Christina Poteet: Raising the bar for service-learning
by WILLIAM WRIGHT, Lifestyles Editor
Mar 20, 2011 | 1571 views | 0 0 comments | 19 19 recommendations | email to a friend | print
NEW DIRECTOR — Christina Poteet, the new director of service-learning in the office for community and civic engagement at the University of North Carolina at Pembroke, is changing the perception of community and civic engagement as being more than just the office that organizes service projects. The Cleveland native, seen above during a Christmas Gift Drive with one of the children involved in the project, sees her office as a one-stop shop for community service, volunteering and service-learning.
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Christina Poteet, a 2002 graduate of Cleveland High School, is the new director of service-learning in the office for community and civic engagement at the University of North Carolina at Pembroke.

She will work with Scott Hicks, a faculty member in the English and Theater Department, to roll the new program out over the next year.

“Essentially, I serve as a liaison between the campus and surrounding community, working with community-based organizations to provide UNCP students with opportunities to become more engaged and active citizens while meeting a need in our community,” Poteet explained.

“With the new position, I will work closely with faculty to help develop opportunities to incorporate service into the classroom. UNCP is located in the poorest county in North Carolina, with more than 30 percent of our population living below the poverty line. With this comes a lot of issues related to illiteracy, violence, health care and other issues.”

Through this new service-learning initiative, Poteet said students can take an active role in helping to end such an epidemic while applying the skills they are learning in the classroom to real life situations.

“I was chosen for this position because of my experience working with the community and because of my passion for service and student learning,” said Poteet. “After graduating from Cleveland High in 2002, I went to Berea College on a full-tuition scholarship.”

According to Poteet, Berea is known for its commitment to service, and it was at there where she was taught the significance of incorporating service into the classroom.

“After graduating from Berea, I continued my education at the University at North Carolina at Greensboro, where I taught service-learning classes in communication. After receiving my master of arts degree in communication studies, I accepted the job at UNCP as the associate director for community service.”

While she will continue to serve as the associate director, Poteet said basically that means she is responsible for maintaining community partner relationships and for developing and implementing student-based service programs. She is also responsible for all service related programs, including food drives and days of service.

“For example, I am taking 15 students to Miami to serve at a teen homeless shelter for their Spring Break in March,” she said. “This is a great opportunity for our students to experience an environment very different from their own, while giving back and meeting a need in this community.”

Poteet said she highly recommends people serve as volunteers in every community across the country.

“There are always opportunities to volunteer and to give back to your community,” she said. “This is the most important life lesson I could ever share with anyone.

“Through service, you learn a lot about yourself, but more importantly, you are creating real change in the world. I always tell my students that when they become informed of a problem or social injustice, it becomes their responsibility to change it.

“If you see someone who is hungry, help him or her find food. If you see someone who is suffering, help him or her find relief. If you see someone who cannot read, grab a book and teach him or her. We have the power to change the world, we just have to take that first step. Oftentimes, that first step is volunteering.”

Poteet attended Arnold Elementary, Cleveland Middle School and Cleveland High School before leaving for college. Her family in and around Cleveland includes her mother, Carole Hicks, and brother, Jack Hicks.

Her father, Kenny Poteet, served as a Cleveland police officer for years. Her grandmother and grandfather, Rebecca Boring and James Hicks, reside in the area, as well as many uncles, aunts and cousins.