Joanna Schneider '13
Student Director forBig Brother, Big Sister
Major: Sociology modified with Psychology; Minor in Chemistry
Other Campus Involvements: DOC; General Manager of Big Green Bus
Fun fact: She got involved in Big Brother, Big Sister in high school, over 7 years ago!
Hometown: Bridgeport, Connecticut
Tucker Program: Habitat for Humanity, SEAD
History with Tucker: I volunteered with SEAD and started volunteering for Habitat for Humanity my sophomore year. I became a Habitat Chair, junior year and now this year I have been the student director.
What has Tucker meant to you in this journey?
Despite the challenges and setbacks I've had, TUCKER IS A huge resource. Without the Tucker Foundation acting as an organizational umbrella for so many service programs on campus, students would be lacking in so many important volunteer opportunities. Community service needs to be implemented more in our daily lives at Dartmouth. During my experience in the International Baccalaureate Program in high school, 100 hours of mandatory community service were required of students before they graduated. At Dartmouth, unfortunately a similar commitment to community service is not required, yet it should be. I would love to see more of that at Dartmouth, for it to become more of the norm here. If I didn't have a program to volunteer with, I would go crazy.
How did you become involved with Tucker?
It all started when Tucker and Habitat blitzed out saying that they had a build. So I went! I had never before been to Tucker or participated in a Tucker project.I definitely participated in a bunch of different things my freshman year, but it wasn't as fulfilling because it wasn't as 'tangible' in the way that I wanted. For example, it's hard to see that you are making a real difference sometimes when you're assisting people overseas who you never get the opportunity to meet in person, but with Habitat, sitting down with someone and meeting them and seeing them and spending time with them is an experience comparable to none—the human contact is what I really love and needed. And the builds are rewarding because when you are done with a project, you can see the tangible results of your efforts. I had never participated in Habitat before Dartmouth, but I definitely wanted to do it when I was young!
Well, one of my passions that I've had for a while is working with my hands. For three summers during in high school, I worked as a landscaping intern through this program called Groundwork Bridgeport. We would install rock-walls, plant trees, plant gardens, shovel mulch – lots of gross things—haha. A few high school kids would intern for this company each year and it trained you to have a trade under your belt right after graduation and you became certified. I didn't think that I wanted to do those things forever, but I really liked working with my hands. Then, after I began at Dartmouth, my mom moved into an old condominium, and my sister and I began to fix the place up as a personal project. We tiled the floors, laminated parts of the house, installed sinks, did backsplash for the tub, etc. We did the whole entire condo, and it's beautiful now. I remember standing back and saying, "Yeah, this is wonderful," because I worked with my hands, and I could see that I made a change. It was very fun and had clear results.
Finally, with Dartmouth Habitat, I got to go outside and build and get dirty. It was a world where I was not just focusing on school work, resumes, and jobs—it was an escape. Because of the similar nature of some of the tasks however, and the way that Groundwork Bridgeport affected the local community, when I started volunteering here, I felt a connection with Bridgeport even in Upper Valley because the end happiness of the people that we were working for felt the same here as it did at home.
Habitat for Humanity
With Dartmouth Habitat, we work underneath Upper Valley Habitat. UVH does a lot of the primary work that most associate with the Habitat program: they build houses from the ground up for families who need them. The families that move in along with volunteers from the community work to build the home, which is a crucial aspect of the process: the family has to do 500 'sweat equity hours' before they receive their new house. The houses are made very affordable for these families. The process includes a family selection committee that sifts through applications and many aspects of life are considered. Specifically, Dartmouth Habitat does a lot of the leg work in a lot of activities; so, whenever they need extra volunteers or for example during the weatherization project for the aftermath of IRENE, Dartmouth Students were on the case. They offer tasks that you don't have to be too skilled to do, which ensures that no volunteer is turned away due to lack of skill. Dartmouth Habitat also raises money for UVH because the homes can be quite expensive! Dartmouth Humanity also does a lot of grant writing, fund raising, education, and advocacy. DH is essentially a resource for UVH.
What did it mean to be a chair last year?
My position was the administrative officer, which meant essentially taking initiative if other people couldn't do or needed help completing things. I organized meeting minutes and did some grant writing. There used to be few chairs who did everything, now as Director, I expanded it to 13, which was a nightmare at first, BUT now we're back to six or seven—I hope and believe that we have a fully-functioning machine now.
What about the transition to Director?
It really is a totally different idea of responsibility. You have to bring everything that you can to the table. Haha, it's a lot of work actually! I can't even describe how many times you just spend emailing people all day—I'm always on my computer all the time—its way more work than I originally anticipated. That being said, no one says that you have to do it this way, but I think big, and I love planning huge events— I love it though.
Where would you like to see this program go?
Not shrinking! I love thinking about adding tons of things to what Dartmouth Habitat could be! Something that I've really noticed for example, considering that education is the focus of future plans; a lot of the families that we work with have children who will be going to college soon. Accordingly, I would like to implement an academic tutoring and college preparatory program which would enable us to establish a continual relationship between the children of habitat families and the Dartmouth student volunteers. This would be an important program because many of the children we would serve come from families who have limited resources, and Dartmouth students know how to navigate the college process, to raise the resources to pay for our education, maintain a strong academic record, and to make the most of crucial resources—human, financial and academic. Basically the idea would be that money should not be a barrier a student and the opportunity for higher education any more than it should be a reason for someone not to have a house. Both housing and education pose enormous financial obstacles for families; by assisting Habitat families deal with both of these essential costs of living, we would be more completely fulfilling our mission to the community.
What would you say to someone who is looking to get involved with habitat?
We would absolutely love to have them! There are so many programs that do much of the same thing at Dartmouth and at Tucker, but this is a program that will fit a certain desire. We want them to bring what they can to the table, to bring their fire, and bring their passion. Dartmouth students are a little too well behaved and quiet sometimes when it comes to certain issues, but if you're passionate about it, make noise about it! This is what we want to see, this is what we want to make happen. Everyone is nice, and everyone is respectful, but you can be loud! You can make a difference! Harness the fire!
Last Updated: 10/16/12