As director of the Community Leadership Center (CLC) at Rutgers, Dr. Gloria Bonilla-Santiago is focused on civic engagement in the Camden area. She is an integral part of the social work programs offered at the University, having contributed courses such as “The Experiential Learning and Community Leadership Service-Learning Seminar”. This course was a combined graduate and undergraduate course that exposed students to social problems facing Camden, and allowed them to discuss, research, and propose community-wide solutions. Students received opportunities to speak with Camden stakeholders and residents, tour the city, and create projects that focused on community research in education, health and human services, and environmental protection. Dr. Santiago succinctly described the course, stating, “This unique course will promote learning and community leadership development while advancing the university’s mission of community development and revitalization.”
This course is only one example of how Dr. Santiago engages with the Camden community and promotes community revitalization. In addition, Jumpstart and LEAP, programs within the CLC, are constantly providing undergraduate students with work-study and volunteer work that equips these students with valuable first-hand teaching experience. These undergraduates can be placed in classrooms in which they help develop children’s literacy and social skills. By putting these students into direct contact with children and their families, these placements not only provide vital field experience for young professionals but also ensure high-quality services for children and families who are part of the LEAP and Jumpstart communities.
Service-Learning is at the core of the CLC’s work. As the director of a university-based center, Dr. Santiago feels it is important to provide students with opportunities that allow them to see connections between field practice and classroom theory, while also learning the importance of civic engagement and commitment to service.
Jumpstart is the newest addition to the portfolio of educational programs under the umbrella of the Community Leadership Center. The Center operates a comprehensive preschool program serving 300 children every year and working with LEAP Academy to reach 1,700 students in grades K-12. A unique partnership with Jumpstart makes Rutgers-Camden the first Jumpstart site in New Jersey. Each year Jumpstart invests outstanding efforts to develop new partnerships with various colleges and universities. This year, over 3,900 college students nationwide will bring their enthusiasm, dedication, and determination to change the lives of thousands of preschool children to classrooms across the nation.
Each semester, Dr. Santiago supervises a number of for-credit academic courses at Rutgers–Camden through the CLC. The Center works with a number of graduate and undergraduate departments on campus to arrange these courses, such as Public Policy & Administration, Childhood Studies, the School of Social Work, the School of Law, and the Dean’s Office at the College of Arts & Sciences.
CLC courses focus on engaged scholarship and civic engagement and allow eligible students to earn course credit through service-learning internships or to satisfy degree requirements for their undergraduate or graduate program’s in-the-field placement hours.
Work Study Internships
By working with the Rutgers–Camden Career Center and the Office of Financial Aid, the CLC is able to offer paid work study internships to Rutgers students eligible for the federal work study program. Students can inquire at the CLC for available internships, then speak to their federal work study representative at the Office of Financial Aid to request placement at the Center.
The CLC maintains a close partnership with the Department of Public Policy & Administration at Rutgers–Camden and we frequently collaborate on projects. One important area that the CLC and DPPA work together on is the creation of education fellowships for students in the Masters of Public Administration (MPA) graduate program.
Two fellowships in particular—The LEAP Education Fellowships and Sila Calderon Endowed Fellowship—have successfully allowed graduate students to attend Rutgers. Through these fellowships, MPA students are offered tuition assistance in exchange for a working commitment to either LEAP Academy University Charter School or another approved site.
The Community Leadership Center (CLC) coordinates opportunities for Rutgers students to intern abroad, applying their academic studies in community development to a global context. Students have interned previously at the Center for Puerto Rico and the Office of the Historian of Havana.