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Service Learning Fair invites FGCU students to get involved

Colorful displays filled the Cohen Center Ballroom on Friday, September 6 while non-profit recruiters beckoned students over to hear their pitches.

Alec Pica, a senior transfer student studying biotechnology, said he was searching the fair for some place to do all 80 hours of his service-learning requirement. He was pleased with the variety of opportunities.

“There’s lots of organizations I didn’t know existed and a lot of candy,” he said, “more candy than I expected.” The big party was one with a purpose. Lisa Paige, office manager for the Office of Service- Learning and Civic Engagement, said, “I think it puts a face to the agency on the list. It’s one thing to look up an agency on the database but another to talk to them and get their passion and energy.”

Paige said a change to the layout of the fair, wherein agencies dedicated to similar missions were grouped together, seemed to enhance this chance for socialization and potential collaboration. Ashley Baker, a sophomore majoring in marine science and biology, checked out an organization that conducts gopher tortoise research as a backup plan for her service-learning requirement.

Her real area of interest is sea turtles, she said, but when she contacted a local sea turtle watch organization last March, the director told her the volunteer slots were full until April of the following year.

Based on her experience, students should start contacting service-learning partners early if they have a particular field of interest. Jessica Rhea, director of the service-learning office, said over 700 students came to the fair along with 35 faculty members, an increase over last year’s numbers.

President and Mrs. Bradshaw attended the event as well. Karen Fodiani, volunteer coordinator for the Gulf Coast Humane Society, said the increased numbers caught her by surprise.

“We ran out of stuff to hand out and had to write our website on the [doggie] tennis balls,” she said. “More students volunteer with us now because of word of mouth, plus we take 10-hour volunteers and group projects that many agencies can’t take,” she added.

“We have 80 dogs right now so we need every volunteer we can get and with groups, we can train dogs to do tricks that help get them adopted.” For students who missed the fair, the next one will be held on Friday, Jan. 24, 2014. Students should remember to visit the servicelearning database at www.fgcu.edu/ connect, to “like” the department’s Facebook page.

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