A Community of Learners
Dedicated to connecting the Wittenberg University and Springfield communities, the Hagen Center for Civic and Urban Engagement hosts an internship program each summer for students to work with community partners on key strategic initiatives, including improving afterschool programs.
Partnering with the Springfield City School District, two of the fifteen Wittenberg interns have spent the summer leading reading clubs while four lead math and science clubs, with support from the Robert C. Noyce Scholarship Program, at Lagonda Elementary School.
Reading club leader Emily Fitch ’16, an English major and education minor, became interested in the internship through her work at the Perrin Promise Neighborhood.
“As a resident of Springfield, I feel that community engagement is essential for growth and continual improvement that can help shape and improve local school settings,” she said. “Finding out the majority of the students I worked with would be attending was a huge motivational factor since I had built strong relationships with the students.”
With a passion for fostering interest in reading and writing and for establishing a beneficial and engaging educational environment, Fitch’s previous experiences in the community helped equip her with the skills needed for the internship.
“Completing my community service at the Clark County Literacy Coalition and working with the Perrin Woods Elementary reading clubs helped prepare me for this internship. Having spent the past year at Perrin woods working with Dr. Linder and the reading clubs essentially provided me with the overall experience and skills to accomplish what we are doing at Lagonda this summer.”
Science club leader Menna Abaye ’15 joined the program because, like Fitch, she wants to make a positive impact on her current community.
“I wish to pursue studies in the Public Health/Social Work sector and follow a career path that involves improving all types of communities,” Abaye said. “This internship provides the opportunity to study and positively impact Springfield.”
A biology and business double major from Addis Abeba, Ethiopia, Abaye brings a fresh perspective to solving local issues, and her Wittenberg experiences have allowed her to gain more insight into solving issues on all scales.
“As an international student I take a global stance to most social problems and usually have an outsider’s point of view on many issues. I took a class called Global Leadership and Social Entrepreneurship in East Asia with professor Sunny Jeong, which not only introduced me to some of the social issues of the Springfield community but also helped me gain a lot of knowledge on how to tackle global issues. I was also fortunate enough to be part of the 2014 Global Social Venture Competition in Japan through the Business department, where a select few Wittenberg students were able to work with people from all around the world. These experiences have helped me gain the tools to look at social issues from different angles.”
Encouraging future students to participate in the internship, Abaye notes that getting off campus and into the community has been an educational and rewarding experience.
“The most rewarding part of this internship is definitely the discovery of a whole new side of Springfield that most Wittenberg students never see. There are a lot of foundations and community leaders who are taking small steps towards building a better city,” she said. “I also never knew that I could teach students, but this experience has enabled me to be comfortable in a sector that I previously never thought about pursuing.”
Since the internship program’s inception in 2008, 100 student interns have worked on 56 projects in collaboration with 70 community partners.
By connecting student interns with schools, government agencies, non-profit organizations and businesses both large and small, the Hagen Center empowers students to take an active role in addressing the challenges being faced by American cities today.