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Volunteerism in the Community

From: Nicholas Holton, River House, Inc., Huron Pines, and Monica Martinez


This course gives students the opportunity to examine the role and scope of volunteerism in American society.  Students in the course are required to have some significant volunteer experience, or they will be required to do volunteer work during the course.  Prerequisite:  permission of instructor.

Course Description and Rationale:

A 2006 report by the Corporation for National and Community Service found that 3.3 million college students volunteered in 2005. This course recognizes college students as volunteer leaders with the abilities to plan projects and engage other students in meaningful service.

Service Learning Habitat for HumanityWith that in mind, this course seeks to bring together an academic, classroom-based curriculum and community service to create a holistic learning experience for students. As a community college, it is understood that Kirtland maintains somewhat of an obligation to connect the classroom to the community. In other words, service to the community performed by students is consistent with community college tradition. This course is designed to unite students and partners of the community under the single umbrella of service-learning academic curriculum. Students will be able to recognize these community partners as available resources to help them better understand the classroom material and coursework.

This course will focus on what “community” means in contemporary democratic culture and will explore the role of each individual, both as individual and “citizen,” in the culture of the United States. This course will look honestly and critically at both the promises and challenges of civic life in the U.S. context. In particular, this course will examine current situations of social justice and environmental sustainability. Students will be able to gain new information and understanding of others, new definitions of themselves, awareness of a broader range of people and places, affirmation and development of underused personal qualities, and a feeling that they made a contribution to society. This course will also benefit students in their career explorations by allowing them to gain real life experience outside of the classroom in a setting where theory meets praxis. This course engages students in service-learning, which allows students to contribute their time and energy, in the context of academic coursework that involves reflection and intentional learning goals, in order to meet identified community needs.

This class will be structured as the following:

Week 1: Students will receive an overview of the course, its objectives and assignments, as well as a beginning lesson on Civic Engagement.

Week 2/3: A representative from River House will come and teach the students about their particular organization, its purpose, mission, strategic plan, and how its mission is leading to the reclamation of social justice.

Week 4/5/6: A representative from Huron Pines will teach the class about its organization, its purpose, mission, strategic plan, and how its mission is leading to the reclamation of environmental security and sustainability.

Week 7/8/9: Students will have the opportunity to bring in representatives from other community organizations into the classroom to speak about their organization. This allows students to understand the complex process of establishing community partners on their own.

Week 9/10: A representative from Michigan Campus Compact will meet with the class to discuss civic engagement and the important implications community service has for the promotion of social justice.

Week 11/12: Students will begin the review process. Discussions will be facilitated concerning course objectives, addressing any questions the students had that were not answered during the semester’s work, and students will begin preparing for the final presentations.

Week 13/14: The final presentations on the students’ service to the community will occur during these two weeks. Students will have the opportunity to creatively showcase their experiences in the community for the past semester, opening up to their classmates for questions and comments. This will allow students to proudly recognize what a contribution their time and energy has been to the community.

Week 15: Final papers will be due; a final written exam will be given.

The requirements for this course, aside from class attendance and timely returned course assignments, will be as follows:

Community Service Requirement: Because democracy is not a spectator sport, and because democratic citizens are active participants in their communities, in addition to the regular class meetings, students will participate in 30 hours of community service over the duration of the course. Community service will provide students with the unique opportunity to apply theories and concepts discussed in class to their own practical experiences in serving others in the community. Students will be provided with a list of volunteer opportunities, but are also welcome to specifying their own.

Service Learning NursingCritical Incident Journal: Students will document their thoughts and experiences working in the community, reflecting critically on the assigned readings and class discussions, as well as responding to specific questions concerning a specific incident that was critical during their day. The writing will not be judged for “quality” along typical academic lines—it can be a loose, informal form. Entries will be evaluated in light of the overall quantity of entries and the general quality of students’ intellectual explorations, responses to specific questions, musings, speculations, and the like.

Reading materials: This course will be spanning a wide range of reading materials, chosen by community partneers and instructor, all of which are meant to serve as resources to the students as they think about what it means to be a democratic citizen and a member of the communities in which they find themselves. Selections will be chosen in order to provide a broad range of ideas, topics, and disciplinary perspectives as possible. These readings will be expected to provoke thought and discussion of the relevant matters of the course.
Presentation about their experiences to an outside of class source: This will provide students with the unique opportunity of communicating their experiences to outside sources. It is important to not only self reflect or reflect with others in the same civic mind as you on your experiences, but the students must also be able to step out and reach a different level of communicating their experiences to those who might not view service in the same light. For example, students could do a multi-media presentation in the Student Center, inviting the Kirtland community to join. Or, a student could go into the community and present to another community partner, as a way of further explaining how Kirtland gets involved in the community, truly representing itself as a patron of service and academia.

Angel discussion board with community partners: Each week, students will respond to questions posted by community partners and the instructor concerning the course material and class discussions. Students will have to respond to each question in order to receive full credit. This ensures that students are engaging in critical analysis even after the class session ends.
Portfolio of experiences (scrapbook)

A final 3-5 page paper, written in reflective narrative style, which addresses the following:

  1. Describe your role in the community service setting. Answer the basic questions of who, What?, when?, where?, why? Describe other people involved in this activity.
  2.  Describe the relevant details and circumstances surrounding the experiences that you encountered. Locations, job duties, etc.
  3.  Identify all the ways you have found that the community service experience relates to your future. What will you take away from this experience in terms of your education? Cite current issues or situations that you discovered that had the greatest impact on you.
  4. 4. Analyze the experience. How well did you understand the duties in the service placement? What would you do in the same way or differently next time? Why? Try to provide observational data or anecdotal stories to support your analysis.
  5. 5. Analyze this experience in terms of its impact on you, and explain why you view it this way. Has this experience encouraged or discouraged you to do more community service? Has this experience changed the way you perceive the world? What have you learned from this experience? Is this a worthwhile activity? Should we have more service learning courses?