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CLE Enrichment Programs: Service Learning at Its Best

By Stephanie Martin, President

What does it mean to you when you hear the word serve? Do you think of hitting a tennis ball to begin a match? Do you visualize a waiter delivering food to your table when eating out for dinner? Or do you imagine a young man dressed in military clothes fulfilling his duty to his country?

Maddie Hiking with CLE Serves in Spain

We, at CLE, strongly believe that to serve is to provide services that benefit or help another. In fact, one of College Living Experience’s most celebrated service programs is founded on this exact premise. CLE Serves provides ongoing opportunities throughout the year for students to travel to new destinations, work alongside peers and professionals, and learn to give back to the community by serving others.

CLE students are provided with an opportunity to select various CLE Serves trips each year. Examples of such trips include:

  • In December of 2012, CLE students traveled to Costa Rica where they served the community while learning about sustainable farming and providing beach clean-up.
  • In March of 2013, students traveled to Washington State for the 3rd year to work with the park rangers in Cascades National Park. On this particular trip, students cleared walking trails, fixed wood fences, and trimmed trees.
  • In June of the same year, CLE students took their first trip to Spain to walk the El Camino Trail. Despite persistent wind and rain, the students found the energy to give back to the community run hostels by cleaning up after other pilgrims, assisting tired and wet pilgrims as they arrived for the night, and picking up trash along the trails as they hiked.

CLE Serves

Each CLE Serves trip is a voluntary opportunity for students to participate in any one of the excursions planned by our team. This volunteer opportunity of service also represents one of many situations in which students are faced with having to make decisions, problem solve, engage in critical thinking, set goals and understand how their own behavior affects the outcomes of the peers and the group. In essence, CLE Serves actively promotes self-determination which describes those who “act autonomously, self-regulate their behavior, are psychologically empowered, and are self realizing” (Wehmeyer, 2007).

CLE Resident Advisor, Michael said it best when describing the CLE Serves Trip to Spain.

I encountered many opportunities to witness our students’ growth even before breakfast each day on this trip. Whether it was decision making skills within a group, accountability of being on time, using techniques other than language to communicate, planning skills or the laundry list of other teaching moments, this trip was chalked full of them. On top of this, the physical demands of the trip were set at a reasonable yet testing level. Many of the students had to push themselves more than they thought possible. The students all experienced highs and lows which they shared with the group. This was also the first trip that many of our students could call their own. This was not a trip with mom or dad. The students made a good deal of decisions while we traveled and the empowerment they experienced was apparent. I have never seen a group of 14 people become so intertwined after just two weeks together. When students look back on their time at CLE and begin to tap into the independent living skills learned here, they will undoubtedly think of this trip.

Group Hiking with CLE Serves

At CLE, through programs such as CLE Serves, we are dedicated to providing opportunities for students to gain the skills necessary to obtain both independence and adulthood. More importantly though, it’s through these service opportunities that students can continue to define their own personal quality of life while expanding the view of the world around them. After each trip, we are eager to hear the student and staff feedback about the growth experienced, ways they were able to learn about themselves and others, and how they were able to give back through their own personal service. Here are a few takeaways from CLE students who have participated in CLE Serves trips:

The last two days were quite fulfilling. I got to clear a hiking trail and remove sod from the ground, and the strength of my different relationships was taken to the limit…these last two days have been great, and I feel a lot fitter now.
– Eliot

This trip tested my patience with some of the students, but in the end, I believe we were all friends. During the picnic in Madrid, Jessica said that she liked eating meals with all of us. I replied, “That’s what a family does.” That is exactly what I believe. CLE will always be a family.
– Tosh

I conquered my fear of darkness -I can look up in the sky to see the stars, it’s not so scary out there.
– Blake

I worked with several other students dismantling part of a fence, spreading mulch, and taking loads of wood to the recycle pile. Now at the end of the day, my arms are achy but my mind is focused and determined to do more tomorrow.
– Mike

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