Graduate Students in Clarkson University’s Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) program at its Capital Region Campus in Schenectady recently spent time supporting local Habitat for Humanity efforts.
A group of six students on July 10 spent their day in a residential neighborhood in the Mont Pleasant area of Schenectady helping build the foundation of the home. Nicki Foley, assistant director of Clarkson’s education program, coordinated the site work with Lauren Moore, the volunteer coordinator of Habitat for Humanity of Schenectady County.
“Our work involved laying the foundation for a new house being built,” explained Tucker McKeown ‘22. “Habitat For Humanity uses Styrofoam pieces similar to LEGOs for its foundation which have space in between each other where concrete will later be poured to support the house above it. Once we built up several more layers of blocks up to the level needed for the day, we worked on what was supporting the wall to ensure the wall was perfectly straight.”
Clarkson’s MAT program added a community service component in 2017, which aims to provide students with an opportunity to experience personal growth that would be beneficial in the future as teachers.
“Teaching is a job where you need to understand the community where you are serving in order to have empathy for and build relationships with your students,” Foley said. “Because our CRC campus is in Schenectady, we require that a portion of the requirement be completed in a Schenectady-based organization and alongside members of their cohort. As they work together with their classmates, a positive side effect is the team building they get to do as well as bonding. They learn to collaborate and use each other’s strengths to complete a well-built product.”
According to students, the experience succeeded in its intent to provide an experience of growth.
“It was eye-opening to hear about how something as simple as switching from paying rent to making reasonable mortgage payments can seriously help to lift families out of poverty,” said Dearbhla Fay ‘22. “Lauren (Moore) also said that owning a home is one way that can really help families focus on what's important and this definitely makes sense. After all, how can I expect a student of mine to focus on Social Studies if they are starving or have no idea if they're about to be evicted or not?”
“Saturday helped me to realize that there are often more important things going on in a student's life than the simple question of whether or not they got their homework done the previous night,” Fay continued. “I think it really helped me to comprehend just how important it will be as a teacher to display empathy with my students in order to best help them to succeed.”
Clarkson students are set to return to various Habitat for Humanity sites three more times before the end of October.