Service Focus 101

January 18, 2023
Jodie De Jesus

Princeton offers students many ways to get involved outside of the classroom with its 500+ different student-run organizations and activities. For those interested in service and social impact, I have just the group for you! Housed within our Pace Center for Civic Engagement, the Service Focus program is intended for rising sophomores looking to make a difference and learn a little in the process. It runs from the spring of your first-year to the spring of your sophomore year and is made up of 3 major components:

  1. Summer Service Experience/Internship

During the summer between their first and second years, all Service Focus students engage in some sort of funded service experience or project that aligns with their interests. For instance, I got to intern with award-winning documentary specialist and Princeton professor Purcell Carson. With her organization, The Trenton Project, we recently released a new documentary titled “What’s in a Name?”, which centers around the history of desegregation at Trenton’s Hedgepeth-Williams Middle School. Our team of six interns was involved in all aspects of the film’s creation including: storyboarding, conducting interviews, editing, etc. It was truly an unforgettable experience, and I learned so much.

And if you don’t know where or how to find a summer service internship, no worries! The Service Focus program is there to help guide you in finding one, whether that be through a Princeton program, like mine, or one with an outside organization.

  1. Service Cohort

When you sign up for Service Focus, you can indicate what area(s) of service interest you most, with options ranging from Sustainability to Health & Care to Race, Migration and Belonging. (Note: it doesn’t necessarily have to relate to your summer service experience!) This helps you eventually be placed into a cohort, where you’ll meet other students that share your passion. Given my personal experience with educational opportunity, I opted for the Education & Access Cohort.

Over the past few months, my cohort has met weekly to discuss some of the most pressing educational issues today and how we might alleviate them. We’ve also engaged in fun activities like watching episodes of ABC’s "Abbott Elementary" and listening to podcasts. Not to mention we get free food each meeting from a local restaurant! Our group really offers an informal way to discuss service ideas, while engaging with other members of the Princeton community with similar passions who we might not have met on-campus otherwise!

  1. ProCES Course

The last element of the program ties in the academic curriculum to our commitment to service. Service Focus members are required to take at least one ProCES-designated course sometime during their sophomore year. ProCES is the nickname for Princeton’s Program for Community-Engaged Scholarship. On their website, you can not only find a list of these ProCES classes, but other service-oriented projects and opportunities that students can partake in.

Service Focus students also have the option to petition a course that isn’t officially indicated as a ProCES course, but that they feel presents opportunities for community engagement and service learning. What’s great about this is that it both encourages student advocacy and allows us to identify other creative ways that classes may connect to service. And, once again, the course you take doesn’t even necessarily have to be related to your summer experience or your cohort topic. For example, for my ProCES course, I’m currently thinking about taking SPI387: Education Policy in the United States, or I may branch out and try DAN306: Introduction to Radical Access: Disability Justice in the Arts. Who knows? Maybe I’ll even take both! 

Overall, Service Focus truly offers a unique chance to infuse your service interests with your academic experience, and I highly encourage any student even slightly interested to apply. Visit the Service Focus website to learn more!