A Capstone About Cats: Reflections on Our Senior Capstone

By Claire Golden and Erika Nelson

It was complete coincidence that two PSU Chronicles bloggers — Erika and Claire — ended up in the same Senior Capstone, but we wanted to reflect on our experience. This was far and away the most involved class we’d ever taken, but it was also one of the most rewarding…in large part because our work impacted the real world.

Our class was called “Grant Writing for Shelter Pets.” In a Capstone, you work directly with a community partner — in our case, a non-profit cat shelter in Vancouver, Washington called Furry Friends. We worked in groups writing grant proposals for Furry Friends (Claire worked in the group seeking medical funding for seriously ill cats, and Erika was in the group focused on building a new “kitty condo” structure.) This wasn’t just another course–it had real-world ramifications. The fate of hundreds of cats were directly influenced by our commitment to the grantwriting process–for example, these grant proposals could be the difference between Furry Friends getting funding for life-threatening medical conditions, influencing whether cats live or die. 

This course was intense! Capstones always take up a lot of time and energy. We found it’s best to plan for contingencies that could affect your stamina and focus–life happens sometimes (sometimes in ways we can never anticipate), but you can try to be prepared for things likely to happen. Remember that this class is six credits, which is basically a class-and-a-half. So it’s going to take longer than you’re used to…and it’s a 400-level course. To be safe, treat this class as two regular classes and then you’ll know how to budget enough time.

A huge part of the class involved communication, and while we’d done group work in previous classes, it was nothing to this extent. It was tricky doing distance communication; although this was an online class even before most other classes were remote, not being able to meet with the whole group in person proved challenging. We found group emails, group texts, and Google Docs to be invaluable (pro tip: make sure everyone is looking at the same Google Doc to avoid confusion). It’s essential to communicate with your groupmates, your instructor, and the community partner. It’s way better to double-check something than to miss something.

It’s important to keep in mind that since Capstones involve community service, you might be emotionally affected by the project and the community partner’s stories. Be sure to practice self-care and make use of your support network if necessary. We read stories about animal abuse that made us feel sick, but that was just more motivation to work hard.

In the end, we’re both proud of our work and happy that we made the decision to take this Capstone. We both learned so much–not only about the grantwriting process, but about collaboration, research, and harnessing empathy to do good.

What a Wonderful Year

meBy: Sharon Nellist

This upcoming year at Portland State is the one I have been waiting for.

Not only is it my last undergraduate year (hoping to stay for graduate studies!), but I am comfortably involved in various ways to ensure that quintessential college experience that I have been pining for all of my young adult life – and I am elated!

I WRITE – for the PSU Chronicles, and I love it. This is my voice and I intend to use it. I hope to flourish my opinion on controversial issues not only on campus but within my community. This is the only option for change.

I PLAY – or rather dabble in various Rec clubs from swing dancing, to Dragon Boat racing, and rowing. I am taking advantage of all that our unique urban campus has to offer like the week-long community celebration Portland State of Mind, FREE movies at the student-run 5th Avenue Cinema, and the privilege of listening to generous amounts of brilliant minds at PSU hosted events.

I SERVE – as a Student Leader for Service through the Student Community Engagement Center. Stepping a bit out my box and yearning for growth as a leader, I am a liaison between PSU and Portland Community Reinvestment Initiatives’ Healthy Food Access Program. I also am tending community gardens at low-income properties, working with residents and hosting workshops on garden eating, helping organize community service projects and getting PSU students involved! It cannot get any more GREEN or PORTLAND than this.

My only advice to all of the new students – live these years to the fullest, PSU is simply handing it to you.

Did you spend your MLK day on or off?

By: Katie Quick

Martin Luther King Jr. has been and will remain to be a heroic and influential figure in our country. He preached equality for everyone, no matter what race, ethnicity, class, or any other social, political, or economic status. Every year, the PSU Student Leaders for Services helps to coordinate the MLK Day of Service, when when about 1,000 college students from across the metro area gather to better our city in some form of service in memory of Dr. King.

This year, the theme was education, and we were assembled at David Douglas High School in outer NE Portland. From there, we met the other students from other colleges and universities and were assigned projects. My group was assigned to clean Parkrose High School, an ethnically diverse, heavily low-income school. We cleaned their gym and helped with other janitorial services to make the learning environment cleaner and encourage the students to have more respect for their school. MLK day of service

It was a rewarding experience to help a community in need of a little boost. I highly recommend to all PSU students to get involved in even one small volunteering event, whether that be packaging at the Oregon Food Bank, delivering food through Meals on Wheels, or participating in beautification efforts around the city. Even a couple of hours can make all the difference.

Taking the Initiative

Green Bracelets. Green T-shirts. Cancer banner.

I never thought I would be coordinating a cancer walk with three of my best friends and colleagues. I truly believe it when people say college opens many doors. It all started with an email two months ago from my Student Leaders of Service advisor. I have helped many times with on-campus, volunteer events, but I knew this one was different because it was outside my comfort zone. But right then and there, I snatched the opportunity to become one of the outreach coordinators. Two months later, I am sitting at an information table for the cancer walk as I post this blog.

The CureSearch Walk for Children’s Cancer will be taking place at Sellwood Riverfront Park on August 10, 2013. Our goal is not only raise the awareness for pediatric cancer, but to raise the number in attendance and support. My Community development manager, Mallory Zarate, has been advising and giving us the resources needed to reach the target markets of PSU students and the Portland community.

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Volunteer Opportunities on First Fridays

I was introduced to the student group Student Leaders for Service (SLS) through an Alternative Spring Break trip last year. SLS offers three Alternative Spring Break (ASB) trips and any PSU student can apply for to be a part of one. I chose to serve the homeless population as well as other non-profit organizations in San Francisco. This remarkable experience has broadened my perspective and motivated me to stay connected to my community.

This year I am one of 25 members of SLS. The student-run group’s main objective is to be the liaison between students and community partners/organizations. I am currently interning at a local organization called SMART – Start Making a Reader Today.  As a program intern, I am learning how to navigate the non-profits’ database, assist with volunteer applications, and compile research for grant writing. In the future, I will be more acquainted and equipped to work, “behind the scenes” with the logistics and administration of non-profits.

WIth my internship, SLS weekly meetings, and leadership training, I am understanding the importance of service-learning and social justice. I have this relentless urge to not only take action, but to spread the word and connect others as well.

To participate, you do not have to be a member or have any prior volunteering experience. SLS has started “First Fridays”: volunteer opportunities in community organizations on the first Friday of every month. Nov. 7th was our first successful day at the non-profit SCRAP. http://psuvanguard.com/news/students-pitch-in-for-afternoon-of-service/

Visit the SLS office in Smith Memorial Student Union Room 124 or connect to our sites to learn more:

http://www.pdx.edu/cae/student-leaders-for-service

http://www.facebook.com/PSU.SLS

Alternative Spring Break 2012 video clip: http://vimeo.com/41207825