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Service Learning Benefits students, community

By Victoria Camarillo | Pulse staff reporter

Service LearningService Learning is learning firsthand about the course material being taught by performing community service and having an opportunity to reflect on that service.

Service Learning gives students throughout pre-school to college an opportunity to interact with other people and to experience their career interest.

“I was called upon [by President Mike Flores] to work on various High Impact Practices,” said Joseph Coppola, director of Instructional Professional Development. “[These practices are acknowledged by a range of] community colleges as being successful towards improving student academic success.”

Coppola is carrying out four High Impact Practices he calls clusters. The four clusters are Service Learning, Learning Communities, First-Year Student Practice and Undergraduate Research. According to Coppola and Vice President Elizabeth Tanner, plans are underway for those who want to play a part in Service Learning. Once these plans come together, training will be provided. In anticipation of training, a national expert on Service Learning is being brought in to give faculty the needed skills to put this teaching method into action.

Service Learning is already being practiced by Humanities Professor Karen Marcotte. She uses Service Learning “to help my students understand that what they study in a classroom here connects to their life, usually for the rest of their life…,” said Marcotte.

Marcotte teaches HUMA 2323: World Cultures and Global Issues. In the course students are exposed to some of the severe issues of human living.

An example of Marcotte’s use of Service Learning is volunteering at the St. Vincent de Paul Society St. Vinny’s Bistro at the Haven for Hope. Haven for Hope is a sheltering service that provides health care and housing for the homeless.

“We prepare meals to serve the people who still live on the streets,” said Marcotte.

The St. Vincent de Paul kitchen gives students a strong firsthand experience of those in poor health, disability and struggling with homelessness. Marcotte and her students work the evening shift, serving around 175 to 250 people. What Marcotte does is have her students give plates out so they can witness people in need. This service not only supports those less fortunate, but it shows Marcotte’s students the reality of this world, giving her students an insight of even though they are underprivileged college students, they have options, while others suffer through “true poverty [and] true hopelessness…,” said Marcotte.

According to Melissa Rodriguez, a graduate of Palo Alto College, her Service Learning experience while in COMM 2311: News Reporting and Writing was an eye opener.

“I used to think I did a lot…volunteer for organizations, chair events…but there is soooo much more to do! I learned not to be afraid to venture out and ask questions. And to ask why something can't happen,” she wrote in her profile on her blog “Melissa’s Service-Learning Blog”.

Rodriguez, who went on to graduate from Our Lady of the Lake University, is now running for the Harlandale Independent School Board, continuing her service to the community.

As Helen Keller once said, “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.”