From a living-room-style office suite in the Dorothy Johansen House, Cohen and a team of nine student interns maintain a database of nearly 1,000 local service organizations, organize off-campus outings, and help students find the volunteer option that matches their interest and commitment levels.
“Reed is a very academic, very theory-based place, and for me it’s very important to feel connected to the world,” says Annie Gordon ’06, a SEEDS intern from Chico, California, who is majoring in religion and hopes to go to medical school.
While at Reed, Gordon has stayed connected by teaching after-school drama to a group of mostly immigrant second- and third-graders in southeast Portland and working in a downtown medical clinic for homeless youth. She also took a year off to teach English and health education in the Amazon rainforest of Peru, and this summer—as the winner of the McGill Lawrence Internship Award, which provides a $1500 stipend for work in the nonprofit or public sector over the summer—is helping a local women’s shelter translate their materials into Spanish. “What the SEEDS program offers and what students do on their own, complements intellectual learning with a more humanistic, more practical experience,” she says.
Sarah Tsalbins ’07 is using SEEDS to spread her passion for prison reform. A former intern for the Prison Activist Resource Center in Oakland, California, Tsalbins regularly leads groups of two to five students to a small basement library two miles from campus, where volunteers with Portland’s Books to Prisoners program fulfill reading requests from inmates all over the country.
“It’s really easy to forget that more than two million people are currently incarcerated in the U.S.,” says Tsalbins. Shipping books to prisoners “is a small act, but it’s a way to communicate support through the walls, and educate ourselves about the unjust realities of the prison system.”