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, directed by Dr. Gloria Bonilla-Santiago. The Center operates a comprehensive preschool program which serves 90 children every year, and the Center also works with the LEAP Academy to serve 780 students in grades K-12. A unique partnership with Jumpstart has given Rutgers-Camden the opportunity to be the first Jumpstart site in NJ.
In upcoming years, Jumpstart at Rutgers-Camden will reach out to children at the LEAP Academy Charter School with the vision to expand to other childcare facilities in Camden in the following years. This Jumpstart mission is greatly driven by the college students (Jumpstart Corps Members) who commit to 300 hours of work during an academic year to contribute to an assigned child’s growth and development. Jumpstart Corps Members enjoy a range of importan t benefits for the important work they do, including federal work-study benefits, academic credit, and more. The direct impact had by a Jumpstart Corps Member on a child’s life is immeasureable; our Members spend time working one-on-one with assigned preschool children on reading, writing and social skills, working with a team of equally motivated students to deliver quality teaching to preschool students, and engaging in a variety of community service events targeted at Jumpstart students and their families.
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.
By collaborating with the Rutgers–Camden Career Center and the Office of Financial Aid, the CLC is able to offer paid work study internships, overseen by Dr. Santiago, 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.
Former CLC work study placements have included:
- ELRA Preschool program (classroom assistance)
- The Health Center or HOP Clinic (health programs)
- The Family Support Center (character building programs)
- The Center for College Access (college preparation)
- CLC administrative office support
Via the CLC, Dr. Santiago maintains a close partnership with the Department of Public Policy & Administration at Rutgers–Camden and frequently collaborates with them on projects. One important way that the CLC and DPPA work together is by creating 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.
Eligible MPA students may apply for one of the following fellowships:
The LEAP Education Fellowship is part of the Rutgers–Camden Master’s in Public Administration program for students in the Educational Policy and Leadership Concentration. Selected candidates receive a tuition fellowship and are required to work in an internship at the LEAP Academy University Charter School.
The Sila Calderon Research Fellowship is offered to talented graduate and doctoral level students in the Department of Public Policy & Administration, as well as to prominent faculty scholars, to engage in applied research in the core areas of community building, ethics and social justice.