Hi everyone! Welcome to VCU! I look forward to meeting you later this week, but I wanted to contact everyone before the semester began just to give you a little information about your particular section of Focused Inquiry. Almost all freshmen take Focused Inquiry, but the section you are enrolled in is unique; it is a service-learning section. Like all of the Focused Inquiry students, you’ll have writing, reading, and public speaking assignments. But as part of this service-learning class, you will also have the opportunity to mentor students from St. Joseph’s Villa, a non-profit alternative school on Brook Road, in Henrico County. Over the course of the semester, you’ll be asked to mentor a small group of high-school aged youth, both at the Villa and also on VCU’s campus, as we help them prepare for career and college. You’ll work with your peers in groups, and you’ll have lots of support from the Villa staff and myself, but you each will be expected to provide a reliable and consistent role modeling to the Villa students for a minimum of 20 hours over the course of the semester. Because you’ll be working with young people, you’ll definitely be asked to demonstrate a professional approach to this relationship.

Frankly, service-learning is a demanding, challenging experience, and passing your Focused Inquiry class will require your commitment to the students we’ll serve. But I think you’ll find this effort is completely worth it. You’ll gain valuable professional and personal experiences through service-learning that you simply can’t get in a traditional classroom. You’ll develop a meaningful relationship with community members, both the youth you serve and the staff that you’ll work with at the Villa. As you work with Villa students to help them build their skills and refine their own career ambitions, you’ll have lots of opportunity to reflect on your own professional goals. And you’ll have substantial experience you can put on a resume or graduate school application. When you take a service-learning class, your final transcript reflects that designation, as a way of recognizing the extra work and time that went into that class.

I do want you to walk into our class this week with at least some knowledge of service learning and the Villa. Within the first week of the semester, we will get a chance to meet with the staff from the Villa and they’ll talk with you about their student population and their hopes for this mentoring relationship. I’m going to include the Villa website, in case you want to read up on the school ahead of time: http://www.neverstopbelieving.org/

I’m also going to include a link here to information about service-learning at VCU: http://www.servicelearning.vcu.edu/ and, more specifically, I recommend you watch this video: http://www.servicelearning.vcu.edu/what-is-service-learning/.

Finally, I hope you’ll each contact me sometime before class starts! I’ll be eager to hear your questions and concerns, or if you don’t have a question, I’d be interested in hearing about your experiences related to volunteer work, Richmond education, or working with youth. Or you could just email and introduce yourself, that’s fine too! My email address is eakreydatus@vcu.edu. I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Best of luck with your first week of classes. See you soon!