Marc Decker, a senior music composition major at Cal State Northridge, had always envisioned himself as a college professor.
But in his final semester at CSUN, Decker finds himself at the opposite end of the teaching spectrum--singing to preschool-aged children at Temple Ahavat Shalom in Northridge.
And he's loving every minute of it.
"I can't believe how much fun it is to play with kids," said Decker, 47, a resident of Tarzana. "There's nothing more beautiful than children, and they respond to music so instantly."
Decker got his teaching assignment through CSUN's Jewish Communal Fieldwork internship course, which enables undergraduate students to work in the Valley's Jewish community.
Since its inception in 1996, the course has placed students of all ethnic and religious backgrounds in various majors at Jewish community centers and schools, social welfare and political agencies, synagogues and other Jewish organizations, said Jody Myers, coordinator for the Jewish Studies Program at CSUN.
"It's a way of exposing students to what it's like to work in the Jewish community," Myers said. "It's a program that serves the community as well as serving the student."
Echoing Myers' sentiments is Lilah Snow, director of early childhood education at the temple, which had employed CSUN students since the inception of the course in 1996.
"I think the CSUN fieldwork program is great, and it's a way for students to get real-life practice experience to go with the theory that they're learning," Snow said.
The Jewish Studies Program recently received funding for the internship from the Los Angeles-based Max and Pauline Zimmer Foundation, which allocated $20,000 in grant awards, Myers said. A portion of the grant money will be used to pay each student a stipend of $450 for this semester, she added.
"This funds us for two years and allows us to write the article describing the program and presenting it as a model for other universities and Jewish communities," Myers said.
For more information on the program, call the Jewish Studies Program office at (818) 677-3007.