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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

Profiles in Service

Gretchen Matt

Syracuse, New York

Gretchen Matt
Graduation Year: 2011
Majors: Biology and Environmental Studies
Minor: German
What types of service/volunteer activities are/were you involved with at Eckerd?

Throughout my Eckerd education, I participated in 3 spring break service trips. My sophomore year I went to Berlin, Germany, to volunteer at an after school islamic organization. During my junior year, I traveled to La Danta, Nicaragua, to volunteer at a local village. I felt so inspired by the opportunity that I led a trip back to La Danta my senior year.

I was also the Co-President of Eckerd's Coalition for Community Justice lub. The on-campus club focused on creating bonds between Eckerd students and maintenance workers. One highlight from my senior year was the creation of the Student-Worker Partnership Center, an opportunity for Eckerd students to volunteer to help teach Eckerd maintenance and grounds crews during their lunch breaks.

In what ways did your service experience change you or cause a transformation in your thinking, values or degree/career choice?

The culmination of service that I performed definitely changed my future. Originally I planned to become a biologist, however my extra-curriculars made me want to pursue a future in non-profit work. Throughout the four years at Eckerd, I became very aware that my career would involve environmental and social justice. I owe a lot of this growth to the Service Learning Office.

Please describe your most significant or important service experience while at Eckerd.

My most influential experience at Eckerd was leading a trip to La Danta, Nicaragua. I felt a genuine tie to the community, even though there were serious geographic and language barriers. The community taught me to value ties between friends and neighbors.

If you are a graduate, what sort of service do you now do?

I am an assistant instructor at Cal-Wood education center in Jamestown, Colorado. It is a non-profit that focuses on educating middle schoolers on the environment. One great highlight is that we offer scholarships to schools that cannot afford to visit otherwise. It is great to introduce students to the outdoors. I love working and playing outside all day, while still making a difference with our youth!

Service and justice are two topics that can generate stimulating thought and discussion. Describe a time, event or interaction that really engaged your thoughts on service and justice.

While studying abroad in Cape Town, South Africa, I found myself with a lot of free time. I decided to volunteer with an organization called CHOSA - Children Of South Africa. I volunteered as an after school teacher for South African youth in a township foster home. I did not realize at the time how much the volunteer experience would mean to me. The complex history of Apartheid, importance of education, and need to stimulate young minds became very apparent. Looking back at the study abroad experience, this opportunity has given me so much more experience and depth with the combination of service and justice.

What advice would you give to other current or entering Eckerd students about participating in service?

Become as active outside your school work as you possibly can. Utilize studying abroad, participating in service trips, joining or running a campus club, and all the other unique opportunities that make Eckerd amazing.

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.