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: Palos Verdes Estates, Calif.
Major: Anthropology modified with Latin American Studies, International Studies Minor
Tucker Program: Cross Cultural Education and Service Program (CCESP) - Nicaragua
History with Tucker: Steph started volunteering with Outdoor Leadership Experience (OLE) her freshman fall, and led the Community Development team of the Cross Cultural Education and Service Program (CCESP) as a junior. This past year, Steph was one of the student contributors to the reevaluation process of CCESP.
What has Tucker meant to you?
My experiences through Tucker have helped me crystallize what I want to pursue after Dartmouth. While I have certainly gained a lot of skills in leadership through logistics and planning, etc., it was wonderful to be able to go back to Nicaragua and to have bigger picture talks about what we want this program to be and what this program can be. Tucker offered me learning experiences that I am so grateful for-after all, this was the first international volunteer experience that I had ever had.
How did you become involved with Tucker?
I went to the Tucker Volunteer Fair as a freshman! I did a lot of community service in high school and really wanted to continue it- the activities that OLE offered resonated with me more than any other group at the time. I did some backpacking through outdoor programs at my high school. In fact, senior year, most of the 87 seniors in my school went on an 18-day backpacking and hiking trip. After that, OLE seemed like the natural choice. I participated in OLE throughout freshman and sophomore year, and then returned this past senior winter. Then in my sophomore spring I applied to be an officer for the CCESP. I had just worked at the Inter-American Foundation in DC, which gives grants to community organizations in Latin America, and I wanted to study more grassroots development in underprivileged communities. I saw a banner in the library for the CCESP and here I am!
Tell me about CCESP.
CCESP or the Cross Cultural Exchange and Service Program to Nicaragua has taken place during Winter break for the past 10 years with the exception of this year for the reevaluation process. Tucker partners with the non-profit "Bridges to Community," which runs programs in 5 sites in Nicaragua. Dartmouth students travel to Siuna, on the Atlantic side of Nicaragua, and then work primarily in rural communities outside of Siuna. During the fall there are weekly 2-hour seminars about Nicaraguan history and politics, global health, and international development. Then two teams—the community health team, which traditionally sets up a temporary clinic; and the community development team, which works on construction —both work to complete projects that are ongoing in the non-profit. There are about 10 undergrads per team, there is a faculty advisor, Med Students, and other health professionals with about 30 people total with both teams. I led the community development team, and we helped complete the building of a school, constructed several latrines, and built reduced-smoke stoves in homes to reduce respiratory problems.
What was the leading experience like for you?
Well first, the team itself was incredibly diverse in many ways: there were different levels of ability in Spanish and different comfort levels with being in such a rural part of a developing country. It was definitely a culture shock for some of the trip's participants. I mean, being the leader when this was my first time in this situation was certainly challenging, but having such a wide range of perspectives on the team helped make the experience even more gratifying. Another difficulty also came with the question of the effectiveness of short term service. It's difficult to make a lasting impact in a week and we recognize that, but what's key and probably most valuable is that the trip exposes people to the real problems and the real issues that exist in the world first hand. Tucker gives us an opportunity for experiential learning to discover how to approach and think critically about these issues. True, the program may have crammed a broad array of topics in preparation for the service experience, but when you're actually on the ground spending time with the people in this community, it really does makes a difference.
Where would you like to see this program go?
I would love to see the weekly seminar that educates the students about Nicaraguan development and history turn into a class. The experience of being able to combine my extracurriculars with my academics has been an important part of my Dartmouth experience, and I think that other participating students in the coming years would really benefit from having the class and the program. Also, I just want to say that this relationship between Tucker and "Bridges to Community" that has been cultivated over the past ten years is an amazing thing! To think that someone ten years ago had a similar service experience to the one that I had... there's a special connection there. A lot of alumni who are in this field have done a lot for the cause, and it all started for many of them because of this experience.
What would you say to someone who is looking to do a program like CCESP?
A lot of people who express their motivations to do this sort of program say "I want to help these people in a developing country," but I think that, while we are working on a community development project, this is more of an opportunity for you to cultivate an interest in international development or Latin America than necessarily become Paul Farmer in a week. In some ways, it might seem selfish, but what Tucker does best is give students the opportunities to learn, self-reflect, and develop interests through incredible service projects.
Last Updated: 10/16/12