Jan 29, 2008

Students have 300 plus options to fulfill CSER hours

by Charles S. Goss

    Over 300 different Christian/Community Service (CSER) opportunities are available to Liberty students every semester, according to CSER director Dr. Lew Weider. Residential students taking at least 12 credit hours are required to complete 20 hours of CSER every semester in order to graduate, with some students serving through on-campus programs and some traveling into nearby communities to serve.
    “When Liberty students go out into the community, it breaks a barrier between the community and Liberty,” Weider said.
     He mentioned the former mayor of Lynchburg who changed his opinion about Liberty because of the CSER program.
    “(He) didn’t like Jerry Falwell or Liberty,” Weider said.
    “Then he said students started tutoring kids that were in his church. He said nobody ‘speak out against Liberty any longer.’ Our community is starting to accept us because we’re making a positive difference in Lynchburg,” he said.
    Weider listed several ways in which students benefit from their CSER opportunities. Students can list their volunteer experiences on their resumes, making them more marketable job candidates. There are also personal and spiritual benefits, he said.
    “You’ve earned the right to share the Gospel when you’re...helping somebody,” Weider said.
    Weider also added that CSER opportunities can help students decide on a major or even change their major. For example, a student who tutors for CSER will be able to make a more informed decision regarding whether or not education would be a good fit for a major.
    All freshmen and transfer students do not have to complete a CSER their first two semesters at Liberty as they enroll in the Contemporary Issues courses (GNED 101 and 102). Weider said GNED trains students how to evaluate and properly respond to someone with a differing worldview.
    “It gives (students) a year to mature and to get acclimated to Liberty and the Lynchburg area,” Weider said.
Each CSER opportunity has a designated number ranging from 200 to 500. The number associated with a particular CSER indicates which type of CSER it is. The numbers do not signify levels of importance or difficulty but simply organize each CSER into four groups: church, campus, athletics and community.
    The 200-numbered CSER opportunities involve local churches. According to the CSER Web site, students can serve at Thomas Road Baptist Church (TRBC) or pick another approved church and perform a variety of activities, including tutoring middle- or high-school aged children, working in nurseries or teaching Sunday School. Students can also serve in para-church ministries and organizations, according to the CSER Web site.
    Rebecca Early, a senior majoring in psychology, sings in the TRBC choir every Sunday morning during church. She also participates in other choir-sponsored activities like blood drives.
    Early sees her CSER as a way for her to get plugged into a church while she is at Liberty.
    “I (have) gained a lot of new friends,” she said.
    The CSER opportunities in the 300s are campus-related, which include tutoring, Scaremare in the fall, student government and more according to the CSER Web site. Students can also host College for a Weekend visitors to fulfill their CSER requirements.
A few of the 300-numbered CSERs are the positions in Student Leadership. Many on-campus students volunteer to be a prayer leader, spiritual life director or resident assistant on their halls for their CSER. This semester 1,312 students are in student leadership,     according to Director of the Office of Student Leadership Dwayne Carson. 
    The 400-numbered CSER opportunities are related to Liberty’s athletic teams. Usually members of a certain team will do their CSERs together, such as the baseball team, according to junior catcher Nathan Thompson. Thompson said last semester the baseball team went to Virginia Baptist Hospital and the Runk and Pratt Nursing Home in Lynchburg, spending time talking with children and the elderly and giving them Liberty baseball shirts and hats. In addition, Thompson and a few other players worked at a baseball camp for kids ages 8 to 18 a few weeks ago.
     “I was responsible for the catchers and helping them become better by drills and instruction,” he said.
Finally, students complete 500-numbered CSER opportunities outside Liberty in the local community. Some of these opportunities include CampusServe, the Salvation Army and the YMCA, according to the CSER Web site.
    CampusServe, which meets most Saturday mornings, is an opportunity for Liberty students to get involved in the Lynchburg community. Students visit nursing homes, evangelize door-to-door and play with kids at various housing developments.
Since there is no CSER registration fair for the spring semester, students who do not have a CSER this semester can visit the CSER Web site or simply view Liberty’s splash page to find opportunities. Students can view the Web site and call the supervisor under any listed CSER to find out about an opportunity.
    Students must register for a CSER by Monday, March 3, and then complete 20 hours this semester while logging their hours on a blue Christian/Community Service Evaluation form. These forms must be submitted to the CSER Office by Monday, May 5 for students to get CSER credit. 
    Weider said students can freely evaluate the value of any CSER, meaning CSERs that receive negative feedback may be eliminated. According to Weider, a student can work for a specific non-profit organization for a CSER that is not listed on the Web site. The student must register through the CSER office and cannot get a paycheck, academic credit or a scholarship from the opportunity in order to receive CSER credit.
    Every May, one or two students receive the Christian Service Student Volunteer Award. Weider said every CSER supervisor gives feedback about how his or her students are doing, and the members of the CSER staff then nominate individual students for the award based on the supervisors’ recommendations. Whichever student gets the most votes for nomination will receive the award.
    Although students do not get course credits for CSER, each CSER supervisor assigns a grade based on the student’s performance, and the grade becomes a permanent part of the student’s academic transcript.

Contact Charles S. Goss at csgoss@liberty.edu.

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