By Michael Bernaschina, Staff Writer
After the winter break, Susquehanna will be starting the SU Service Leaders Program for freshmen who expressed interest in doing service work.
The program, which was started after a university donor donated $7.1 million toward it earlier this year, targets incoming freshmen who had a history of service work on their application. If the students enter the program, they’re then matched with a partner to work with in the local community.
“You apply to be part of the program, and you’re part of it all four years you’re at Susquehanna,” said Sarah Farbo, Assistant Director of Service Leaders and Career Development in the Career Development Center.
She continued, “And the goal is to hone and strengthen your leadership skills through partnering with a community partner who focuses on youth development.”
Before the program officially begins, the students meet twice a month to train, and prepare for the work they’ll be doing with their respective community partners. What that work will end up being depends on the partner.
During the winter break, the students will attend a week long service trip in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, where they’ll go through various programs to prepare them for their service work.
Thirteen potential community partners applied for the program and four were accepted, those four being the Regional Engagement Center, the Lewisburg Children’s Museum, the Greater Susquehanna Valley United Way, and the Union Snyder Community Action Agency in partnership with the Central Susquehanna Valley Mediation.
The students are matched with a community partner based on what the partners are looking for and what the students wish to focus on.
At the beginning of the semester, they sit down with a supervisor from the community partner’s site and set up a learning agreement.
Once a student has been matched, they are expected to continue working with the service partner, that they were matched with in the recruitment process, for all four years of their Susquehanna experience.
Students are required to work between six and eight hours a week with their service partners, and will keep track of their hours with weekly time sheets.
“The first year they might be focusing on going to the site and observing, maybe doing some hands-on, direct service,” Farbo said. “Second year they might be evaluating programs. Third year they might be creating new programs. Fourth year they might be a program coordinator on site.”
“The whole idea is that students will grow throughout the years,” Farbo added.
As a way to promote the program, the students who are currently signed up have been speaking at their former high schools. “I think building relationships within the community will help raise awareness and get people interested,” Farbo said.
“I’m just really excited about it, and the reception in the community and on campus has been really, really positive,” Farbo added. “So I’m really looking forward to seeing how the program grows and develops, and I’m just excited to see what happens.”
The Service Leaders are also just as excited as Farbo is. Isabella Moles and Jose Martinez Rivera, both first-years, expressed a great commitment to the program.
Moles said, “To be a Service Leader is to be innovative, generous, and community oriented.” She believes that the Susquehanna Service Leaders, or SUSLs, have learned the importance of leadership, teamwork, and the spirit of community over this semester.
Rivera also acknowledges the importance of what the program is trying to teach them. Rivera said, “So far it has been a great experience preparing for the job, and I can’t wait for next semester.”