Senior psychology major Russell Teagarden had the opportunity to participate in two service-learning projects with the Mount Washington Community Development Corporation (CDC), including two cleanups at Grandview Park and a senior citizen interview project. Although very different, both projects gave Russell the chance to help a local community in a unique way. “There are a lot of different things you can do with service-learning…. Projects [like the Mount Washington CDC projects] are excellent ways to get involved without doing ‘typical’ volunteer work.”
For the cleanup project, Russell and his classmates worked to clean Grandview Park. At the first cleanup, the students pulled more than twenty tires out of the park. “One of the nicest things about service-learning is, there are so many problems in the world that have so many complicated, intricate parts. Doing something like the cleanups, you go in and use your body and see the results of your work instantly—you can see what you’ve accomplished.”
Russell also took part in the psychology department’s senior citizen interview project, where students talked to senior citizens who have lived their entire lives on Mount Washington in order to obtain oral histories about an era in Mount Washington’s past that the CDC knows little about.
A LASTING EFFECT
For Russell, the project gave him a good applied approach to real-world work, and is something that will make him more marketable when he looks for jobs after graduation. “Service-learning gives young people a more positive outlook about what they can do in the future.”
The CDC will use the transcribed interviews to learn the history of Mount Washington, as they are struggling to learn how the area has changed over the past century.
“Service-learning reminds you that, in a world as discouraging as ours can be, one person can actually make a difference, whether it’s big or small.”
Through the interview project, Duquesne students are helping the CDC learn about the green spaces, parks, and landmarks that may not be there anymore, but were part of the seniors’ childhoods and lives. For seniors, Russell believes the project will be nice for their children and grandchildren. “…history, or at least part of it, will be preserved.”
Ultimately, Russell hopes his work with the CDC and service-learning will help the community, even if in a small way. “We look at politics and social issues on a macro-level, rather than a micro one—so much of what affects us occurs on a micro-level, in our neighborhoods and communities…. Local issues are the issues that will have an immediate impact on our communities.” Service-learning taught him the importance of being involved locally, and he’s already contacted the CDC to volunteer to work with them after his service-learning project ends. “Service-learning teaches people that even when the class is over, they can still go out in the community and help.”