Students participating in the Second-Year Transformational Experience Program (STEP) have the opportunity to submit a proposal for a fellowship of up to $2,000 to use towards a STEP Signature Project they might otherwise not be able to do. One category of STEP Signature Projects is Service-Learning and Community Service. The purpose of doing Service-Learning and Community Service at the collegiate level, and as a STEP Signature Project, goes beyond simply doing direct service, something students might have experienced in high school. A STEP participant’s service project will put their own knowledge and academic goals into practice and allow them to critically explore the underlying causes, challenges, and politics related to a particular societal issue.
With STEP support, students can create a service project at home, away, or abroad. Most service abroad options are managed by the Office of International Affairs (OIA) and include both for-credit service-learning study abroad courses and select programs run by third-party organizations which do not carry course credit. The best way to explore these opportunities is by using OIA’s Education Abroad Search and using the Advanced Search – Parameters – Program Features: service-learning sort option.
There are also many opportunities for STEP students to travel domestically to participate in service projects. Buck-I-SERV is Ohio State’s alternative break program and provides students with a challenging and engaging opportunity to lead and learn through direct service experiences. Most Buck-I-SERV trips travel within the U.S., though a few special programs go abroad. For a STEP experience, students should consider how they can create a project that takes a Buck-I-SERV trip further, for example by examining how the social issues related to the trip’s service project appear in Columbus or by serving as a leader for Buck-I-SERV. Students can also organize independent service trips within the United States by working with a nonprofit partner, such as Habitat for Humanity, religious organizations, or various summer camps.
Students can also do service projects in Columbus or their home town. Students can find local project ideas by taking a service-learning course or browsing a list of volunteer needs, such as that provided by Besa in Columbus. Student Life also has several programs to help students get involved with community service.
Students who arrange independent projects with a non-profit partner, whether in their hometown, Columbus, or some other location in the U.S., should complete the STEP Community Service/Service-Learning Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) found in their Proposal Guidelines, which can be retrieved from their STEP Dashboard. When organizing an independent service-learning experience, it is important to remember that these experiences should go deeper than simply accumulating direct service hours.
A good place to begin gathering ideas for STEP service projects is to attend the STEP Expo or to browse reflections from previous STEP participants here.