As part of a class assignment, five Frostburg State University student members of FSU's Allen HallSTARS! Learning Community created quilt squares representing their understanding of community and leadership.
A residential living/learning experience for students committed to making a change in their community, Allen HallSTARS! is part of the AmeriCorps national service initiative. Members provide volunteer services including tutoring and mentoring youth and providing assistance and companionship to senior citizens. The unique program has been heralded as a "national model" by authorities in the service-learning field.
FSU sophomores Pheona Cosbert, Rebecca Thomas, Rosa Parada, Nikki Greenwell and Ilana Fardjad participated in Dr. Kathy Powell's "Building International Communities" sociology class, one of the program's course requirements during the Fall 2001 semester. The students serve as team leaders for Allen HallSTARS! at a variety of sites in the area. They were asked to mobilize their team members "to design and construct a quilt square that represents [their] understanding of intentional community," as exemplified by Allen HallSTARS!
Completed squares were evaluated on the basis of originality and creativity, exploration of the concept of intentional community, quality of construction and use of media and the ability to mobilize team members and incorporate their talents.
Cosbert's group focused on the community at large in its design, featuring momentos from her three sites - St. Vincent de Paul's Senior Center, New Directions and the FSU Arboretum. The square includes photos and signatures of the team members.
"Volunteering has changed me a lot," says Cosbert. Describing the seniors, she says, "They're like second grandparents to me. I learn so much from them. They've opened my heart."
The quilt square created by Thomas' group resembles a mandala, with puzzle pieces arranged concentrically around a shooting star representing Allen HallSTARS! in the center. With each piece representing the qualities needed to achieve success in the program, the design offers an inspirational message, that team members are best able to achieve their goals by working together.
Thomas' site was Garrett County Community Action, where she tutored all subjects to 2nd through 8th grade students. "I had the satisfaction of providing a needed service for needy kids," she says of her experience.
Greenwell's quilt square, resembling a game board, focused on a call to volunteer as a patriotic duty. Names of famous people and cut-outs of hands, along with the names of the team members, decorate the square.
The "Allen HallSTARS! Presto-Chango Machine" dominated the quilt square created by Fardjad's group, which showed Dr. Seuss characters entering the device and emerging as creatures changed by their service experiences.
Rosa Parada's quilt square featured photos of her team members, who served as tutors for the America Reads program. A native of El Salvador, Parada taught Spanish to students at Northeast and Beall Elementary Schools.
Because the squares could not be sewn together as originally intended, Dr. Powell sewed borders and backings on each piece to create a series of wall hangings intended to be displayed as a group. For the backing, she selected bright red fabric with tiny white stars, an appropriate choice symbolic of Allen HallStars! mission in pattern and color; red is one of FSU's school colors. At the end of the semester, the squares were formally unveiled at a class presentation to which the students' families were invited.
"Volunteerism is really about doing your civic duty," says Dr. Powell, who believes the HallSTARS! show a remarkable dedication to their service activities. She is making arrangements to have the hangings displayed in the Lane University Center.
For more information about FSU's Allen HallSTARS!, contact Tony Washington, assistant director of FSU's Center for Volunteerism, at (301) 687-4580 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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