April Membership Spotlight

As soon as I walked into the Student Life offices, I was immediately welcomed by walls and bulletin boards advertising the events and programs Governor State University has to offer. While speaking with Illinois Campus Compact VISTA, Leah Dixon, I learned about several of these events and their importance to the campus.

Leah serves as the Coordinator of the Civic Engagement and Community Service Center. When Leah arrived at Governor State in October, one of her goals was to make sure the students were more aware of the services that the center offers.

Adjacent to the Civic Engagement and Community Service Center (CECSC) is the Jaguar Den, where students can go to lounge, use computers, or take part in some of the centers opportunities. One of these services is the GSU Food Pantry. What might appear to be a closet opens up to a pantry filled with boxes of cereal, canned goods, the college staple, Kraft Mac and Cheese, and many more nonperishable items. This Food Pantry is where GSU takes a step in tackling food insecurity on their campus.

Leah highlighted that this pantry is there for everyone. Often time’s students are on campus late into the evening, they don’t have food at home, they can’t make it to the grocery store, or the stores are closed. Students can come into the pantry, take what they need and all they have to do is write the date, their name, and what they took on the clip board.

Leah made sure to tell me, “Although a student might not consider themselves needy, there are times when they are in need and CECSC wants them to know the pantry is here for them.”

The food pantry is not the only way that the Civic Engagement and Community Service Center is tackling food insecurity on campus. Three days a week, Monday, Thursday, and Friday, students can find a Pop –Up Pantry on campus. These hour long pop up pantries are free for all, and are stocked with bagels from The Great American Bagel.

Pop up pantries offer a solution to students rushing from class to class, work to class, or any other route. Governor State understands the hectic life of students, and how unfortunately, their grumbling stomachs sometimes come second to their workload.

Not only does CECSC offer food in a variety of ways, but they also support healthy eating with Operation Health.  Operation Health is the monthly distribution of free fruits and vegetables. Along with the produce, Leah makes handouts with easy, healthy recipes for each of the produce items offered that month.

Across the student lounge there is another room where more services can be found. This is the Jaguar Career Closet. The Career Closet is filled with racks holding business professional clothes, accessories, and shoes. This is where students can go to choose one outfit each semester that they can wear to job interviews, career fairs, and class presentations. The career closet is put into place so that a student’s wardrobe will not determine whether they are prepared or not.

Sometimes it’s not food that a student needs but necessities such as toiletries or warm clothes. Within the career closet there is a large cabinet overflowing with bins. Here students can find soap, deodorant, feminine products, toothbrushes, and a plethora of other products.

If a student finds themselves in an emergency or in need of warm clothes, Governors States is prepared with D.E.N. Bags, D.E.N. standing for distributing emergency necessities. These emergency necessities include sweat pants, sweatshirts, and any toiletries a student wants to take.

The Civic Engagement and Community Service Center doesn’t just offer services to students, but it also helps faculty develop civic engagement within their courses.  This semester the English Department of Governors State received a High Impact Practices Grant from American Association of State Colleges and Universities. This grant was for eight English courses to develop curriculum with a portion dedicated to service learning or community engagement. The Civic Engagement and Community Service Center helped professors think of projects, develop assignments, and connected them with people or resources.

Leah offered customized support for these classes and instructors, being there for whatever the center could help with. One instructor had his class do a case study of the food pantry in the Jaguar Den, and another class wrote poetry with students at the community library. There were also three non-English courses that implanted some sort of service learning because they saw the importance in community engaged learning.

As the courses took place this semester, Leah realized that it has helped the center receive visibility. Students, excited about the work they are doing, share it with other students, who look at the center to get involved or volunteer. When more students learn about the Civic Engagement and Community Service Center, it means that more students will take advantage of its service, which is ultimately the goal.