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Vanessa Soaft, a fourth-year sociology student, shares her experience volunteering in the community as a team leader for Carleton Serves.


My name is Vanessa Soaft, and I am a fourth year sociology major. This year I participated in Carleton Serves for the second year in a row – this time as a team leader. Carleton Serves is a great way to get involved in the Ottawa Community and to really make an impact. It is a day where Carleton students fan out across Ottawa to work with partner organizations in bettering the community. Although it is just one day of service, it is an experience that will last a lifetime and will hopefully inspire you to continue to get involved and volunteer.

I led a group of hard-working, passionate students to St. Patrick’s High School where we spent the afternoon ripping up grass, laying down hundreds of newspapers and mulching to create a sugar bush area. As a team leader it was my job not only to contribute to getting the task done, but to motivate and inspire my peers and to engage them in critical thinking and reflection. I learning a lot about mulching, and made some new friends while developing my leadership and communication skills.

Often when volunteering, one focuses solely on the service being provided or task on hand and doesn’t think about the overarching circumstances that have led to the situation. That is why community service-learning is so important. It provides meaning and paves the way for real changes to be made. When reflecting back on the service that my group provided during Carleton Serves, we didn’t just create a sugar bush but we enhanced the learning experience and well-being of the students at St. Patricks. Did you know that by the end of grade six, students will have spent 1, 800 hours outside in the school yard? School grounds are not designed with children’s physical and emotional needs in mind, but rather for ease of maintenance and surveillance.  Studies show that transforming school grounds into green habitats for hands-on learning, playing, and socializing outdoors transforms students’ behaviours and attitudes towards learning.

I would encourage all Carleton students to participate in Carleton Serves as well as service days because it is a chance to learn about more about what it is that our community needs while making strides to improve it. It is a truly rewarding experience, which may even turn into a long-term volunteer placement.

Submitted by Vanessa Soaft, a fourth-year sociology student.


To find out more about the Carleton Serves program, visit the website at carleton.ca/seo/community-service-learning/serves/

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One thought on “Creating a Sugar Bush and a Better Community

  1. Carleton Serves sounds like an excellent programme for all students at the university. Vanessa Soaft is clearly an avid student in this area as well as an excellent ambassador for the programme. All of this contributes to a complete education and sends you in the right direction in your future endeavours.

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