Quick Contact

Ronald Porter
Director of Service-Learning

Eckerd College
Office of Service-Learning
4200 54th Avenue South
St. Petersburg, FL 33711


toll-free: 800-456-9009
local: 727-864-7512


Service Learning

Randy Browne '06

History major

Randy Browne 

When I was a student at Eckerd, getting involved with service-learning early on was one of the most important decisions I made. Although I learned a lot from the classes I took, most of what I consider my "real" education came from the things I saw and experienced outside of the classroom. In fact, it is hard to imagine what my college experience would have been like if I had not forced myself to get off campus, beyond the studying and partying, and see homelessness, gentrification, racism, and poverty firsthand. Service work with Eckerd students and faculty took me many places--from San Francisco's gritty Tenderloin to the impoverished streets of Havana and dicey Panamanian ghettos--and reinforced my conviction that college students have an obligation to use their talents not in their own self-interest but instead to serve others in a world where those unfortunate enough to be born into poverty have little hope of escaping their plight. If the world that Eckerd students have inherited includes relaxing on St. Pete Beach, partying in Ybor City, and shopping at the International Mall, it should also include feeding the homeless in downtown St. Pete with ECHO (Eckerd College Homeless Outreach), tutoring students at area schools, and building homes with Habitat for Humanity. The world can be a nasty place, but at Eckerd there are countless ways to get involved in the struggle to make it more just.

Although there was--and continues to be--no shortage of local problems that need to be addressed, some of the most rewarding service projects I participated in while at Eckerd took me far from St. Pete. International service allowed me to travel with a purpose, instead of being just another American tourist looking for the next "exotic" destination, and I was fortunate enough to serve in Cuba, Panama, and the Dominican Republic, among other places. One of the most rewarding service trips I went on, though, was a trip I took to Ecuador in 2007, a year after I graduated. I had been working for the Office of Service-Learning as an AmeriCorps volunteer--mainly because I wanted to spend a year in service work before beginning graduate school--and organized an alternative spring break service trip to do construction work on a community school in a small town in the Andes, where some children had to walk several hours just to get to school. Although the service project itself was itself immensely rewarding, what I remember most was the joy of planning the trip and getting other people involved in service, some of them for the first time. Looking back on it, much of the ethos of Eckerd, whether it be in the classroom or among service clubs or in student-faculty relationships, involves working cooperatively and motivating others to take action for something that they are passionate about. I got involved in service in large part because other students and my professors supported me and showed me how I could turn my frustration with social injustice and knowledge gained in the classroom into a productive struggle to make the world more just.

Service at Eckerd taught me that a life spent in academia doesn't have to be just an intellectual pursuit, that the knowledge one gains through scholarship can and should be applied to real-world problems. I am currently pursuing a Ph.D in History, and eagerly await the opportunity to incorporate service-learning into the classes that I will one day be responsible for teaching. If I can make the same impact on my students' lives as my professors at Eckerd had on mine, I will be satisfied.

Calls for Participation

Academy Prep

Volunteer with Academy Prep

Academy Prep is a unique private middle school program serving 5th through 8th grade students in a low-income area. Students must qualify for need-based scholarships to attend and must have a desire to succeed in a rigorous academic environment. Academy Prep works with students to prepare them for higher education, maintaining relationships with graduates through high school, college, and into their adult lives.

YMCA Reads

Volunteer Mentors Needed

YMCA Reads! is an after-school reading assistance and mentoring program providing opportunities for at-risk and low-income children in kindergarten through third grade to develop the reading skills they need to succeed in school.

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.