Service-Learning Advocate Spotlight: Meghan Gifford

Meghan is one of our newest Service-Learning Advocates (SLA) at the Center for Academic Service-Learning and Research (CASLR). She comes from Tualatin, Oregon, near Portland, where she still has a little brother and sister finishing up high school. She is a sophomore, majoring in Liberal Studies and minoring in Spanish.

Before starting work at the CASLR, Meghan had already participated in two different Service-Learning courses, where she was able to see, first-hand, the academic reciprocity and opportunity for making a difference that S-L courses were able to provide. Now Meghan gets to see the behind the scenes operations, how everything goes into making S-L courses a success, and finds the planning especially rewarding.

Meghan’s primary responsibilities this semester were to assist the C.H.A.M.P. Director graduate assistant. Each year, the College Headed and Mighty Proud (C.H.A.M.P.) semester-long program introduces the idea of college to around 700 fourth graders from six local schools in the Azusa Unified School District through various activities. The C.H.A.M.P. program is a service-learning experience for APU students enrolled in EDLS 405 Diversity in the Classroom. This education course is designed to engage prospective teachers with issues such as race and culture in the educational setting. Each semester, APU partners with three elementary schools from the Azusa Unified School District. APU students are assigned to classrooms at the designated school sites to serve as college mentors to groups of five to seven fourth grade students. The APU students facilitate activities that correspond to the C.H.A.M.P. curriculum, covering such topics as college admission, financial aid, and career exploration.

Meghan has loved seeing the enjoyment on the middle school students’ faces during Visit Days, where they were amazed to think that some day they could actually live on campus and go to college. Seeing them all dressed up for C.H.A.M.P. Graduation, knowing how much it meant to them, was Meghan’s highest anticipation throughout the semester. She has found the CASLR to be a perfect place for her to put service into practice. This has also been her first professional job, where she has learned invaluable skills in organization, effective communication, and assertiveness.

This has also been a place to continue fostering her Strengths. Her top five are Adaptability, Empathy, Developer, Includer, and Positivity. Using her strengths, she is able to adjust quickly and go with the flow during events and last minute changes. She is also able to relate well and understand the people she has to work with, and enjoys fostering those relationships. Her fellow SLAs would describe her as nice, positive, and friendly; always willing to take up the slack for everyone else when needed. Meghan hopes that her short time at the CASLR has made a worthwhile difference and that the relationships she has made will be stronger when she leaves. Next year, Meghan will be one of APU’s Resident Assistants.

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Mary C. Pearce is the Coordinator for Student Professional Development Graduate Assistant at the Center for Academic Service-Learning and Research, working on her Master’s of Science in College Counseling and Student Development