Serving Others Is Her Style Fon Teawdatwan '19 has led three service trips to Charleston, West Virginia, for Volunteer Venture, a service-learning, pre-orientation program for incoming students.
“Volunteer Venture helps you really learn about the community you are working in, while drawing parallels to what you are studying.”
~ Fon Teawdatwan ’19
Leading Through Service
Fon Teawdatwan ’19, a biology major and poverty studies and education double minor, is an enthusiastic apostle for Volunteer Venture, a service-learning, pre-orientation program for incoming students. The program introduces students to the poverty themes in nearby cities. Students become a part of these communities, living, learning and working alongside classmates and local leaders.
Teawdatwan chose to lead service trips — three times — to Charleston, West Virginia. “Our service normally consists of working in gardens helping out with whatever the site needs,” she said. “Since most of the community gardens in Charleston are associated with schools, we also interact and work a lot with children. Last year, we helped organize a child-care center’s garden, so it was accessible and safe. We also sometimes help inside the schools assisting teachers with a lesson or playing with kids.”
Both Sides of the Issue
In Charleston, students learned about a topic of fervent debate in West Virginia: the coal industry. “Every year, our trip talks with someone from Keepers of the Mountain, an organization that advocates for preserving West Virginia mountains and environmental health, so they are against coal mining. We also talk to someone from Friends of Coal, an advocacy group in West Virginia that lobbies for coal mining as the economic solution to the state. Volunteer Venture groups hold evening debriefing sessions to discuss their projects and tie them to bigger issues in Charleston, not to mention Rockbridge County.
“Both sides truly believe they are doing what is best for the state. Coal is still an important part of West Virginia culture, and it supports many of the area’s families, but I think most people realize the need for diversified industry,” she added.
Integral to Her W&L Experience
“Volunteer Venture helps you really learn about the community you are working in, while drawing parallels to what you are studying,” said Teawdatwan. “I encourage anyone who has taken Poverty I and II to consider leading one. It’s been a big part of my W&L experience and was a great intro to the Shepherd Program.”
Eyes on the Future
Teawdatwan is considering a number of enticing options after graduation. “I’m hoping to apply to Teach for America. And if I enjoy teaching, pursue a master’s degree in education. But I’m also interested in healthcare and public health. If teaching doesn’t work out, I might apply to med school or a public-health program.”