Arcadia Magazine Spring 2024: Last Word: Community Partnerships for Hands-On Learning With Impact

By Alison LaLond Wyant and Jaisy Omollo | March 15, 2024

Arcadia University’s lived values make a difference for our campus community, but they’re at work in the local area, too. Thanks to relationships with many nonprofit organizations and schools, Arcadia students gain valuable work experience, preparing students for successful careers and civic life after graduation. Within walking distance of campus, three key partners provide opportunities for students through community engagement.

Cheltenham School District (CSD)

Students from Arcadia’s START pre-orientation program pose for a photo outside Glenside Elementary

The partnership between CSD and Arcadia encompasses various layers of collaboration, including the involvement of Arcadia students within the schools.

Under the direction of Dr. Priscilla Jeter-Iles from Arcadia’s School of Education (SOE), approximately 15 students serve as student teachers and pre-service teachers in CSD each semester. Additionally, SOE students and faculty run after-school STEAM experiences, both online and in-person.

Led by Jaisy Omollo in the Division of Civic & Global Engagement, the Community-Based Work Study (CBWS) program further extends Arcadia students’ impact within CSD. Two CBWS students each dedicated five or more hours per week at Glenside Elementary.

Moreover, Arcadia students play a crucial role in preparing Glenside Elementary for the school year through the Students Taking Active Responsibility Together (START) pre-orientation program. The Civic & Global Engagement team brings 30 Arcadia students to Glenside Elementary in  August to help teachers prepare their classrooms. 

Principal Michelle Robinson expresses gratitude, stating, “The commitment from Arcadia to enhancing the educational experience for Glenside students has been invaluable…[Arcadia students’] tireless efforts have undoubtedly made a positive impact on the overall well-being of our students and teachers.”

Reflecting on her experience at CSD’s Cedarbrook Middle School, Bonnie Schwartz emphasizes the joy of witnessing that impact: “I love seeing the kids develop their math skills. They’ve come a long way since the beginning of the school year!”

Americorps Member Jaylene O’Farrill supports afterschool programs at the West Oak Lane Free Library branch

Local Libraries: Nurturing a Love for Learning

Arcadia’s partnership with local libraries provides eight CBWS positions each semester. Students work as tutors at Glenside Free Library and the Wadsworth and West Oak Lane Philadelphia Free Libraries. Jaylene O’Farrill ’26 shares the impact of her experience: “I’ve had the opportunity to make a difference whether it’s by helping children improve their reading and writing or helping them stay motivated when times get hard.”

Americorps Members Jennifer Jimenez and Kiara Rodriguez supporting families at Cradle of Hope

Cradle of Hope: Supporting Mothers and Children

Cradle of Hope offers housing support for mothers and their babies. CBWS students and volunteers from the field hockey team visit weekly. Jennifer Jimenez ’26 expresses gratitude for what she describes as the “honor of helping these strong wonderful mothers.” She says, “[The children] have this bright light and are filled with immense joy that brings me joy also.”

Kylie Ferro ’24 reflects on the fulfillment derived from volunteering at Cradle of Hope through her team: “It is gratifying knowing that we are helping an organization that has such a positive impact on the new and expecting mothers that need support.” The tasks undertaken by the field hockey players, such as sorting clothing and cleaning, aim to create a comfortable and supportive environment. 

Partnerships like those Arcadia has with CSD, the Free Libraries, and Cradle of Hope are mutually beneficial, shaping the academic and personal growth of Arcadia students and also supporting the organizations’ goals. Through the Next Steps AmeriCorps program, connected to CBWS, Arcadia students dedicated an impressive 3,000 hours to the local community last year, a number projected to remain consistent this year.