Q: Would you please give me an example of how this works for a “sample” student?
A: Certainly! Here is a story of how iCollab unfolds for a “sample” participant, Corey:
Corey had been interested in nature and outdoor activities since she was a young child. As she got older she began to hear about endangered species, global warming and other environmental issues and wanted to be involved. She was passionate about saving the planet.
Eventually she became interested in volunteer work and activism related to her passion. She heard about Earth Day activities in her city and got a few friends together to participate. She wanted to do more, and to connect with peers who were interested in these issues, too. That was when she heard about Impact Collaborative, an online program for high school students that provides preparation for engagement, online discussions, articles to read and live video chats to talk with peers about their involvement, and to share ideas, information and more.
Recently Corey enrolled in her first 12-week session with Impact Collaborative, known affectionately by the participants as iCollab. In the first week she learned about reciprocal partnerships, watched a video presentation about effective approaches to community engagement and joined in on her first live video chat. It seems there was lot more to being an engaged citizen than she had ever considered. There were some really interesting people in her discussion group, and everyone seemed super motivated to be involved in social change in one way or another.
She brainstormed ideas for possible partners and, using the online tools that iCollab provided, she created her own resume to share with the partner. After receiving some helpful input from her coach, she contacted her top choice organization, providing her resume and other materials iCollab provided. She was excited to hear back quickly from the volunteer coordinator at the organization and they set up a time to get together. The meeting was great! They agreed that Corey would come twice a week, for 3 hours each time, to work on a new anti-fracking campaign and also to work with their program to educate children about water resource management.
The following week Corey had a lot to share during the live video chat and so did the others in her group. Everyone was so encouraging and they were looking forward to hearing what happened with each person next week.
That week she looked over the activities and topics they would be covering in the coming weeks and saw that there were materials to read each week, and discussion prompts to guide the posts on the group blog. There were also bi-weekly video chats with her group and coach. There was a reflection due at the end of the 12 weeks, which could be either a written paper or a video of her sharing about her experiences and her learning. The environment had always been her special focus but when she looked at the summaries of the other focus groups offered she thought that maybe in future sessions she would sign up for other groups. So many things in this world seem to be interrelated; it would be a good idea to know more about all of these topics, and connect with local organizations that dealt with them.
The weeks flew by. She really enjoyed her time at the organization, even though some weeks were challenging, especially when plans changed or there were budget limitations. Working with the children had been great but she never realized how exhausting it would be. What really surprised her was how much she loved the weeks she was able to work with the graphic artist who designed the materials for the anti-fracking campaign. Even though she was often doing copying or other basic tasks she was able to connect with the designer and see how she went about her work. Corey also sat in on some of the design planning meetings and found them really interesting. Because they wanted some of the material to appeal to teenagers, her ideas were sought and she even took home their samples to get input from her friends. She hadn’t ever considered combining her artistic talent with her environmental interest, in a career like graphic design. Now she saw this as a career she wanted to explore further.
Towards the end of her 12-week session she met with the volunteer coordinator to review her time there. She realized that her work there was of value to the organization but also, how much she had learned. She and the volunteer coordinator talked about her continuing to be involved and even about the possibility of her working in one of their summer outreach programs, which provides a stipend.
Corey found that the weekly assignments and bi-weekly video chats had been awesome. She enjoyed hearing what the other group members were doing in their communities. A couple of times ideas were shared that others were able to share with their community organizations. It was fun to be part of this kind of collaboration and cross-pollination of ideas. The different materials provided were really interesting and often made her aware of things about community engagement and social issues, which she had never thought about before. She found the time spent reflecting on the material and the engagement really helped to connect the dots and brought more meaning to her community work. She thought she was a pretty informed person before she started iCollab but, looking back, she realized how much she had learned in these 12 weeks — about the issues, about the community organizing and, perhaps most of all, about herself.
* Corey’s story is a fictional illustration what Impact Collaborative’s program offers. Corey is not a real iCollab program participant, but she could be!