Alvernia University’s Digital Photography class is serving the community over the course of the fall semester by partnering with the United Way. The students will visit at least three local United Way programs and photograph community service in action. The photos are uploaded to Instagram and are also made available to United Way to use on their social media platforms in order to support, promote, and encourage service in the community.
Alvernia’s Digital Photography students will take photographs at Literary Council, an adult literacy and English as a Second Language (ESL) education program; Olivet Boys & Girls Club, an after school youth development program; New Journey Community Outreach, the largest soup kitchen in Reading; Emerging Leaders United, a group that focuses on volunteerism; Easter Seals Eastern Pennsylvania, offering therapy programs for special needs children; Opportunity House, an early childhood education center; and Ready.Set.READ!, where tutors work with elementary school students to improve their reading skills.
United Way of Berks County is partnered with several other organizations: The Girl Scouts of Eastern Pennsylvania, Hawk Mountain Council: Boy Scouts of America, Berks County Intermediate Unit Child Care, The Salvation Army: Reading Corp, and several others. United Way’s work is positioned around the gathering and allocation of funds to support an important network of health and human services while also confronting key issues in the community. Their mission statement reads, “United Way of Berks County improves lives by inspiring collaboration, volunteerism and financial support to build a stronger community.”
As a Digital Photography student myself, I visited my first United Way program. I photographed the children at the Oakbrook Olivet Boys and Girls Club, and it was an entertaining and interesting experience. The kids were enjoying themselves and some even came up and asked directly if they could have their picture taken. The children were engaged in many different activities. Some played games in the computer lab, some played sports in the gym, some colored pictures and traded cards, and others practiced playing on the bongo drums. Through my photos, I hope to convey how much fun the kids have in a safe and supervised environment. So many parents and guardians work long hours and, if not for an after-school program like this, most of these kids would be going home to an empty house.
Community service is a cornerstone of the Alvernia community, as well. Following in the footsteps of St. Francis of Assisi, Alvernia’s core values include service, humility, peacemaking, contemplation, and collegiality. Students are encouraged to participate in at least 40 hours of community service over the course of their education. Digital Photography Professor Heidi Reuter said this is the fourth year the photography students had partnered with United Way. “Service learning is at the heart of Alvernia’s core values. Students get an opportunity to interact with people in the community and build on their communication skills while volunteering their time to help others,” said Professor Reuter.