Joanna Koulianos says that her experiences at USF give her opportunities to serve her community in Tampa Bay and beyond. This summer she will stick around and feed the homeless, teach classes for students who have never been to school and she plans to start a community garden in her hometown Tarpon Springs.
Volunteering is a break from her thesis and work, says Koulianos, a graduate student in English literature who specializes in film, critical theory and modern American literature. When she is not working on her thesis, teaching composition or tutoring at the Writing Center, she is bettering the community. She has recently started a Food Not Bombs chapter in Tarpon Springs, a nonprofit that connects the homeless and the working poor with the community.
“It is a community event that happens every Tuesdays at Craig Park at 6 pm. We provide not only food but entertainment and space for people to come out, mingle and socialize with individuals outside their own classes and groups. A lot of the community members are very talented and don’t have an outlet to express themselves and relax. This week, we do a banner painting, too. It is a lot of fun to connect with other members of the community whom I would otherwise not meet,” she said.
She says that Food Not Bombs is more than just feeding the hungry; it is about stepping outside the comfort zone, getting to know the community and making friends. She also plans to start second non-profit, Tarpon Loves Animals and a community garden.
“We are working to create a business directory which will be available at the Chamber of Commerce that features vegan and vegetarian-friendly restaurants in town. I also hope to organize a companion animal festival which will focus on educating the public about proper pet care, encourage pet adoption, and hopefully have a free-spay and neuter van, or at least vets available for consultations, on hand for anyone who needs it!”
In July, she will teach classes in a new context at the St. Petersburg Free Skool. She says that her teaching experience in a structured environment will come in handy.
“I am very excited to teach people who have never been to school. I am very thankful for my teaching experiences at USF,” she said.
Koulianos plans to grow her community work as a communications intern at Farm Sanctuary in New York where she will work 40 hours a week for three months copy-editing and exploring her new hobbies in videography and photography. She says her experience at USF and writing samples made her stand out as an applicant.
“I will be working for an organization I admired for a long time. I believe that I got the internship based on the experiences I have had in the MA program where I had a lot of opportunities to teach. The tutoring at the Writing Center made me grow as a writer and as a person. I have a wider skill set to offer. I am very thankful for that.”