For college students, the summer months are a great time for volunteering, gaining invaluable experience in their fields of interest without having to worry about their class schedule getting in the way. Child study majors especially have plenty of opportunities to get involved and work with elementary-aged children in a variety of settings.
“Volunteering gives our teacher candidates the opportunity to put into practice what they are learning in their courses,” said S. Mary Ann Cashin, C.S.J., assistant professor of child study. “As they spend time with children in this way, they are seeing their curiosity at work, as well as their creativity and wonder. Their service is invaluable, and it takes them out into the community.”
This summer, SJC Long Island child study majors are volunteering their time at the Teen Center at the Patchogue-Medford Carnegie Library and at the Sisters of St. Joseph Garden Ministry in Brentwood.
Working with English Language Learners in the Library
SJC Long Island juniors Yicel Moreno and Melissa Modena were excited when they learned about the opportunity to work with English Language Learner (ELL) children at the Patchogue-Medford Carnegie Library.
“I love children, and I love to help people, especially when there is a language barrier,” said Moreno, an East Patchogue native who grew up speaking English and Spanish. “When I learned the program was for the children of parents learning to speak English, I wanted to volunteer my help.”
Moreno and Modena organize, plan and oversee various indoor and outdoor activities, keeping the kids aged 5-15 entertained while their parents participate in an ELL workshop at the library.
“Being that this program is not in a classroom, like our placements, I’ve gained more insight on children of their age,” Moreno, 20, said.
The program runs from the beginning of July to the end of August.
Gaining Experience at the Garden Ministry
At the Sisters of St. Joseph Garden Ministry, children play outside and connect with nature during two playgroups: “My Grown-Up and Me in the Big Outdoors” for kids aged 1-4 and “Hands-On Earth” for kids 5-12.
“It is one thing to learn about child development, and it is another thing to physically see how a child develops in the real world,” said sophomore Brionna Silva. “I knew that going into this program, not only would I see children explore and interact with their environment, but I would be able to help them discover things they may have never discovered before.”
Throughout the summer, Silva and two SJC Long Island alumni volunteers encourage the children to explore nature by watering flowers, picking vegetables, making mud pies and blowing bubbles. Children also interact with the animals at the Garden Ministry, which includes goats, rabbits and chickens.
“One of the many things I love about this program is that it is so diverse,” Silva of Copiague said. “I have had the opportunity to work with children of various ages and different backgrounds, and even some of the residents from the Maria Regina Nursing Home.”
The program, managed by St. Joseph’s alumna Heather Ganz ’06, runs on Wednesday mornings from July 3 to July 31.
“Heather, S. Mary Ann Cashin, the other volunteers and of course the children have made this experience one that I will never forget,” Silva, 19, said. “Everyone is so positive, and it has been awesome seeing the regulars keep coming back because they love the program. I have definitely learned a lot from working with these children.”
This summer, the program has more than 40 children participating. There are many familiar faces, with a lot of returning kids from previous summers — and even one returning volunteer.
“Working with children in the outdoors has opened my eyes more to the fact that kids have the wildest imagination and that they can transform something so simple into a whole new world,” said Giselle Ostorga ’18, who volunteered at the Garden in 2017.