Written by Marissa Watkins, CEP Peer Mentor and Program Assistant
Pictured above: Shelby Fundin, Katy Davis, Michele Kinama, Marissa Watkins, Liza Ashley, Amy Stahl, and Vishal Makhijani
In February, five student leaders from the Northeastern Center of Community Service travelled to St. Louis, MO to present and attend the 2017 IMPACT Conference. The group consisted of Marissa Watkins, a peer mentor for the Civic Engagement Program and a program assistant in CCS; Liza Ashley, a service-learning teaching assistant, team manager, street team member, and former co-op; Katy Davis, a service-learning teaching assistant and team manager; Shelby Fundin, a coordinator for Alternative Spring Breaks, and Michele Kinama, a corps member, team leader, and program assistant for Jumpstart.
The IMPACT Conference is a gathering of primarily college students, but also faculty, service members, and nonprofit staff passionate about civic engagement and community service. The 33rd conference was hosted by Washington University in St. Louis. This year, race, refugees, and political activism were of primary focus throughout many of the sessions. To emphasize these issues, Congressman Richard A. Gephardt served as the keynote speakOer. Mr. Gephardt served in the US House of Representatives for 28 years and has demonstrated his commitment to engaging students in civics through creating the Gephardt Institute for Civic and Community Engagement at WashU. Students from colleges around the country also spoke about their work in these important and timely areas.
As a group, we were excited to attend sessions by Oxfam on ‘Standing Up for Refugees’ and a session called ‘Beyond the Ballot’ by fellow Northeastern attendees with Generation Citizen, Amy Stahl and Vishal Makhijani. With representatives from four major programs in CCS, we led a session titled ‘One Week to Five Years: Leaving a Positive Impact’ that focused on how volunteers can make an impact on a community within different time frames. We provided an overview of Northeastern’s unique approach to experiential learning through both co-op and a robust Center of Community Service. Our session also discussed pre-volunteer activities, such as how to respectfully enter a community; and concluded with ways that students can stay involved after returning from an Alternative Spring Break trip, completing a service-learning course, or graduating from the Civic Engagement Program.
Throughout the conference we received many questions and interest in Northeastern’s programs and have kept in touch with other universities to share ideas. In particular, the conference was eye opening regarding the approach to community service and civic engagement taken by other universities. There was a wide array of colleges represented and their students proved that size of college is not as important as passion. Kansas University, although a larger college, has only a student led center of community service with little funding and no full time staff, but the students run 12 volunteer programs. John Carroll University, a small school in Ohio, has a robust program with multiple staff members and student leaders dedicated to helping students volunteer around Cleveland. It was a privilege to attend this conference and represent Northeastern among hundreds of the most civically active and dedicated university students.