SRU program provides mission-critical opportunities


student government association child care center

Slippery Rock University’s Service Learning Coordinators program will introduce volunteer opportunities at the Slippery Rock Student Government Association’s Child Care Center which will include tutoring youngsters on social skills and inclusion.

Dec. 19, 2016

SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. - Inspiring students to excel as members of a caring community, connected with the world in which they live, study and work, is one of the fundamental missions of Slippery Rock University.

Program organizers note each academic year, student volunteer and community service opportunities help to address critical needs in local communities and in the process, enhance student leadership skills.

Now, with an eye on the ever increasing needs of surrounding communities, SRU has rebranded its former Center for Student Involvement and Leadership Volunteer Corps as the Service Leadership Coordinators program.

Jeffrey Rathlef, director of service learning and community service, and Laura Villers, coordinator for community service and service learning, lead the program.

According to Rathlef, the SLC's mission is three-fold:

  • Connecting people and issues;
  • Transforming knowledge and awareness; and
  • Inspiring civic action

"Every project and program proposal is now assessed on its ability to foster those three things," said Rathlef. "It places more equal weight to both service and learning outcomes, which moves our programming approach toward more of a service-learning orientation."

Rathlef said the rebranding reflects a robust, pluralistic approach as the "life thread of what we do." The program pushes students to consider why it is educational for them - and helpful to others - to serve. It also enhances the integration of efforts within the Center for Service, Involvement and Leadership by helping students understand how service and leadership enhance one another.

"While the provision of volunteer experiences for the campus will remain at the heart of the SLC function, greater emphasis is now placed on making volunteer experiences more developed, intentional and higher impact for student leaders who design them, volunteer participants and community-based agencies with whom we partner," said Rathlef.

"Community service programs and projects that have a focus, sense of purpose, connect people and issues, incorporate reflective learning and inspire more involvement among students serve everyone involved," Rathlef said. "They have deeper impact for students and for communities with whom we engage.

"The more we deepen the quality of our programming, the more we deepen its impact and potential for change - changing not only our students, but the communities they will live in, engage with and serve in their futures."

Villers said SLC will introduce two new programs in spring 2017 that illustrate the long-term model for involvement: "Dream Chasers," which will be staged at Trinity Living Center in Grove City; and a partnership with the Slippery Rock Student Government Association's Child Care Center.

Dream Chaser volunteers will meet with nursing home residents to capture their life stories through journaling or video. Those "biographies" will then be presented to the resident's family members as a memento.

Students will also assist residents in creating applications for the Make-A-Wish Foundation's Senior Dreams program. Senior Dreams provides funding to help those living in nursing homes achieve a wish, such as going on a fishing trip, traveling to visit with family, having a meal at a favorite restaurant or attending a sporting event.

University students working at the SGA's Child Care Center will tutor youngsters on social skills such as proper communication with peers and adults; self-control and sharing; and "what it means to be a member of a community," including: acceptance of others' backgrounds, experiences and viewpoints and modeling appropriate social cues.

"We are expanding our portfolio of programs to bolster student experience and learning," Villers said. "We want students to benefit the community by really building relationships through meaningful connections."

Ahn Quan, a sophomore healthcare management major from Vietnam and SLC volunteer, became involved in community outreach as soon as he arrived in Slippery Rock.

"I feel that being a volunteer will help to provide me with the opportunity to step up and be a leader for future community activities and service learning programs," he said. "With the help from the SLC staff, I feel a lot more confident and motivated in my roles and am gaining a lot of experience."

For more information on the SLC, contact Rathlef at: 724.738.4764.

MEDIA CONTACT: Gordon Ovenshine | 724.738.4854 |