Panelists (from left to right) Rajelin Escondo, Brittney Enin, Vi Tuong Vo, and Brittany Schmitt discuss their experiences in social work.

Students who are interested in making a difference in the world have to sift through a bewildering array of opportunities available to them here on campus. To help with this process, a panel of students who have been involved with  the LEAD Center, Peace Corps, and Public Service Center recently shared their experiences with students in Berkeley Connect Social Welfare. To begin the event, faculty director Jill Duerr Berrick asked all the students in attendance  to share a memorable event from their experiences in service. Many students recounted volunteering in educational settings others served at homeless shelters, hospitals, and sports camps. It was encouraging to hear about all the different ways Berkeley students have reached out to the community.

After the students shared their own experiences, the panelists highlighted some great opportunities for students to further apply their passions.

LEAD Center

The LEAD Center advocates leadership development and student involvement on campus. The Center provides advising for students seeking to organize, raise funds, or build leadership skills. By working for the LEAD Center, students Brittney Enin and Vi Tuong Vo learned many professional skills, including how to put together conferences and apply for grants.

Peace Corps

Graduate student Brittany Schmitt described her experience as a Peace Corps member in Burkina Faso in West Africa. The Peace Corps is a government-funded volunteer program that assists Third World and developing countries working towards resolving social and economic issues. Schmitt served in Burkina Faso as a health advocate and later returned to the States to earn her graduate degree. Inspired by her two years in the Peace Corps, she plans to work internationally upon graduation.

Public Service Center

The Public Service Center connects student leaders to faculty, community members, and alumni. The Center provides resources that help students plug into the issues that inspire and motivate them. After detailing a comprehensive list of opportunities for involvement, panelist Rajelin Escondo  recalled spending her spring break with the Alternative Breaks programs. Through this program, students enroll in a DeCal where they learn about a specific topic such as immigration, environmental justice, public health, or poverty. Then, during Winter or Spring break, they apply their education through a service trip where they explore firsthand the impact of theories they learned in class.

Escondo’s DeCal focused upon the arc of the Civil Rights Movement. For her Spring Break, she followed along the path of the Freedom Riders, recreating a movement which greatly impacted American history. Learning about the context of that important movement reminded Rosalind of the “true power of college students in enacting social change.”

Brittney Ennin mentioned another opportunity for involvement: the Public Service Internship. This  program places students in year-long work with concentrations in policy, direct service, and organizing. Ennin recounted her experience interning for the Women’s Economic Agenda Program. She encouraged students to engage in the community and take risks while still in college, comparing Berkeley to “a microcosm of the real world.”

Service creates character, leadership, and confidence in countless number of students. The Social Welfare panelists reminded Berkeley Connect students to seek out these opportunities and act upon their passions. This event did a great job of showing students how to take the first step.

posted by Gloria Choi

Berkeley Connect Communications Assistant