Citizens of the Future
Through public and community service placements and activities, CPCS does its part to make the City of Syracuse a good place to live, yet its most enduring legacy may be the lasting effect it has on the students who pass through its doors. Melissa Thibodeau says her community service experience at SU has reinforced her desire to be a teacher, and next year she plans to be part of the Teach For America program in the rural South. Michael Caldwell hopes to integrate his service learning experiences into a career as a documentary filmmaker. As a higher-education professional, Liz Occhino plans to work with service learning programs, even though she never thought her career would go in that direction. Kenisha Bonner may put her plans to attend law school on hold to spend two years teaching children in an inner-city school as part of the Teach For America program and someday hopes to influence education policy at the national level. And Jeff Dennis believes that he, more than anyone else, has benefited from the time he’s invested in community service.
CPCS students and staff say they discover every day just how powerful a learning tool community service can be if it is well-integrated into the curriculum and woven into the fabric of campus life. It allows young minds to view the world from different perspectives, encourages debate and collaboration, and helps young people become active citizens through personal involvement. “It’s gratifying to know we’re helping to educate the citizens of the future,” Heintz says. “Students come back years later to thank us for changing their lives for the better.”
One such student is Ben Ropke, a 1999 graduate of the L.C. Smith College of Engineering and Computer Science. During his student days, Ropke set up the CPCS community organization database and managed the Student Volunteer Organization. Fresh out of school, he headed to New York City to work in the information management leadership-training program at NBC. After a year and a half in the corporate world, Ropke realized that for him there had to be more to life than financial gain and career success. In fact, he recently called Heintz to tell her he’s exploring ways to combine his technology and media skills with an educational focus. “Through my community service experiences at SU, I was exposed to people who are passionate about what they do because they know they’re making a difference in other people’s lives,” he says. “No matter what career path I choose, I believe it’s my responsibility to have a positive impact on the community around me. I’ll always be grateful to the CPCS staff for guiding me toward a more fulfilling life.”
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