June 14, 2011

Spotlight on Service-Learning: the City College-InteRDom Experience

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The agenda is finalized and the team is set for InteRDom and City College to debut its first-ever specialized service-learning initiative in the Dominican Republic.  The group of students from City College arrived in Santo Domingo on Saturday, June 11th and immediately began an intense immersion experience, participating in orientation activities to get to know the country, the culture, the language and their host organizations.  From the very beginning they have been expected to act in unison as a team unit: living together and dividing household responsibilities, taking twice-weekly seminars on Caribbean Culture and Identity and working together to define their specific roles in the service-learning project and how they will collaborate with one another.

Service-Learning is a teaching and learning strategy that integrates meaningful community service with instruction and reflection to enrich the learning experience, teach civic responsibility, and strengthen communities (taken from National Service-Learning Clearinghouse, http://www.servicelearning.org/what-is-service-learning).  As an educational concept with an international focus, it has received much attention in recent years, as universities are opting to concentrate on short-term international programs with a community service component for groups of students, as opposed to long-term individual experiences abroad.  City College is no exception, but the program developed through InteRDom this summer is finely-tuned and highly-specialized, taking service-learning to another level.

The project will be conducted in collaboration with Yspaniola, an organization that seeks to empower marginalized batey communities of Dominicans and Haitians through leadership training and community development and the provision of university scholarships.  Yspaniola concentrates many of its projects in a batey community in the north-central part of the Dominican Republic called Batey Libertad, about 45 minutes from the Dominican Republic’s second-largest city and cultural capital, Santiago.  In Batey Libertad, each student will put his or her skill set and interests to use, each taking on a different role in the economic development project that will empower the women of the community to produce, market and sell a product that will contribute to their incomes and help to raise their standards of living.

Students will also participate in other community-building activities as needed, including painting latrines, teaching technology and English skills and conducting leadership workshops.
The objectives of the program, as delineated by InteRDom and City College are threefold: first, to generate interest amongst minority students, specifically those of the Dominican Diaspora and of African-American and Caribbean-American descent, to study abroad and participate in activities with a social impact; second, to give students a more international perspective by developing programs abroad; and third, to bring out and develop students’ particular abilities as they contribute to their career development.

The internship program, InteRDom, an initiative of Global Foundation for Democracy and Development (GFDD) and Fundación Global Democracia y Desarrollo (FUNGLODE), is the premier internship, research and academic study program in the Dominican Republic. It offers international students the opportunity to research important topics at the forefront of the United Nations agenda, obtain professional experience by interning with Dominican organizations and businesses related to their fields of study and/or earn academic credits by taking courses and seminars at a local university.

Read more about service learning in Batey Libertad through Yspaniola in our blog