Written by Taylor Bahr
My name is Taylor Bahr, and I am one of 10 members of Drake’s Engaged Citizen Corps (ECC) program. Through the Engaged Citizen Corps I’ve had the opportunity to participate in service-learning related coursework as well as partner with ISU Extension and Outreach in the Polk County 4-H department for an internship as a first-year student! Through this program, I’ve developed a passion for healthy charity and have become a leader within and outside of the Drake community.
Polk County 4-H is part of the state of Iowa’s 4-H program whose mission is to “empower youth to reach their full potential through youth-adult partnerships and researched-based experiences” (Polk County 4-H). The 4-H program hopes to further student’s skills in areas such as leadership and communication through several delivery modes including camps, clubs, and after-school programs. Throughout my time spent at Polk County 4-H this past semester, I’ve specifically been able to research and develop new lessons for the after-school program. At first this skill was very foreign to me, but I quickly learned how to design a program that would excite students as well align with the 4-H mission and program priority areas.
With Polk County 4-H I have also had the incredible opportunity to work directly with students on a weekly basis at an elementary school close to campus. Here, I work closely with around 20 students in two different 4-H clubs: Monroe 4-H and Monroe Cloverkids. These groups are divided by age, and each week I partner with the after-school program and lead different lessons focused around a variety of overarching themes, including STEM, Healthy Living, Communication & the Arts, and Leadership & Civic Engagement. This is when many of the lessons I design become useful to me. While some weeks I use pre-written programs, I often create new programs based upon student’s interests.
One of my favorite programs that I have done with the students thus far is creating chemo bags for patients at John Stoddard Cancer Center, a local Des Moines treatment center. Drawing on many of the concepts I’d learned in class about toxic charity, the Monroe 4-H club was able to give back to their community by also learning about the importance of kindness and giving back in their lives and others around them. By contacting John Stoddard to gain an understanding of their needs and directing that information into the creation of the program I was able to benefit both the 4-H club and those who received our chemo bags.
However, my role within Polk County 4-H isn’t confined to just this after-school program. With the help of my site supervisor, and lots of research, I’m currently in the process of creating a Drake Collegiate 4-H Club. This experience has been very exciting to me as I’ve gotten to connect with students on campus who are 4-H alums. This project also offers me the opportunity to make a lasting impact not only within Polk County 4-H, but also within the Drake community.
Overall, the Engaged Citizen Corps program has impacted my life in more ways than words can describe. I know Emily last week tried not to sound too cheesy when she mentioned the impact of the program on her life, but I’m already WAY past cheesy. 🙂
When I applied to the Engaged Citizen Corps program, got accepted into the program, and even up until I went to my internship site for the first time, I never had a full understanding of the program as a whole. While I knew I’d be focusing my time around the idea of service, I didn’t know I’d get placed in a site where I get the privilege to get to know 20 students on a weekly basis. While I knew that I’d be taking an FYS (First-year seminar) about Toxic Charity, I didn’t know that it would create a passion within myself. I didn’t know that a short semester later I would look at charitable giving, poverty, and the world in general in such a different way. While I knew that I would spend a great amount of time with fellow ECC members, I didn’t know they would become some of my closest friends on campus. While I knew that the Engaged Citizen Corps program was a great opportunity as a first-year student, I didn’t know that it would bring me closer to my campus, closer to the Drake Neighborhood, and create opportunities to develop myself as a person and student leader.
As I look back upon my experiences in the ECC program thus far, I’ve come to realize that this program hasn’t just taught me; it’s shaped me into a better person. Being cognizant of the community around me and striving to educate others on issues pertaining to charity and poverty is something I will continue to build upon past just this year. Knowing that my experience is only a little over halfway through, I’m excited to see where my Engaged Citizen Corps experience continues to take me.