Posted May 23, 2012
Katie Woo (Psychology/Visual Arts) was involved with service at Bowdoin through participation in Common Good Day, Aspirations in Maine, and Eco Service Day during her first-year. Hoping to find another way to engage in the community that involved a more long-term commitment, she then joined SmArt during her sophomore year, a mentoring group that meets weekly to work one-on-one with nearby elementary students on various art projects. Knowing that she enjoyed working with kids, Katie wanted to explore other ways to get involved outside of Bowdoin and the nearby towns. Following her passion to learn more about international communities, Katie participated in the Alternative Spring Break trip to Guatemala. The trip was focused on both service and learning, allowing participants to get an in-depth look at how the organization Safe Passage worked within the Guatemalan community, and also provide opportunities to work closely with the students who attended the program.
During her junior year, Katie then participated in a variety of different community service and community-oriented opportunities. Within her Psychology major, she took Professor Sam Putnam's Infant and Child Development, a Community-based Course that allowed her to observe what she was learning in the classroom while volunteering weekly at the Family Focus Brunswick Early Learning Center. This was an especially rewarding opportunity because she was able to connect both her academic interests in psychology and her service-related interests at once. Volunteering now opened the doors not only to helping others, but also learning about how people develop and are affected by the environment and experiences around them. She also took part in Blogging Buddies, an online mentoring activity that allowed local elementary and middle school students to submit poetry and prose that Bowdoin students could then give feedback on.
Inspired by the Alternative Spring Break experience she had during her sophomore year, Katie then co-led the trip to Guatemala during her senior year. She wanted to share the amazing experience of learning and volunteering in Guatemala with other students, and also continue to foster the strong bond that exists between Bowdoin and Safe Passage. She notes, "Safe Passage is truly incredible for the part it plays in the growth and education of all its members - whether it’s the children, staff, or volunteers. I believe that at the core of the program is a commitment to building a community, and this is continually fueled by each individual and their passion for the same goal: education, opportunity, and hope."
“The key to volunteering and working within a community is to become as much a part of that community as possible. Even if you are only there for a short amount of time, the best way to make a difference is to connect with those that you are working with. Become a part of the community, and then rather than trying to make a difference from the outside in, help create change from the inside out.”