SU Abroad students give back to Florence community through volunteer program
SU Abroad students give back to Florence community through volunteer programNovember 27, 2006Daeya Malboeufdmking04@syr.edu
“Not only taking, but also giving back” is the volunteer program motto developed by Syracuse University in Florence (SUF) and highlighted in an official visit by two SUF students to the Giosue’ Carducci elementary school Nov. 22, joined by U.S. Consul General Nora Dempsey and Daniela Lastri, the Florence town councilor for public education.
In the SUF Volunteer Program, students are asked to push their boundaries during their time abroad, engaging the city in a direct and novel way. Student volunteers visit elementary schools where, utilizing a didactic approach developed by Volunteer Program Coordinator Vittoria Tettamanti, they read American children’s books to Italian elementary school children during their English classes. In past semesters, the volunteer program featured Maurice Sendak’s “Where the Wild Things Are” and “Snow White” by the Brothers Grimm, while this semester the choices are Dr. Seuss’ “Green Eggs and Ham” as well as his “Foot Book.”
“The interaction of SUF students with the local community is extraordinary and unique, and with my presence I want to show my support for this wonderful initiative,” says Dempsey.
Volunteers incorporate storyboards, flash cards and role-playing (wearing black or red hats to distinguish their character roles) into their English “lessons.” “The kids really began to understand all the rhyming words — it was great,” says SUF student Natalie Virga. “They really liked when we would over-exaggerate words. I was Sam and made sure they knew I did not like the eggs in the beginning.”
The Italian school children receive an activity booklet and a certificate of participation at the end. They will be invited to participate in art and writing contests, with copies of Dr. Seuss books as prizes.
“Involvement, sharing, engaging and immersion are key words in this initiative,” says SUF Director Barbara Deimling. “With this program we would like to see our students engage the world in a very direct and even pragmatic way that is also highly rewarding for the students.”
Interest in the SUF Volunteer Program is very high, both from SUF students and participating schools. Nearly 20 percent of the students have applied to become volunteers, and 11 percent have done the workshop and gone to at least one class. On the other side, about 50 schools have applied, with 250 classes, reaching out to 5,000 Italian school children.
The SUF Volunteer Program brings together Syracuse students and Italian children in a rewarding collaboration based on cultural and linguistic exchange, at the same time furthering SUF’s goal of contributing to and enriching the host community. As Tettamanti noted: “The idea is that our students work together in order to leave something behind, to not only take from this experience but also give something back.”