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Service provides life lessons

11/27/2013

Spencer Moser, left, and Amanda Beckwith, right, with State Rep. Gailanne Cariddi, D-North Adams, center, at the Northern Berkshire Community Coalition Neighborlies Award Ceremony.  

Over the past five academic years, MCLA students have put in more than 90,000 hours of volunteer service that benefited not only those on campus, but the greater North Adams community.

The commitment to improving life for those around them is much bigger than a number, however. It's an integral mark of a liberal arts education as students learn they can make a difference - wherever they might live.

This month alone, through numerous canned and non-perishable food and clothing drives, volunteer service to Habitat to Humanity, work in local afterschool programs that benefit the children of North Adams, and much more, MCLA students took time out of their busy schedules to help others.

According to Amanda Beckwith '03 BS, '13 M.Ed., coordinator at MCLA's Center for Service and Citizenship and its Women's Center, it is important that students experience community service.

"It's a life lesson," she explained. "Service provides students with opportunities to learn about themselves and to understand their surroundings - not only to appreciate what they have, but to realize how they can help.

"For example, last week the Women's Center collected over 1,300 recyclable bags from local stores for use at the local Friendship Center, so people could take their food home from the food bank. It's realizing the impact they can have, even each small step."

Beckwith joined the Center for Service full-time last spring, as did Alyson Carey '13, who is a post-graduate intern working as a program assistant in the Center.

According to Spencer Moser, the Center's coordinator of service programs and activities, this increase in full-time positions is a reflection of the expanding community service programs offered at MCLA, as well as its commitment to service and engagement as part of the MCLA education experience.

"We responded to students' interest as our programs grew. These new positions support the good work that we're doing," Moser said.

Service learning and volunteering in the community, said Beckwith, complements students' scholastic experience by teaching them life skills.

"It offers them an opportunity to practice or see an effect of something they have been learning in the classroom," she explained. "For instance, if they've been doing research on hunger and homelessness and talking about it, they get to see it firsthand through this week's activities, and through volunteering, giving back and helping to solve the problem. They realize they're not going to do it all themselves, but every little bit helps."

For her work to coordinate the students' volunteer efforts, Beckwith last month was recognized by the Northern Berkshire Community Coalition for her enthusiastic programming at the Center for Service and the Women's Center.

Moser, too, was honored, for his dedication to recruiting student volunteers and encouraging them to engage in addressing community needs.

According to Beckwith, her work is "a true part of the liberal arts experience. It's giving back. It's service learning. It's a core element at MCLA."

"It empowers students.  It combines not only their traditional coursework in the classroom, but also with experiential learning in the community through the Center for Service," she continued. "It gives them a whole picture that we want our students to have when they graduate and leave MCLA."

For more information, to go www.mcla.edu/Student_Life/community/centerforservice .