The Center for Civic Engagement and Learning (CCEL) at Case Western Reserve University encourages students to “break out of the bubble” and experience all that Cleveland has to offer.
This summer, James Dolgin, a sophomore studying engineering, is doing just that through his participation in the Engineering Education Summer Outreach program.
“I always thought you could do [that] without being a part of CCEL—hop on the RTA,” Dolgin said. “But CCEL has broken me out of the bubble and dug really deep for me. I’ve gotten to see neighborhoods I never would have gotten to see if I was just hanging out in Cleveland. It teaches you about the local community.”
Dolgin and five other students are learning more about the Cleveland community this summer. In turn, they are teaching local children about STEM fields through the Engineering Education Summer Outreach program, which is funded by the Leonard Gelfand STEM Center.
Three pairs of engineering students, each working with two local programs, teach and lead demonstrations that showcase science in action. Dolgin and his student partner have been teaching children from 5 to 13 years old at the Fatima Family Center and the Boys and Girls Club of East Cleveland.
“From all sides, it seems like it’s really interesting,” Dolgin said. “The kids are interested, and even though it’s summer and they’re kids and they’re energetic, it gets them engaged. They ask questions and it brings out their curiosity.”
The program began in early June and continues through Aug. 1. Along with Dolgin, Freddy Arce, Cesar Juarez, Anna Mehringer, Alexandra Smick and Matthew Szigeti have been devoting their summer to the program.
The Case Western Reserve students in the program seek to engage elementary and middle school students with demonstrations and activities, like making ice cream or creating a monument for a marshmallow from spaghetti and yarn.
For Dolgin, high school science demonstrations played a major role in getting him interested in engineering.
“I felt that if I could do the same thing, why shouldn’t it have the same effect on these kids?” he said.
In turn, Dolgin’s involvement in the program has given him confidence in the young participants. He realizes that, during the school year, the students often are not exposed to engineering education. So the program exposes them to educational and even career options they might not otherwise consider.
“I’m not disheartened if they come out of this learning that they don’t want to be engineers because that’s, again, another step toward learning what they want to do,” he said. “I think it’s a great leg up for them.”
Dolgin has been involved in many community outreach programs in just one year on the Case Western Reserve campus. He’s participated in CCEL’s Saturday of Service and the Ohio City Bicycle Co-Op, which recycles old bikes into something useful. He also traveled to the Philippines as part of Engineers Without Borders this past year.
Learn more about Dolgin in this week’s five questions.
1. Who do you consider your greatest role model?
Louis C.K. is a comedian, which is really odd to have as a role model, I guess, but he’s just showed me a lot about what being a caring person is. If you watch his standup comedy, you’ll probably just think that he’s a rude guy. But if you watch his show, you see this completely different side of him that’s pretty simple-minded but also caring. I think both of my parents are actually my role models. They both emigrated from Europe. They both kind of adapted, and they’re just exceptional people. I think anyone that can teach in the way that my parents do and Louis C.K. does—it’s a very unique way, but it’s leading by example.
2. How do you keep up with the news?
I read BBC. (The network doesn’t) focus on any nation in particular, which I really like. (It covers) the world as it is. BBC focuses just on the world. It’s very unbiased. And The Colbert Report.
3. What is the most challenging class you’ve ever taken?
Senior year, I took an AP Art History course, which was challenging for me because it forced me to think in a different way. It forced me to write in a more critical way. It forced me to think about a topic that I always thought of as outside my imagination.
4. What do you consider the best invention of all time?
I think the city is the greatest invention of all time—the idea of keeping a population in a community that trades ideas. There’s something about the fact that you can just step outside your door and have a million different experiences on the street is great to me. I’ve lived in cities my whole life. Every city has its own personality. A city is like a living organism almost, and even though it’s thousand of years old, I think it’s one of the significant achievements of mankind.
5. What is your favorite thing about Case Western Reserve?
I like how modest people are here. It’s a given that at any college, you’re going to have a lot of people with a variety of skills. Case Western has an exceptional amount of people with an exceptional arsenal of skills, but they don’t push it in your face. They’re incredibly modest. There’s very little arrogance at Case Western Reserve. People don’t let that get in the way of helping someone else out.