The Central Coast Children’s Foundation: A Worthwhile Work-Study
By Andrea Pietrzyk, MIIS, 2011
For graduate students, setting aside 10-15 extra hours a week can be a struggle, even if it does help pay the bills. Many work-study positions amount to menial tasks like stamping library books or entering names into Excel spreadsheets. The work is far from exciting; it earns money, but not much else.
A work-study position does not have to be that way, however. It is possible to learn a great deal from a part-time job, and it is possible to help make a difference in the community in 10 or 15 hours per week.. At the Central Coast Children’s Foundation (CCCF), graduate students from the Monterey Institute for International Studies (MIIS) have the opportunity to serve communities in need – from children with disabilities to hospital patients with limited or no English. They can learn useful skills transferable to any profession, and they contribute to projects that truly effect change in Monterey and beyond.
MIIS graduates who have worked at the CCCF agree that their job was worthwhile and fulfilling. In Spring, 2011, eleven of them completed a survey based on their experiences. Each individual had a unique experience, but several common points are worth highlighting:
* Commonality in diversity. There is no cookie-cutter position at the CCCF. The student experiences differed – some worked with Latino organizations, others worked on the CCCF’s newsletters. One student put together a resource handbook on green renovation; another supported a local charter school’s petition for approval. The “common point” is that a job at the CCCF offers a wide array of projects – a variety not found in the typical work study job, on or off campus.
* A good use of precious time. Grad school is demanding, but all of the students stressed that their time at the CCCF was worth the time. They felt that the hours were flexible enough so as not to conflict with school work, and that the learning benefits made the time worthwhile.
* A job suitable for all walks of student life. The students came from different disciplines, but were all able to use and apply skills from their classes at MIIS to their work at CCCF. Many of them singled out research, writing and management as examples of these commonly transferable skills.
* An opportunity not found in an on-campus position. Several of the students, who had also held on-campus jobs, appreciated how the CCCF let them work “hands-on” with the local community and even directly with top-level management in other non-profits
* An education outside the classroom. Students reported that they learned useful skills and perspectives that they did not get at MIIS. Whether it was advocating for a charter school, writing grant proposals for non-profits in developing countries, or learning how technology can help people with disabilities communicate, students gained real-world experience and perspectives that cannot be acquired just by hitting the books.
* A strong base for a future career. All of the students have been able to apply their CCCF experience to their current, postgraduate careers. The research, communication, technological and management skills are valuable for any profession. There are more direct applications, too – one student attributed the grant-writing skills she learned at the CCCF to her successful fundraising efforts today working with victims of domestic violence.
CCCF alumni have many good things to say about their experiences. A job at the CCCF is well-worth the precious time a grad student has. Not only does it pay a decent salary for a part-time job, but it teaches students how they can serve a community in need by working in a non-profit organization. Students have the chance to work with persons with disabilities, non-profits in the developing world, local schools and other national and international advocates for patient-provider communication. This gives a student the satisfaction of knowing that the extra time he or she is devoting to work is actually making a difference.
I’ll let the past students have the final word:
- “CCCF is different and unconventional . . . I wouldn’t change it.”
- “In the short time I spent in Monterey, I feel like I can say that I really got to know Monterey.”
- “I felt appreciated and useful.”
- “I got a sense of excitement and achievement when our grassroots efforts raised funds for a local organization”
- “I put into practice my graduate education in a tangible, meaningful, and flexible way.”
- “I had to interact with people, institutions, & ideas, so I learned how much more complex it is than simply researching a topic.”
- “I gained a lot of confidence in my own abilities and tackled things I have never done before.”
- “ I worked on many projects, which is one of the biggest perks of the job. The job is constantly changing and shifting direction and allows the student to change focus and adapt with it.”