Volunteerism: When Play & Study Coincide


Many Curry students engage with Madison House, which serves as the student volunteer center at UVA, offering a unique educational and “hands on” experience. Millie Dubose, Mary Rose Philipoom and Claire Prioleau share their stories of leadership and service, and their professional goals as they shape careers in education.

Millie Dubose

Claire-P_Madison-House.png

Volunteer with Madison House's PLAY Program
2nd year; Richmond, Virginia; Elementary Education Master's Candidate; Applying to Youth & Social Innovation (YSI) 

“Community service means getting involved and forming personal relationships with people in your community who you otherwise might not come in contact with, resulting in a friendship and/or mentorship that empowers both parties, making a change within the community for the better.”

Q: What are you studying? What attracted you to Curry?

I am choosing to study Youth and Social Innovation (YSI) because I am passionate about working with and empowering young children. I chose to be a part of Curry because of the exceptional education I will receive about the development and learning of children, which is knowledge that will be crucial to have when working as a teacher one day.

Q: How were you introduced to Madison House

I was connected with Madison House through Melissa Levy’s class, "So You Want to Change the World?". We were required to volunteer in our community once a week for at least ten weeks, but we could choose whatever program we wanted. I chose the PLAY program within Madison House because, to me, it seemed to fit my personality and passions.

Q: What type of service are you completing with Madison House? How does it coincide with your area of study?

Through Madison House, I engaged with the Boys and Girls Club in Charlottesville. It coincided with my area of study because it helped me to get further involved in my community through tutoring and mentoring young children on a weekly basis.

Q: Why is hands-on, in-the-field experience valuable for students?

Hands-on, in-the-field experience is valuable for students because it gives them a chance to get further involved in their community. For me, engaging with the children at the Boys and Girls Club gave me the opportunity to meet and develop relationships with students who I otherwise would not have gotten to know as our paths might never have crossed. Hands-on experience is also meaningful and personable, an important aspect of volunteer work in my opinion. 

Q: What are your career plans and eventual professional goals?

I hope to become an elementary school teacher after graduating with both undergraduate and graduate degrees from Curry.

Q: What does community service and/or public service mean to you?

To me community service means getting involved and forming personal relationships with people in your community who you otherwise might not come in contact with, resulting in a friendship and/or mentorship that empowers both parties, making a change within the community for the better.

Q: Anything else we should know?

I would recommend Curry, Madison House, and general volunteering to my peers by telling them how amazing it is to feel like you are actively learning about and participating in community work, child development work, and empowerment work. Curry and Madison House are built off of a structure of community themselves, radiating passion for volunteering and working in the community. 


Mary Rose Philipoom

 IMG_9119_med.png

Volunteer with Madison House's PLAY-Going into Nature 
2nd year; Richmond, Virginia; Applying to Youth & Social Innovation (YSI) & declaring English Major

“Curry offers amazing courses; I encourage you to try a YSI course. As for Madison House, they made it extremely easy to get involved. I would say find what you are passionate about, do your research and consider taking “So You Want to Change the World?” for lots of discussion on engagement and volunteerism, as well as volunteer opportunities.”

Q: What are you studying? What attracted you to Curry?

I'm applying to Youth and Social Innovation (YSI) and also plan on declaring English as my major. At Curry, I've worked in the Motivate Lab since my first semester at UVA, and I absolutely love it. Many of our projects overlap with my interests in education and psychology research. I’m very interested in issues of ability, race, and social class in higher education, and so YSI courses caught my eye immediately. Once I enrolled in my first YSI course, I realized that YSI courses were the intersection of my academic interests: innovation, education, social issues, and research. I was thrilled.

Q: How were you introduced to Madison House

During the fall semester I took a course in the Curry school named “So You Want to Change the World: the Foundations of Community Engagement.” For the course, we were able to select which program we wanted to volunteer with. I chose Madison House because I fell in love with their PLAY-Going into Nature program, and I could not imagine a more perfect fit for myself.

Q: What type of service are you completing with Madison House? How does it coincide with your area of study?

Through Madison House’s PLAY- Going Into Nature, I volunteer at a local elementary school. After school, we take a group of first through fifth graders out into a forest to explore nature. At the same time that I participated in this, I was taking a Child Development course in the Curry school and it was amazing how many course concepts I was able to see in action as I watched the kids build their imaginary worlds in the woods. I absolutely love this program and week to week I was able to apply new tactics of engaging with youth from my Community Engagement class, and quickly learn what works and what does not.

Q: Why is hands-on, in-the-field experience valuable for students?

I cannot stress enough how valuable this experience was for me! You can sit in a classroom and hear all about child development and then go to another class and hear all about community engagement, but it does not compare to actually being out in the community, surrounded by children! Both experiences are essential. Working in the field forces you to remember that children, and people in general, are real, breathing, 3-D, human beings and not just words on a page or a power point that you can map out.

Q: What are your career plans and eventual professional goals?

I really want to end up doing research on inequality in higher education and interventions or programs to work to alleviate that. When I graduated high school, I thought that research was more or less confined to test tubes and beakers. However, through my experience Motivate Lab, I have come to realize that research is so much more, and I want to continue to be a part of that. My professional goal is to use research to make a difference for students with low SES, URM (underrepresented minority) students, and/or students with disabilities.

Q: What does community service and/or public service mean to you?

To me community service means leaving your ego at home and staying local, if you can. It doesn’t mean posting facebook pictures of the kids you helped (unless you have explicit permission, I suppose), or going to some exotic location abroad for a few days; it means doing good, unselfish work in your community, as consistently as you can manage, and in an area where you have something to offer. I don’t mean that you have to be an expert in everything; but for example, I would not offer to volunteer to tutor in music, as I can’t play any instruments. However, I love gardening and nature, (and kids) so I chose PLAY. I think that it’s all about finding the perfect fit between a program that you will enjoy helping, and a program that actually needs your help.

Q: Anything else we should know?

I could not recommend Going Into Nature highly enough! Bev, the community partner, is so sweet and amazing with the kids, it’s really cool to watch. And the program is so unique, you go down into the forest and kids just build their imaginary worlds. You aren’t telling them what to do, you are simply engaging with them. Kids who seemed really shy at first just open right up! It was such a heart warming transformation. It was also relaxing, even as a volunteer, to spend time in the outdoors, not thinking about UVA or classes or anything, just teaming up with a six year old and building houses for worms and fairies out of mud and sticks and stones. 


Claire Prioleau

 DuBose_Madison-House.png

Volunteer with PB&J Fund through Madison House
2nd year; Fort Worth, Texas; Youth & Social Innovation (YSI)

“Hands-on experience is the best thing a student can do because it's learning by doing. Public service allows me to apply what I'm learning in the classroom to better interact with youth in a meaningful manner.”

Q: What are you studying? What attracted you to Curry?

I decided to study Youth and Social Innovation (YSI) because the major allows you to explore many different aspects of youth development, problems facing youth and how to address these problems with an educational and/or policy view. In YSI, you learn about children and their whole environment, not just their classroom environment, which gives a broader perspective of trying to understand problems facing youth, as well as their perspectives. I chose Curry because it is a very tight-knit, personal community. I went to a small K-12 prep school where student-teacher relationships were very important and it is the same in Curry. The cohort style of YSI really allows you to get to know your peers beyond just the classroom and form meaningful and lasting relationships with your professors.

Q: How were you introduced to Madison House

I had heard about Madison House and all of its opportunities before I even got to UVA. An older friend who knew I had a passion for volunteering with youth told me about it and told me to look into it. Madison House stuck out to me above other volunteer opportunities because it offers a very broad range of different kinds of service and everyone can find something that they enjoy there whether it's working with children, elderly, animals or the environment.

Q: What type of service are you completing with Madison House? How does it coincide with your area of study?

Currently I am involved with the PB&J Fund, volunteering in their cooking classes that teach healthy, balanced lifestyles to children. When I go, I arrive before the kids and help set up the kitchen so that all of the ingredients are out when they get there. Once they arrive, we tell them what they will be making and give them a short nutrition tip. Then we go into the kitchen, where they begin cooking and I act as a guide and helper. This experience relates to YSI because we are empowering youth to act on their own, rather than telling them exactly what to do. We are also teaching kids the importance of leading a healthy lifestyle in a fun, hands-on and innovative way. 

Q: Why is hands-on, in-the-field experience valuable for students?

Hands-on experience is the best thing a student can do because it's learning by doing. Public service allows me to apply what I'm learning in the classroom to better interact with youth in a meaningful manner. Engaging in-the-field also helps students gain a true perspective of the issues they are trying to help and makes it personal and real. 

Q: What are your career plans and eventual professional goals?

As of right now, I would love to work in a non-profit that helps children see their full potential and find what they are truly passionate about by exploring all sorts of different fields. In the future, I want to use my education and experience to gain a leadership role at a non-profit that promotes.

Q: What does community service and/or public service mean to you?

To me community service is about spending my time helping others and getting to know people I probably would not otherwise meet. It has helped me gain different perspectives of people that come from different backgrounds and connect with them to make a positive impact in their lives. 

Learn more about our Undergraduate Majors and Minors.

Learn more about our Graduate Programs.