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Kijiji Connects Students with the Community


 

By: Eric Cecchett

The JMU program Kijiji encourages its students to embrace three simple principles: discover your passion, connect with others, and implement social change.  It stresses not only developing personal skills on campus, but also asks students to become involved in the Harrisonburg community through a project of their choosing.  This semester, participants have been taking part in the brand-new Social Change Performance Lab or SCPL, an initiative designed to help direct students towards a community-based project that interests them most. 

Kijiji recently took a big step forward in this process by hosting the first ever SCPL retreat this past September.  Taking place during an overnight stay in Massanetta Springs, the SCPL retreat gave Kijiji students an opportunity to workshop and share ideas with representatives from three very different groups.  Aiton Elementary, a school from southeast D.C, the local Harrisonburg unit of the Salvation Army, and Harrisonburg’s local Second Home all brought unique discussion points and organizational concerns to the event.  

The event consisted of a variety of team-building exercises and thought experiments designed to foster collaboration and highlight similarities between the groups. 

“This experience was designed to help students connect with others who may share a similar passion,” said Associate Director for Leadership, Michael McCleve.  “The event provided great experience in engaging with others in order to make social change a reality.” 

The representatives of Second Home, an organization devoted to offering before and after-school care to underprivileged children in the Harrisonburg area, were eager to talk about their valuable experience with the SCPL.  As a service that asks only a dollar a day for childcare and is largely volunteer-based, they were happy to workshop a range of long and short-term goals with Kijiji students.

Second Home employee, Saundra Larson discussed just how impressed she was with the success of the SCPL.  “A few of the Kijiji students had already done volunteer work with Second Home,” said Larson.  “Their understanding of how we operate was a huge help going into this event.” 

During the course of the afternoon on Saturday, those in attendance split up into a breakout session in order to ensure a balanced exchange of different concerns and ideas.  Through varied discussion and a variety of exercises, the groups found that although their goals and struggles were different, they had a lot in common as well. 

“It was really beneficial for both sides,” said SCPL moderator and Kijiji staff leader, Kelsey Fisher. “The students were able to put their leadership and collaboration skills into effect while providing organizations such as Second Home with a valuable outside perspective.”

Larson said, “Kijiji did an amazing job putting everything together for this retreat.  We found so many connections with the other organizations that we would never have thought were there.  As a collective group we were able to realize our strengths and how to apply them directly to our goals.”

After the huge success of the event, some Kijiji students are interested in either continuing or beginning their involvement with one of these three organizations.

“These students really are role models to the children at Second Home,” said Larson.  “It’s important for the kids to see people closer to their age going to school and making a difference in their community.”

Interested in the work Kijiji is doing or becoming a participant? Check out their website at info.jmu.edu/kijiji/

Published: Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Last Updated: Friday, April 6, 2018

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