You’re not living, if you’re not service learning

By Ayana Bessard, Staff Writer

Published in print Nov.12 ,2014

If you’re one of the few at UNCG that has to take a Service-learning class (SVL), then you know how moving it can be to extend your education to the community.

UNCG’s Service-learning website defines it as “a teaching method that links community action and academic study so that each strengthens the other.”

And if completed with the right amount of effort and compassion, you will definitely get those results.

Personally, I have taken thee Service-learning classes here at UNCG, and I truly believe that these classes have given me an experience, as well as a perspective, that the classroom just cannot provide.

This past week, I asked some students around campus if taking a Service-learning course was a requirement for graduation, and to my surprise, many of them said something along the lines of “What is that?” or “I’m not sure.”

After becoming aware of this, I looked on UNCG’s Course Offering Search and noticed how few Service-learning classes there actually are.

Frankly, I wish that more students would have the opportunity to take an SVL class.

Communication and Community, a class offered by the Communication Studies Department and required for Communication Studies majors, is an SVL class that can be very moving for some students, and can even serve as a gateway to open up relationships and connections that wouldn’t otherwise be established.

In this class, students must go to a community site established by the teacher, or elected by the student and approved by the teacher.

Examples of these sites are a small local bookstore in the Glenwood area, the IRC (a resource center for the homeless), Dudley High School, and the Center for New North Carolinians.

But, it should be noted, the list is never limited.

These courses don’t discriminate against whom they reach out to, and that can be extremely important to a student who may have a particular concern they would like to study or contribute to.

Students work together, and sometimes independently, while being in constant communication with both the coordinators of these programs and everyday people in the community who happen to be related or affiliated with that community partner.

This allows students in Service-learning classes to gain new understandings and perspectives on social issues in the Greensboro community by actively working with those who may be experiencing some type of economic or social inequality.

In the classroom, the teacher asks the students to reflect, think critically, and even encourages students to have open discussions.

The idea is to get students to apply real-world issues to the concepts they learn in the classroom, and create ways they can use this knowledge to create innovative solutions to these issues.

I strongly contend that this serves as a unique opportunity for all students, especially upperclassmen, because it encourages them to consider a variety of perspectives on issues impacting the real world.

And, of course, the professors agree.

Dr. Jessica McCall, a professor from the Communication Studies department as well, believes that “Service-Learning is a powerful way to engage in experiential learning. When individuals begin to partner with community organizations, all parties gain valuable experience and knowledge.”

I cannot help but agree with the idea that Service-learning is a powerful vehicle for education, because students get something out of it.

Yet, they also know that the people they interact with are also gaining something as well.

Dr. McCall went on to say, “It is through this interaction, and strategic reflection and application that individuals gain invaluable life lessons that can be applied in many future contexts.”

Service learning is extremely important not only because it extends education to the community, but because it opens up a gateway for students to be able to approach situations and apply knowledge from a community-based or social justice perspective.

Categories: Opinions

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