Binghamton University Senior and English major, Tessa Kuster, has been engaged in the local community since she first took Professor Al Vos’s Practicum in Leadership and Community Service and Literacies of Power courses her freshman year.
Literacies of Power required each student to volunteer in a local elementary school classroom once a week. In class, Kuster mastered the art of writing a college essay and delved into a global conversation about literacy and education with her classmates.
While volunteering in a 3rd grade classroom at Thomas Jefferson Elementary School, Kuster was able to tie the theories she was learning about in class to her real-world experiences with elementary school students. Her experience at Thomas Jefferson was so memorable that she continued to volunteer there for another year. Kuster went on to serve as a TA for “Literacies of Power” as a sophomore and a junior. She says that being a TA allowed her to organize and facilitate the service-learning experience for freshman students.
“It felt really great to introduce the students to the same experience I had loved so much, and to watch them change from scared and overwhelmed to confident and secure through the course of the semester, just like I had” said Kuster.
This year, as a senior, Kuster wanted to get involved in community service again, but in a more direct way. She began volunteering in the computer room at George F. Johnson Memorial Library in Endicott as part of the Center for Civic Engagement’s “Bridging the Digital Divide Program.” At the library, Kuster was able to teach computer literacy skills to senior citizens who have never owned a computer and job-seekers who lacked knowledge about how to search for employment online.
Kuster described her experience at the library as “immensely rewarding” and said that it is the personal connection she is able to form with community members that keeps her involved and excited about community service. Kuster believes that it is important for students, especially freshmen, to become civically engaged because it forces them out of their comfort zones, teaches them how to work with people who may be very different from them, and helps to develop a sense of equality, patience, and non-judgment.
To Kuster, these lessons are important in college and beyond because they bring all types of people together for a common purpose.