Senior is on her way to 300 hours
|Bernadette Zuñiga '13 worked with elementary school students in Jamaica during a spring break mission trip in March 2011.
Bernadette Zuñiga ’13, a Community Fellow through the part-time AmeriCorps program at Moravian College, is in line to earn the Segal AmeriCorps Education Award for contributing 300 hours of service in the 2012-13 academic year. Zuñiga will receive the award when she completes her assignment in August; she is about halfway there. Her primary service site was the Bethlehem YMCA on Broad Street.
AmeriCorps is a national program that offers about 75,000 opportunities each year for adults of all ages and backgrounds to serve through a network of partnerships with local and national nonprofit organizations. Every year, AmeriCorps members enrich their communities through their work. Part-time members, such as Zuñiga, are eligible to win a partial Segal AmeriCorps Education Award, which contributes approximately to $1,100 to its member’s education costs after their part-time service year.
Zuñiga, who says her commitment to service comes from a heartfelt desire to do good in her community, has worked with a team of volunteers to make numerous improvements at the YMCA and helped ensure its survival, and calls that teamwork the “proudest moment in her volunteering experience.
“They [the YMCA] were about to close down the May before I came,” says Zuñiga. “I’m proud to be part of a real team effort that’s working for it to stay open.”
One of the biggest projects that Zuñiga has been a part of has been cleaning up and organizing the library at the Y, an essential part of the YMCA because it lends out the books that are used for its pre-kindergarten and kindergarten classes and for its after-school programs. Zuñiga cleaned up the room, reorganized the books, and even created a book classification system similar to the Dewey Decimal System, which makes finding books easier and more efficient.
Zuñiga also gets to spend time assisting the teachers in the pre-kindergarten classrooms at the YMCA. She loves interacting with the children and claims that is one of the biggest reasons that she decided to volunteer there. She’ll be able to carry this experience on to her work with Teach for America after graduation. Observing the children also feeds her interest in and understanding of sociology. She is fascinated with how early understandings of self, such as gender awareness and gender roles, develop.
“It’s so interesting to see the dynamics in a pre-K role and how they stay with us later in life,” she says.
Nicole Nugent, the College’s coordinator of community service, says that Zuñiga has a maturity and a world-view that goes beyond her age.
“She sees service not as a resume builder, but as a meaningful way to engage with and make an impact in the communities of which she is a part. She constantly impresses faculty, staff and community members who work with her.”
When she heard what Nugent said about her, Zuñiga was incredibly humbled, “When I do these things and talk about my worldview, I don’t expect people to care. It’s like, wow! It makes me feel good that it’s being noticed.”
She says a volunteer should never make others feel guilty or be preachy in trying to persuade them to become involved because that would make them volunteer for the wrong reasons. She hopes that the great work that the community fellows do sets an example that people will look up to and try to emulate. She says, “Community service is not just a resume filler. It’s something we all should do.”