By Shatera McNair, APPLES Service-Learning Program Assistant
In high school, Gargi Dixit volunteered with Young Women in Bio and Kids Are Scientists Too, which both focus on expanding STEM resources for students. When Dixit enrolled at UNC-Chapel Hill, leaders in those volunteer groups encouraged her to enroll in the APPLES Service-Learning Initiative (SLI) at Carolina.
Part of the student-led APPLES Service-Learning program at the Carolina Center for Public Service, SLI introduces first-years to service-learning in the Chapel Hill area. Normally, SLI involves several days of in-person service prior to the start of the fall semester.
Because of University policy during the pandemic, the 2020 SLI experience was online. Student organizers offered participants a series of Zoom events in September.
SLI introduces students to community partners and broader service-learning opportunities in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro area, including Club Nova Community Center, Ronald McDonald House of Chapel Hill and Meals on Wheels Orange County.
“The best part of SLI was getting to hear from community organizations about the service that they do, as it helped me find wonderful service opportunities near UNC that I can’t wait to get involved with,” Dixit said.
Another key aspect of the program is that SLI provides an opportunity for students with shared interests to build relationships.
“I got to meet several like-minded students who are doing amazing service for our community in Chapel Hill and beyond,” Dixit said.
According to Dixit, a notable difference between her SLI experience and her high school service experiences was the emphasis on reflection.
“The leaders did a wonderful job of incorporating interactive sessions that helped me reflect on my service-learning,” Dixit said. “It really got me thinking about the ‘why’ behind my activities in community service.”
She continued: “The reflection conversations in SLI helped me understand the impact that service has on our community as well as its impact on my own personal growth.”
Now a SLI Committee Chair for the APPLES program, Dixit will help orchestrate the SLI experience for incoming first-years in the next school year.
“This experience has opened my eyes to the wealth of service opportunities that Carolina offers, and has encouraged me to incorporate service as a key part of my Carolina experience,” Dixit said. “My experience at SLI was one of the best things about my first semester at UNC.”