity is “Keep Pinellas Beautiful” facilitated by Assistant Dean of Faculty, Scholarships and Fellowship Advisor Kat Robinson and Director of Grant Development Anna Ruth. This will be specifically geared to students in the Eckerd College Peace Corps Program. Robinson and Ruth are hoping to inform all students on what international service can look like and allow all students to gain skills to take into their future careers.


Through this opportunity, students will have discussions on how they can best fix issues in the community, work on invasive species removal with Keep Pinellas Beautiful and connect this work to the Eckerd College Community Farm by doing work there. Robinson also hopes to teach students about how to do outreach and how to begin solving larger environmental problems.


Robinson led a service trip to Jamaica in 2018and believes that RSL is a cornerstone to a liberal arts education.


“I think it’s important for faculty and staff and all of us involved in the Eckerd community to be connected so I approached Ronald Porter and said I’d be happy to lead one and it’s a learning opportunity for myself and students,” Robinson said. 


“Bees, Trees and Oysters” will be led by Digital Content Manager Angelique Herring ‘19 and Director of Digital Strategy and Communications Michel Fougeres. Students will spend time at a local farm in the Terra Ceia community in Manatee County, building beehives and working on a fruit tree farm. Students will also visit Robinson Preserve in Manatee County where they will restore native vegetation. The course will also include a visit to Tampa Bay Watch, an environmental nonprofit where volunteers will build oyster domes.


“I think it's really important for students to get into the habit of giving back. Once we graduate it becomes easier once it's second nature when you're here,” Herring said.


“Food Security, Migration and Partnership” will be led by Director of Service Learning Ronald Porter and Associate Dean of Global Education Thandi Dinani. Students will learn about how issues such as hunger are impacting the St. Petersburg community and various work that is being done by Feeding Tampa Bay and Beth-El Farmworker Ministry.


Feeding Tampa Bay is a part of the national Feeding America network and focuses on providing food to those in need through food and meals. Beth-El FarmWorker Ministry provides opportunities for healthcare, spiritual life, education and hunger relief for those in need. Students who participate in this RSL opportunity will be working with Feeding Tampa Bay’s new Pinellas County location in St. Petersburg and possibly also their Tampa location. 


Porter hopes for students to learn new information and have their perspectives changed by participating in the program. 


“I hope people learn about how fortunate you are when you don't have to think about food. Or when you don't have to think about where you're going to get your next meal from, or how you're going to feed your children or someone who may be in home care,” Porter said. “I want people to think about that and how rampant that is in our society.”


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