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Ronald Porter
Acting Director of Service Learning

Eckerd College
4200 54th Avenue South
St. Petersburg, FL 33711

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Service Learning

Service Learning

Dan Niebler '05

Marine Science major

Dan Niebler 

I have always felt that giving back to the communities that support you is a very important, and so throughout my time at Eckerd College I tried to get involved in many different service projects. I worked on several small projects through the service ministries department, most of which were at local community centers like Creative Clay, some of the national parks in the area, and school programs offering first rate education to underprivileged kids. These small projects helped me to really get to know the local area and understand what kinds of problems the city of Saint Petersburg was plagued with, and how every single person can help. Later in my college years I helped facilitate some of these projects, and started looking abroad at the problems faced by people of other nations and cultures. I traveled on service trips to Cuba and Puerto Rico with Eckerd, and to a number of other places for academic studies. It was through these travels that I learned that people from all backgrounds share so many of the same problems, and started to think about how I could give back to the world at large after college.

After Eckerd I immediately joined the United States Peace Corps, and was stationed in the tiny West African country The Gambia to work in the Health and Community Development Sector. After a brief training I was thrown into an environment completely new to me with the instructions to help out... however I could. Service overseas can be much more daunting than the small outings we are used to in America. There are no more well structured and pre-planned days spent at the nursing home or school, but instead a constant barrage of need and hardships, and very little guidance on how to do anything to help those around you. It can seem overwhelming, and often did, until I learned that to start helping those around me, I first had to ask for help from them. I spent two years in The Gambia, learning about the culture, working along side the people I lived with, and sharing in the everyday joys and pains of life in a third world nation. I was also able to teach them a lot about Western culture, and my own country in return. Eventually, as friendships formed and bonds were made, I was able to start suggesting new ideas, giving demonstrations on proper hygiene and health practices, and assist people when they did not know where to turn to for medical help. By meeting new people and listening to what they wanted, instead of assuming that I already knew and just forcing my ideas on them, I was able to help many Gambians start up business projects and begin bringing in some income. All of this was made possible by our mutual openness and willingness to communicate and work together, across cultural boundaries.

I completed my two years overseas recently and everyday I miss the friendships I made and the experiences I had. I am now looking for a new job in the service sector, and would recommend jobs like this to anyone, because no matter how much you give to others while serving, you always wind up getting more back.

Notes from the Field

Servant Leaders blog
Service-Learning Interns blog
The service-learning student interns are increasing service involvement at Eckerd, becoming successful service leaders and helping students create a community around the values and challenges of servant-leadership.

Service Learning Profiles

Alumni Profiles

Read individual profiles of how involvement with Eckerd Service Learning changed the lives of current students and alumni.  Learn more.