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ECDC seeks volunteers for ND, SMC campuses

| Sunday, September 21, 2014

The Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s Early Childhood Development Centers (ECDC) are currently looking for college student volunteers to work at the nonprofit preschool programs.

Program director at ECDC-SMC Kari Alford said any student at Saint Mary’s, Notre Dame or Holy Cross can volunteer at either site, and Alford said no past experience is required.

While some majors at Saint Mary’s, such as psychology, communicative sciences and disorders and education, require additional hours of observation, any student from any major can volunteer, Alford said.

“A lot of times [volunteers] will say they have siblings at home, and they love kids and they just want to be here,” she said. “Some of them do it for their resume because they want to build it for [graduate] school. Some of them are trying to figure out if they want to go into pediatrics, maybe as a doctor or a nurse … or [they] just come and have fun.”

The number of service hours per student may vary depending on their requirements for class or their schedule, but Alford said most students volunteer between an hour and half to two hours per week. Their responsibilities also vary depending on what is needed.

“Most of the time they can read stories,” she said. “They can pretend to make food in the kitchen area. I saw someone today getting dressed up by a child, wearing a hat and putting a scarf around their neck. Depending on their comfort level and how much experience they’ve had, sometimes they may assist more in a learning activity or a small group activity.”

In addition to building a resume, Alford said volunteering for ECDC offers students additional experiences.

“It also gives you an opportunity to interact with other adults who can provide you with a work reference about your dependability and your interaction with children,” she said. “And for some students, they just like being here because it’s different from going to class, and it’s a time where they can relax and have fun and kind of forget that they have the midterm coming up or whatever other pressures.”

Alford said many volunteers enjoy working at ECDC so much that continue to volunteer there for many years, even after their requirement is fulfilled.

“[A volunteer] came to do some required hours, and he came back every year until he graduated, and he still occasionally sends me an email,” she said. “So I do think we have a huge impact on students, and sometimes they may change their major or think ‘maybe I do really like kids and maybe this is something that’s important.’ And we’ve hired some Saint Mary’s [alumnae] as teachers here, too. So I definitely think we make an impact on students.”

Sophomore Kathleen Nester said she loved volunteering at ECDC-SMC after only working there one week.

“My experience has been great,” she said. “The kids are absolutely adorable and so fun to be with. As a volunteer, I get to spend time with the kids as they play and do various activities in the morning.

“With my future career hopes, I gain a lot in getting to see development patterns in young children, which will be important for me to know and understand.”

Although Nester’s volunteer work at ECDC-SMC is required for her communicative sciences and disorders major, she said she plans to continue to volunteer at ECDC after she has fulfilled her required hours.

“I definitely plan on continuing to volunteer at the ECDC,” she said. “I am so thankful that such a great resource is located right on campus.”

Students interested in volunteering for either ECDC-ND or ECDC-SMC should contact the centers at nzavadaecdc@yahoo.com for Notre Dame or kalford@saintmarys.edu for Saint Mary’s.

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