Community development and service learning are core components of the PSU academic experience. After all, our motto is Let Knowledge Serve the City, and our students are doing just that by building community connections and earning course credit and service scholarships to do it! In honor of Earth Day, we caught up with a member of the Student Leaders for Service, Randy Black, to learn more about the program and to see what our student service leaders were up to for this national day of service.
PSU Admissions (PA): What is the Student Leaders for Service (SLS) program?
Randy Black (RB): The SLS program is a one-year opportunity that offers members assistance with partnering, serving at, and reflecting on community-based experiences at community organizations. Members work with a community partner during the year to build real life experience in issues around social change and social justice. We have a wide range of organizations throughout the community that we can choose to work with, or we can bring a partner we’d like to help into the SLS program.
PA: What are the requirements?
RB: Each student leader is required to participate in a minimum of four hours per week of community service, but most of the students here are already involved in community activities and do way beyond the required minimum. There is also a seminar on Fridays that we attend to reflect on our experiences for the week and talk about our successes and challenges. So far, it is my favorite thing that I am involved with at PSU! Student Leaders for Service members are involved in many things throughout the year. We have an overnight retreat at the beginning of the year so we can get to know other student leaders from student-led organizations throughout the PSU community, and build a network of community leaders. We plan and participate in large national service day projects and serve as coordinators for Portland State of Mind Day of Service, the Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service, and the Earth Day of Service. We also lead the Alternative Spring Break trips each year. This year we had a group work in organizations that feed the hungry in San Francisco, and another that learned about urban farming here in Oregon. I went on the San Francisco trip, and it was a transformative experience for me.
PA: How did you become involved with the SLS program?
RB: Rachel Samuelson, the program leader, came to one of my classes last school year, and was really inspiring, so I signed up for this year. I just loved the program and the experience I could gain from it.
My community partner this term is the Portland Student Food Pantry. I learned about the pantry through a Capstone class that I took on campus food security last summer. There are a lot of issues surrounding students and food security that go unnoticed. It breaks my heart, and it is something I am really passionate about. I’ve volunteered at the Oregon Food Bank and other hunger relief organizations in the past, so this was a chance to use my passion to help fellow students.
PA: Why is this program important to you?
RB: This program not only feeds my passion for community engagement and helps me to get job experience in the field I am interested in, but it also raises the spirit of public service to the next level. For me, it serves as a connection between doing things for the community and self engagement and learning.
PA: Why did you choose to study at PSU?
RB: I always knew I wanted to study in a field that had a service learning component. I was taking classes at PCC but hadn’t really decided what it was that I wanted to do with my life. Then, I found a degree program at PSU and it was just the right fit. I remember on my visit to the campus, sitting in the Smith Memorial Hall and looking out over the park blocks and thinking what a great place to be. I can really do this!
PSU student service leaders will be involved in many projects on campus for Earth Day! Check out the schedule of activities here. Interested in becoming a student service leader for 2016-2017? Apply here. Applications are due May 4th!