CSSA hosts student volunteer opportunities through Lobo Labs

Lobo Labs are creating safe volunteer opportunities for students at John Carroll.


(Photo by Carmen Ferante ‘22

Many students volunteer through Lobo Labs so that they can still give back to Cleveland while also being safe in the pandemic.

Laken Kincaid, Staff Reporter

The Center for Service and Social Action  continues to host volunteer opportunities throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. CSSA acts not only asan outlet for service at JCU but also as a mass employer. With the center’s future in jeopardy last spring amidst COVID-19, students and faculty alike were worried about the program and how it would survive the national crisis. 

“When the pandemic began last year, we immediately had to cease about 90 weekly service-learning activities in the greater Cleveland area,” Heather Craigie, the assistant director for student development and logistics at CSSA, told The Carroll News. “We couldn’t translate these activities into a virtual environment right away, as the situation was rapidly changing both within our campus community and with our community partners.”

Craigie said her team started by first supporting their student workers virtually. By late April, many service projects were available in a virtual format. Starting in the fall semester, CSSA officially opened an option for virtual service to students. 

“Our community engagement model centers the voices, assets and needs of our community partners throughout Cleveland,” Craigie continued. “The last thing we wanted to do during the pandemic was ask too much of our partners to accommodate our normal volume of service activities in a virtual format. Instead, CSSA created our own virtual workshop series, Lobo Labs.”

The Lobo Labs, run by CSSA, consisted of math tutoring, virtual field trips, and other free opportunities for young students in the community.

“I have been part of the Lobo Lab planning team this semester to make lesson plans for our in-house virtual service Zooms,” said Ray Flannery ’22, a member of the CSSA leadership team. “We have opened up opportunities for enriched learning, tutoring and extracurriculars to all the community partners we have tutored in the past. We have sessions such as math help, Fun with Fitness, Zumba classes and more!”

The transition to virtual service required quick adaptation to multiple elements like Zoom and screen recording software. Other volunteers had to learn and be able to traverse websites like WeVideo for certain Lobo Labs. At the beginning, the CSSA team feared the reaction they would get from students. 

“Virtual service has not been without its challenges,” Craigie said. “Connectivity issues, the digital divide and the impact of COVID-19 affected some of our activities throughout the fall. In the face of these challenges, students reacted graciously with patience and understanding. In reviewing our assessment data from the fall semester, we were thrilled to see that students still had meaningful experiences in virtual service.”

“For me, I have adapted with flying colors,” said Allison Grusha ’23, a CSSA liaison. “I am truly an anomaly, for sure, because I enjoy online learning, but the fact that you can make such a monumental difference without even leaving your kitchen table makes me enthusiastic to help others have the same experience that I have because it’s so easy.”

Some see virtual service as a great opportunity for students. Where others lacked the time or resources before to participate in service, the online landscape provides a chance for more people to be involved. 

“I think the pandemic has made much of the service CSSA does even more important now, due to growing needs within the community,” Flannery said. “While switching from in-person service to virtual service was not easy, it was necessary to continue to help those in need.”

“As a CSSA liaison, I strongly believe that any impact, no matter how big or how small, leaves a positive impression on the world,” Grusha stated. “With that being said, I believe that we do have the same impact but in a different context. Due to being online, a majority of our service is focused on tutoring, in order to help lessen the detriment of learning during COVID-19 and provide a positive environment for learning.”

While registration for weekly service has closed, CSSA anticipates offering one-time service events later this semester. If you are interested in getting involved, CSSA can organize a customized service or advocacy project. Email [email protected] for details.