Service to the community has been an integral part of the Wesleyan experience since the college’s founding in 1836. Since 2002 the Lane Center for Community Engagement and Service has served as an explicit, comprehensive mechanism in Wesleyan’s ongoing work of preparing women for life-long service to others and ensuring that student learning is a major outcome of the college’s many service efforts.
Each year the Lane Center positively affects two-dozen community agencies through the completely volunteer efforts of two-thirds of the Wesleyan student population. Initiatives like WOW! A Day for Macon, Lane Center's Servant Leaders and Tutors, Project Feed the Hungry, LEAP! Summer Camps, Forums on Women & Leadership, and the nationally recognized Aunt Maggie’s Kitchen Table connect future community leaders with valuable service opportunities.
Aunt Maggie’s serves hundreds of at-risk families in Macon’s Anthony Homes public housing complex. Programming, managed and staffed mostly by Wesleyan students, is geared toward supporting these vulnerable families in their efforts to become more empowered and self-sufficient through Saturday School tutoring; art and computer instruction; gardening; library projects; a clothes closet to provide professional clothing; mentoring, and even cheering on women in the 50-plus age group in the fight against obesity. In 2000, Aunt Maggie’s Kitchen Table and Wesleyan received the inaugural Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter Campus Community Partnership Award for outstanding community service.
Twice yearly, the Lane Center coordinates the mass-volunteer service effort known as WOW! A Day for Macon. In one day, Wesleyan students, faculty and staff leave campus to become engaged and work simultaneously at several partner agencies addressing a broad spectrum of needs. Not only do WOW! Days enhance student engagement in the community, they also spearhead Wesleyan’s efforts to infuse service learning both inside and outside the classroom.
Teaching the spirit of service and engagement
The Lane Center mission encourages Wesleyan faculty to build into its curriculum opportunities for students to share with the community what they are learning in the classroom. An excellent example of this philosophy is the Wesleyan Volunteers For Literacy program. This collaborative effort partners with CGTC’s Adult Learning Center, which has helped hundreds of non-reading adults since its beginning, and has been praised nationally for its innovative approach to increasing a spirit of altruism and community service among college students.
Even before Wesleyan students step foot in the classroom, they are first introduced to our community and the Lane Center philosophy of service-based leadership. The First-Year Immersion Program is a joint effort of the Lane Center and Wesleyan Student Affairs office, in which all first-year students take part in a day that’s both enjoyable and rewarding, touring their new hometown and participating in group service projects with partner agencies.
The Lane Center models civic leadership and personal responsibility through the development of conferences, workshops and conversations throughout the year such as: women and wellness, economic empowerment, literacy, global women’s issues, women’s spirituality, HIV/AIDS, and women’s leadership and professional development. A suite of rooms in the Lane Center known as Sojourner’s Sanctuary is set aside to house visiting scholars and artists-in-residence, women scholars who share their work, experiences, strengths, and spirituality with the Wesleyan community in exchange for time and space in which to work on a project, or just for a brief sabbatical.
Through its Forums on Women and Leadership, the Lane Center brings world-renowned leaders in service learning to the campus, such as “Leading through Service,“ a 2005 joint effort between the Lane Center and the Center for Servant Leadership in Columbus, Georgia. These forums are often free, or offered at a very low cost, and meet a need in our community for adult leadership development.
Perhaps the best indicators of the Lane Center’s success are the independent student initiatives which serve as daily affirmations of the Lane Center’s positive effect on the campus, local, and global community. Canned food drives for hurricane victims, fund raising for international catastrophes, special prayer services, and clothing drives for the homeless are just a few of the many campus wide, student driven initiatives regularly led by Wesleyan women.
Lane Center Director Rhonda Green-Barnes