OCE Community Profile Series
By Daniela Sainz | November 6, 2013
Dwight Weingarten is a senior who plans to take the lessons that he learned from his volunteer opportunities at the college and apply them directly to his career aspirations for the future. After spending some time understanding the motivations behind his fealty to Project Phoenix, a tutoring and mentoring program, it is easy to see how the College is a community that fosters a passion for service beyond formal educational settings. Dwight’s experience volunteering for Project Phoenix developed and strengthened his desire to teach after graduation. Here, we explore how Dwight’s passion for teaching was cultivated and how he plans to broaden his horizons in the future.
Office of Community Engagement: How are you involved in community engagement at William & Mary?
Dwight Weingarten: I am involved with Project Phoenix, a tutoring and mentoring program involving three middle schools within the Williamsburg area. I am a tutor coordinator, so my main responsibility is sponsoring the tutoring. Project Phoenix has been around since 1992, so the program has been in place for about 20 years. We tutor in every subject, including: foreign languages, science, math, etc.
OCE: How has this work contributed to community needs?
DW: So many kids need that extra push to succeed; it’s a unique opportunity to get support from someone outside of their school. Having high-achieving students who attend William & Mary mentoring them is a fantastic opportunity; the college students can relate to their pupils through similar past experiences.
OCE: What does active citizenship mean for you?
DW: To me, active citizenship means that you have to take a direct role in what you commit yourself to. You are not “doing what you are supposed to,” you have to really become personally invested in improving the community. Active citizenship is the realization that I have lived a life of good fortune, and that I have an obligation to help out in the community in whatever way I can.
OCE: How has your experience working in the community affected your educational career at William & Mary?
DW: I am a History and Education major, and working with Project Phoenix has strengthened my desire to teach. Seeing how strong the program is has made me aware of the greater need for these kinds of programs elsewhere. Every middle school student should have one. Unfortunately, we can only accept about 20 students into the program from each of these schools. The need for the programs is so much greater.
OCE: How do you plan to use what you’ve learned as an engaged citizen beyond William & Mary?
DW: I plan to become certified to teach! I have really enjoyed the mentoring aspect of my responsibility, and the amazing support that we give the students outside the classroom consolidates the 360 degree aspect of working with the students.
OCE: What is the most memorable or striking moment you experienced during your engagement work?
DW: There have been a lot of memorable experiences, but what comes to mind is one of the Saturday programs where the kids got to meet some of the players on William & Mary’s football team. The joy on the kids’ faces was incredible, it was almost as if they were meeting someone in the NFL. Being able to play on the field and listen to these players tell their stories was fantastic, and everyone appreciated it. It was one of the most successful day activities we had ever organized.