Outside the Classroom: Civic Engagement and Extra-Curriculars


So now that you have been welcomed and maybe even met me, I decided to get started by talking about civic engagement in the form you are already probably most familiar with: through extracurriculars.

I don’t think I could have fully appreciated the difference between high school and college before starting my first year at Wesleyan. The two biggest differences that struck me went hand in hand: time and freedom.

In most high schools, you are there from 7 a.m. until 2 p.m. every day, taking seven classes a day. Even typing that sentence makes me cringe…

But now, you are in college! You have the freedom to schedule your classes! A full courseload is four courses per semester! And you are now in a place without a curfew and almost around-the-clock activities! You now have the opportunity to get involved in organizations that you might not have had access to in high school.

The Office of Community Service (OCS) is a hub of student group activity related to civic engagement. If you are interested in education, you can tutor or mentor through WesReads/WesMath,the North End Mentor program, or one of several other education-centered programs. Those interested in inequalities in the prison-industrial complex can volunteer through the Center for Prison Education. Passionate about sexual health? Volunteer with AIDS and Sexual Health Association (ASHA) to teach high school students sex education or promote sex education on Wesleyan’s campus. You will see these groups and many more at both the Civic Engagement Fair and the Student Activities Fair, so stop by and learn more about these incredible programs! Or, if you are just too eager to wait, click for more information including a full list of our programs.

Those who are struggling to make the decision as to whether to spend time working on campus or volunteering have the opportunity to do either through the Office of Community Service. Several of our programs offer a select number of positions for those who are work-study eligible. At OCS, we are committed to getting students across socioeconomic and personal backgrounds to get involved in Middletown. For a list of work-study positions, click here.

You will also find that college can open you up to an entirely new form of civic engagement, and this can be facilitated by the Patricelli Center for Social Entrepreneurship (PCSE). I know that when I was in high school, I knew nothing about social entrepreneurship. In the recent years, businesses that are committed to social good have been growing more popular. Through the PCSE, you can take advantage of workshops on subjects such as crowdsourcing, grant writing, fundraising, and more. The PCSE also offers several different types of grants to help support students who are interested in working or building their skills in the social change sector.

So I encourage all of you to think about getting involved with volunteering or workshops during your time at Wesleyan. Whether you are looking for a way to escape the infamous “Wesleyan bubble,” want to extend your in-class studies to real-life application, or if you just are curious, you have nothing to lose by getting involved. Remember that not only can these opportunities help you gain direction in what you might want to do after Wesleyan, but the skills you can gain can even help you land a paid position in the future! But more on that soon…

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Jelisa Adair

I am the Civic Engagement Fellow for 2013-2014. While a student at Wesleyan I double majored in Psychology and Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies and completed a joint thesis during my senior year. I am interested in issues of social justice, mental health, media, and global welfare.