Carly Perry, African Immigrant Health Promotion Lab

I am often asked what it is like to be a D1 student-athlete at American University. My honest answer is that college soccer is (1) time consuming (2) incredibly exhausting (physically and mentally) and (3) emotionally draining. But, in the end, playing college soccer is 100% worth it. When I committed to play Division-One soccer, I knew that activities I loved in High School- student government and volunteering- my not fit into my college schedule. Unfortunately, I was right. I am a senior this year and I have spent nowhere near the amount of time that I wanted to spend volunteering in the community and on campus.  So, when I heard about the CSLP (community service learning project) program that American University offers, I applied right away. This program is exactly what I needed this semester: a way for me to feel connected to the community and a structured program that kept me on track and organized.

Last spring, when I signed up for the Health Promotion Program Planning course with Professor Free, I did not realize that this class would work great for the CSLP credit. The purpose of this course is to learn how to create health programs for specific communities. So, the entire semester my group has worked hard to create a nutrition program plan for the community members of Montgomery Baptist Church in Silver Spring, Maryland. It has been a very cool experience to work Montgomery Baptist Church as our community partner because the church community is very diverse. Many of the members are from different countries in Africa and they greatly vary in their health needs, socio-economic status and education level. With this in-mind, my group worked hard to create a nutrition program that would appeal to majority of the members; it is called ‘Four weeks 4 Change.’

In order for my group members and I to create the nutrition plan for Montgomery Baptist Church, we went through a lot of different steps. To create this plan, we surveyed the community members, conducted research on past programs, drafted proposals and developed weekly lesson plans. Each week we met to work on our project and some weeks we received positive feedback and other weeks we were instructed to fix part of our plan. Professor Free challenged my group and we learned a lot from her feedback and her questions about our plan.  I expected to be challenged by Professor Free but I did not expect to face challenges with my group members. I did not always feel that the work was equally divided amongst us and I took on a lot of the work. But, in the end, I learned how to communicate effectively with both group members so that all of the work was done on time and done well.

I absolutely recommend any student at American University to engage in the CSLP one credit program if they are given the opportunity. The students at American University are lucky to have CSLP because those in charge are so organized, incredibly helpful and student-friendly. Personally, this has been different than any volunteer work I have done in the past.  In the past, a lot of the volunteer work I did were “one-time” events like delivering food on thanksgiving or packing shoeboxes at Christmas time. This project was an entire semester long, 40+ hours. At the beginning, I was a little concerned about how many hours I had to put into the project, but creating the nutrition program plan has been so much more fulfilling and I have learned so much more than past volunteer experiences. If I were not graduating this spring, I would engage in another community service project through the CSLP at American University.

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