CPS summer fellowships engage Gettysburg students in community development

By Annika Jensen, Editor-in-Chief


The Center for Public Service provided 11 Gettysburg College students with fellowships to spend this past summer engaging in community action and development in Kenya, Nepal, Nicaragua, and Gettysburg. Cassie Scheiber ‘17, Chentese Stewart ‘18, Aubrey Gedeon ‘17, May Chou ‘18, Emiline Jacobs ‘18, Aiden Egglin ‘17, Ivy Torres ‘18, Jade Kling ‘17, Nathan Kumar ‘17, Cameron Stewart ‘18, and Alyra Parker ‘18 were given the opportunity to work with different organizations on solving social issues and contributing to community development. Jeff Rioux, associate director of CPS, said that the fellowships “empower students to want to be active citizens in their communities.”

CPS has been providing students with summer fellowships for ten years, a result of a generous contribution from alumnus James Heston ‘70. Rioux said, “Heston approached us and said, ‘I don’t want to fund things you’re already doing. I want you to dream: what would you do if you had a sum of money and could do something new?’” This provided a service and learning opportunity for students who wanted to travel abroad and participate in community development-based internships but did not have the money or resources.

“One of the things that students learn, it seems, is that as much as they think they might be ready to contribute to community development, they realize they have a whole lot more to learn,” said Rioux. “I think that attitude comes back to Gettysburg; it helps their work at CPS. It helps them be more engaged community members, listening to the people around them and learning from them.”

One student, Nathan Kumar, spent his summer in Gettysburg working on issues of food access and immigration with Migrant Education, the Adams County Farmer’s Market, and the South Central Community Action Program. Kumar taught English to immigrants from Myanmar, Syria, Mexico, and Cambodia while gaining problem-solving skills. The political science major said, “This exposure to often unseen and unheard of community members helped me to think about how some of the theories and policies I learn about in class would work in practice.”

The Gettysburg program in particular allows students to see the overlap of social issues in the community and how different organizations work together to solve them.

Kumar’s summer experience made him realize the importance of language and communication: “They were always so eager and happy to learn. Even though I was only able to spend a few hours a day with them, they always seemed to appreciate the effort I was putting in and the fact that someone was helping them learn English. It made me realize how much I take speaking English for granted.”

Kumar hopes to continue his service in Adams County by continuing to help out at the Farmer’s Market, the ESL program, and various circles. “Past Gettysburg,” he stated, “I’m looking to spread the idea that direct and extended exposure with underprivileged and historically marginalized groups is a necessary prerequisite before passing legislation of policies that affect said people.”

The summer fellowship had a powerful takeaway for Kumar, particularly as he learned about Adams County’s considerable migrant population and poverty rate. “I hope to be more mindful of the groups that are not seen or heard from,” he said. “It’s easy to think of Gettysburg College as a bubble rather than part of the whole Gettysburg community.” However, Kumar hopes to prove to the community that Gettysburg College cares: “The college and its students do strive to help and learn about more than just themselves.”

The best reason to do the fellowship, Rioux said, is to meet new and extraordinary people, “people who are motivated to be engaged members of their community, who are involved in social change in ways that we admire and our students learn a lot from. You’re going to meet amazing people, and your life will be changed.”

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