Wilkes trains leaders through annual service positions

Phat Nguyen, News Editor

Senior English major Jason Neare is looking at programs with the Duke Talent Identification Program where he would be in charge of teaching talented high school graduates upon graduation.

He is also considering doing a writing program with Duke in New Mexico about politics and law in China.

This is all possible because he was one of the Wilkes scholars selected for the Scholars in Service to Pennsylvania program.

Wilkes University is partnering with AmeriCorps for the sixth consecutive year.

The school has been awarded 10 part-time AmeriCorps positions.

The program is centered on the student’s personal interests allowing them to coordinate and plan their own service event said Megan Boone Valkenburg, the civic engagement and community service coordinator.

AmeriCorps, a program of the Corporation for National and Community Service, a federal agency, supports more than 50,000 people each year who make significant service commitments.

Students will then plan and complete 300 hours of service in one year with an educational stipend of $1175 from the Corporation for National and Community Service.

They also receive leadership training and help recruit additional volunteers.

Boone believes this will enable the school to work closely with nonprofit agencies in very meaningful ways.

“We have been able to pilot a community-centered research project with the Victims Resource Center through the hard work and dedication of our Scholars in Service to Pennsylvania students,” Boone said. “This research will help inform educational and preventative programs on our campus.”

Boone will be recruiting students for next year’s program from now through the end of the spring semester. She is looking for students with outstanding leadership qualities and will have trouble narrowing down to just ten people.

“It is hard,” Boone said with a smile

While there is an application process with essays and recommendations required, the competition will bring out the best in her scholars, she said.

Neare, a current scholar, knew that he wanted to become a leader in the community and quickly took interest in helping people.

Some of the events on campus that he has been a part of include the Orange Ribbon Campaign for Domestic Violence Awareness Month and the Root Beer Social, which was a water pong tournament to raise awareness of the use of narcotics/alcohol as a means of committing rape.

Students were provided with the statistics of date rape drugs during parties.

“The purpose of the projects are to raise awareness of the ways in which students live to make sure that they are safe outside of the classroom,” Neare said. “SISPA allows students to do these tasks in order to break through the barrier of reaching the college community through peer advocacy.”

These events lead to the Victim’s Rights Rally, Take Back the Night, which is when Wilkes University and King’s College recruit people to join an organized walk in support of stopping domestic violence/rape, Neare said.

Neare was able to apply his English background to Domestic Violence Service Center workshops by providing the women with an outlet to work on resumes, cover letters and creative writing.

“One of the most rewarding experiences of my time here at Wilkes was when one woman worked on a resume in the workshop,” Neare said. “Two weeks later, the DVSC notified us and said that the same woman was able to attain the school job she wanted, purchase her own home and regain a custody fight for her children.”

Neare was able to use his education to provide another individual with a better quality of living, thus fulfilling the SISPA goal.

Many of these SISPA scholars, such as Neare, have had leadership opportunities in the past,  been involved with extracurriculars such as English honors society and are very good at communicating, Boone said.

“My kids are not afraid to ask why and how to get more involved. They’re also not afraid to talk to other students,” Boone said.

A lot of her past scholars are still at Wilkes as student teachers or working in nonprofit organizations.

Boone also encourages students to reapply, as they can be a scholar up to four times as long as they meet criteria.

“When people see that you can give yourself up to help other people, think creatively and work with diverse people, it really makes you stand out,” Boone said.

“It shows that you are able to see projects through a long period of time which employers are looking for.”

Lisa Mulvey, career services and development coordinator, said professional volunteer experience always looks really good on a resume.

“AmeriCorps is such a well-known, prestigious program,” Mulvey said.

“To get accepted into a program like that is definitely going to catch onto employers especially if you can relate it to your major.”

For more information, contact Megan Boone at [email protected].