I became involved with the Center for Civic Engagement at the end of my first year at St. Lawrence. Looking for a way to become more involved in the community, I applied to live in the Community-Based Learning (CBL) suite with three other girls. Community-based learning at St. Lawrence “combines civic engagement with academic instruction,” as a way to further understand and synthesize knowledge acquired in the classroom. As part of the requirements for the CBL suite, we were required to completed 40 hours at a community placement of our choice. We also had to take Introduction to CBL, a class where we learned theories of community-based learning and applied them to our experiences in the community.
My specific placement was at Akwesasne, the St. Regis Mohawk Reservation, where I was assigned to design, organize and implement a reading program for pre-teen students, later named Branching Out With Books. Having lived my whole life in Connecticut, I had no knowledge of the reservation, other than what my St. Lawrence roommate, a member of the tribe, had told me. I looked forward to meeting the community and experiencing the unique culture while working with youth on the reservation.
Branching Out With Books was designed to make reading and learning fun as a means to promote lifelong learning and engagement. Weekly activities include group reading, literacy games and arts and crafts projects. Through developing the program, I worked closely with many community members and organizations on the reservation.
Three years after initially developing the program, I then got to oversee SLU students working in the program. I always looked forward to driving up to the Reservation every week to interact with the children at the St. Regis Mohawk School and can’t articulate how much my experiences have shaped my opinions and point of view.
More than that, my work with community-based learning has allowed me to develop a relationship with the greater North Country community in a way I otherwise would not have been able to experience. St. Lawrence offers endless opportunities to students right on campus, but some of my favorite experiences have come from opportunities offered off campus. As I complete my last semester at SLU, I am thankful that I have gotten the chance to learn from the community that St. Lawrence is a part of.