Beyond Volunteerism – Community Service Ideas For College Students

As a college student who’s dedicated to making the most out of your education, the last thing that you feel like doing on summer break is pursuing more education. After a semester of doing more studying and attending less parties than you anticipated, spending May through August palling around with friends, vacationing and visiting nightspots is the reasonable thing to do. But what if you could spend the summer having fun while pursuing non-academic education. If you’re interested but you’re wondering how much summer fun you’ll have; rest assured, we’re not talking about something that requires study; we’re talking about something that could boost your resume while bringing more excitement to your summer than bar hopping or hitting the beach: performing community service.

At this point, you’re probably wondering how volunteer work could be as fun as how you spent last summer. But we’re not talking about volunteering at a food pantry; we’re talking about community service ideas that will keep you engaged and still allow you to celebrate summer. In addition to needing volunteers in the service areas like food distribution, prepared meals, health care, etc., community service organizations also need volunteers in service areas and geographic locations that aren’t commonly associated with volunteer work. To explain what we mean; below, we list two big ways that service work could make your summer far more interesting than if you didn’t perform it.

Incredible Vacation Opportunities

If you contact a well connected community service organization, you’ll find that there’s a need for service projects and service workers all over the globe, and the news gets better: instead of having to pay thousands of dollars in airfare and travel accommodations, you can get most if not all of your travel costs covered by organizations that donate to worldwide service projects. In addition, you can also start your own fundraising campaign and achieve success by contacting a list of resources provided by a service organization. Have you ever wanted to travel somewhere that’s off the beaten tourist path? By searching out service needs and projects in the country of your choice, chances are that you can take a supremely original vacation for very little money.

Incredible Career Opportunities

Without a degree, you’ll find it hard to get meaningful experience in your field; and without meaningful experience, you’ll find it hard to get a job in your field. While many students think that having a degree means that they’ll get hired after graduation, that’s simply not the case. Employers want experience, and not low-level experience. So, what’s a sophomore or junior to do? If you take advantage of the right volunteer opportunities, you can volunteer for projects that let you use your education in a pivotal role. Offering your time and talents for free means that you won’t be competing for a paid position, which means that you’ll have little competition in the first place.

The Growth of Online Education in China

A recent report has been published detailing the development of e-Learning and online education in China. The report, by companiesandmarkets.com, identifies that the sector has reached its “growth stage”, increasing in market scale by 20.7 percent between 2006 and 2007 (from RMB14.5 billion to RMB17.5 billion). So how is the industry set to develop from here? And what can the west learn from the success of the Chinese distance and blended learning systems?

Distance learning, online degree courses, and adult education have been popular in China for some time. This has been due to a number of factors, such as the expansive and rural geography of the country, the high competition for fewer enrolment places (comparable to the UK or US, at least), and recent government-stimulated incentives to ensure compulsory learning for all, e.g. the National Project of Compulsory Education in Impoverished Areas (established in 1995).

In regards to e-Learning and its involvement with pre/primary/middle school education, the latest report doesn’t reflect an outright consolidation of the country’s vast school system – which is something that makes it quite different to others. Those who offer online education services to pre-schoolers are private individuals and companies, whilst the most traditional primary and middle schools are said to be employing e-Learning techniques and offering distance classes. Primary and middle school teaching market scale has increased by 18.5 percent between 2006 and 2007.

For higher education and older learners, the report shows a growth and diversification of online education but an unimpressive continuation of doubts amongst members of the public as to the worth of diplomas from online institutions. Despite this, there is healthy enthusiasm for online education for vocation certification and an increased demand for customizable services. Additionally corporate e-learning is becoming more integrated with business hoping to improve services – especially over the last year. As a result, projections suggest that corporate e-learning is set to grow 40 percent year by year until 2011.

China is an interesting country to discuss when it comes to distance education – due to the rural country and uniquely provincial governance of education, as well as its huge population. Consequently, the country has pioneered certain aspects of education by use of online courses and media. This has not only included a Central Radio and TV University, but also distance institutions that specifically cater for niche markets such as adult farmers and workers – it will be intriguing to see how technological advancements and increased accessibility for education over the next few years.

Labels for Special Education Students – A Necessary Evil

The word “label” can cause many parents to cringe inwardly. They often see it as a big sign hung on the back of their child, making them conspicuously different from the rest of the population. Some parents may fear a label will stay with their child for the rest of their lives, preventing both social acceptance and employment opportunities. Others may see a label as some kind of failure in regards to their parenting skills. In fact, no parent wants his/her child to be labeled.

However, labeling may be unavoidable. Getting your child diagnosed is the single most important step in the foundation of his education. If you perform your own evaluation and red flags pop up, it’s time to take action.

Your first call should be to your child’s primary care physician. At well-child check-ups, your doctor will ask questions regarding developmental benchmarks. Benchmarks are guidelines of normal development your child should reach by a certain age. These include expressive language, receptive language, vocabulary, and fine and gross motor skills. Because language development can vary from child to child, physicians may be lax in taking appropriate action for a child who is not reaching benchmarks. As a parent, your intuition should serve you well. Call your local county Child Development Services (CDS) office and request an evaluation. Your CDS case manager will refer you to specialists more suited to diagnosing disabilities.

If your child is already attending school and you are worried about his progress, keep the lines of communication open with his teachers. Many teachers will refer students to the special education department for an evaluation. Regardless of the results of a public school evaluation, you may want to get an unbiased, independent evaluation. Tutoring centers like Sylvan use specialized testing. In this way, you have a back up should the school district decline services.

If your child does have a disability, an appropriate diagnosis is important in order for the state to recognize him as a special education student. State funds ensure support staff will be available to help your child meet the goals listed in his IEP, or Individualized Education Plan. This plan includes any therapeutic services your child may need such as speech, occupational therapy, physical therapy, and adaptive physical education. These services are vital to your child’s success throughout his primary and secondary education.

Sometimes the biggest hurdle is dealing with having your child “singled out” as a special education student. You fear your child will be seen as different, weird, stupid or weak. While there is no easy fix for this issue, being an advocate for your child and his education can alleviate some of those fears. At the primary level, ask the special education teacher about reverse mainstreaming. This process invites mainstream students into the self-contained/special education classrooms. Students who spend time in the specialized classrooms tend to be more accepting of differences because they are allowed to get to know special education students on a personal level. If reverse mainstreaming is promoted regularly, lasting bonds can form between students that will carry over into the mainstream classrooms and all over the school.

Finally, teach your child to advocate for himself. Understanding the cause and reason behind a label can sometimes ease anxiety about being different. Understanding how a specialized program works, even on a basic level, can go a long way in teaching your child to advocate for himself throughout the course of his education.

English As a Second Language Education Requirement For Amnesty Seekers

Both candidates running for president, McCain and Obama, have their own amnesty plan for the twelve million or so illegal aliens in the county. Historically, one of the requirements for amnesty was certification of the applicants’ level of English proficiency or a minimum number of hours of classes in English as a Second Language. This was the case, a language requirement, in the early 90’s when amnesty was given by President Bush Sr. But, eighteen years later, who is going to test let alone provide all of these people with these educational services?

Of course the tradition education system has the facilities to accommodate these people but it would take a few years of committee meetings to agree what, when and how to teach or test these new immigrants. The public education system barely handles the work load that it has before it now. Its decision making system is also very bureaucratic and therefore makes decisions very slowly with the end result leaving the decision makers not fully satisfied. It also leaves the actual needs of the students not very well met. There are also private education services that provide tutoring for students after school.

They are market driven so adjust what they teach and where they provide their services according to the needs of the market. But the teaching and testing of the new immigrants would only be a temporary niche market. Also, would it be financially viable enough for them in order to set up a bricks and mortar facility for these temporary students. The next possible option to provide theses ESL educational services for the new immigrants are the Non-governmental Organizations, NGOs, or Not-For-Profit, 501C3 organizations.

These groups range from religious groups like churches and synagogues to The Boys and Girls Clubs of America. They have facilities in place and volunteer staff that could step up to the whiteboard and teach English as a Second Language. Currently, some churches have experience providing English as a Second Language lessons to foreign students studying here in the US. Fairview Missionary Church – Angola, Indiana provides such an ESL program to the foreign Engineering students at the local University. While most of their current students’ language proficiency level is much higher than the average illegal aliens; it would be a relatively easy transition to focus on this new group. Another possible option for these new immigrants to learn English as a Foreign Language and meet the amnesty requirements would be to take an internet based ESL course. The cost of the course would depend on who was providing it. However, online education in other subject areas has proved to be very effective and popular.

It provides universal access to education. One website providing the opportunity for students to learn English online for free is English4All.net. They provide regular lessons, video lessons as well as a chat room for the student to practice their conversation skills in. English4All’s chat room is hosted by an avatar that is programmed with Artificial Intelligence. This makes the chat room open twenty four seven for as many students that want to improve their English. In the end, all of the above opportunities will more than likely be provided by various communities. While amnesty is not popular with segments of the population, it is not feasible to deport twelve million people. Whoever wins presidency will not undoubtedly provide some kind of a pathway to citizenship for these new immigrants.

Does My Child Have a Reading Disability?

Reading is an important first step on a child’s path to success in life. A child that is an excellent reader is a confident child, has a high level of self -esteem and is able to easily make the transition from learning to read to reading to learn. For many of us reading is a natural process and we can read with ease and pleasure. Unfortunately, for a child with a reading disability, the reading process can become a frustrating and negative experience and is often very difficult to master.

What is a Reading Disability?

A reading disability is an inherited condition that makes it extremely difficult to read, write, and spell despite at least an average intelligence.

Learning to read is a sequential process. Each new skill a child learns builds on the mastery of previously learned skills. First, a child learns to break down words into their most basic sounds, which we call decoding. Later on, the child begins to comprehend the meaning of words and sentences, which we call reading comprehension. Decoding is an essential step in the reading process since it forms the foundation of reading. For a child with a reading disability, decoding does NOT come naturally and is NOT an automatic process. Most reading experts will agree that decoding problems is the basis of most reading disabilities.

Does my child have a reading disability?

Some signs of a Reading Disability:

• Child has difficulties sounding out words
• Slow laborious reading
• Reads without expression
• Ignores punctuation while reading out loud
• Guesses based on first letter of word
• Puts extra sounds into a word
• Drops syllables
• Reverses sounds
• Struggles with spelling
• Substitutes small common words

If your child is struggling in reading and showing the above symptoms, there may be good reason for you to request an immediate assessment. As a parent you want to be certain that you are providing what is needed for your child to succeed in school. To know what is necessary, an assessment is the first thing to do in order to identify the issues to remedy.

What is an assessment?

An assessment is simply a standardized test performed by someone trained and licensed to understand how to give the test and how to interpret the results. Specialists trained to do psychological testing and result interpretation are:

• Clinical psychologist
• School psychologist
• Educational psychologist
• Developmental psychologist
• Neuropsychologist
• Speech and language therapist

How do I get help?

A child with a reading disability will take in and process information differently and needs to be taught by specialists. Students with a reading disability will need to work with a specially trained teacher, tutor, or reading specialist to learn how to read and spell. Students who have been assessed and diagnosed through the school district might qualify for Special Education Services. Children with a reading disability progress best with a sequential, repetitive, systematic and cumulative structured reading program. Fortunately, with the proper assistance and help, most students with a reading disability are able to learn to read and develop strategies to become successful readers.

When is the best time to get help?

Effective early intervention is the key to helping a struggling reader learn to read. This training needs to begin sooner rather than later for the best results. According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), 95% of children who have trouble learning to read can reach grade level if they receive specialized help early on. Kindergarten to the middle of first grade are the “window of opportunity” to prevent long term reading problems. Without early intervention, the “reading gap” might never close.

There is no reason why a child with a reading disability cannot learn to read and comprehend well. It is important that we never lower the expectations of a child with a reading disability. Children need to feel that even though they are struggling, they are loved and not being judged. So be encouraging and patient and praise often.