College encourages civic engagement for students, faculty and staff

Email this article 08/04/2017

Service learning projectIf you frequently drive down Garner Field Road, on occasion, you may have seen some SWTJC students in bright orange vests picking up trash. At first glance, you may have thought these students were being punished for not turning in an assignment.

On the contrary, the students were taking part in a service learning project, which is a newly adopted method of instructing at SWTJC. Service learning projects have been trending in the world of higher education.

The individuals picking up trash are members of the two-year honor society, Phi Theta Kappa at SWTJC. The club’s adopt-a-highway program is only one of many service learning projects conducted at SWTJC.

Earlier this year the college administration launched the second part of the Quality Enhancement Plan, which focuses on the high impact practice of service learning.

The idea behind service learning is to combine community service with academic instruction while focusing on critical, reflective thinking and personal and civic responsibility.

Some of the service learning projects include community art projects, child abuse prevention, student food pantry and domestic violence awareness.

One example of a service learning project is instructor Rob Fowler’s students sprucing up the community swimming pool and picking up trash at the Uvalde Memorial Park.

In another case, Uvalde college art students painted a mural on the wall of Bluebonnet Children's Advocacy Center, a child abuse center.

The impact this project had was felt not only by the students but also by the employees at the center.

“We are so thankful that the students chose our organization to complete their class project. The mural they completed brightens the environment and helps make the children we work with feel more comfortable here,” said Katie Hughes, volunteer coordinator at the Bluebonnet Children's Advocacy Center. “It is such a great thing that SWTJC is doing for the community and giving back to our town.”

There have been numerous other projects, and not only in Uvalde, SWTJC Eagle Pass and Del Rio students have also been heavily involved in service learning projects.

Psychology instructor, Kathy Santos’ classes led a service learning project involving the prevention of domestic violence. The project began as a small classroom assignment and quickly evolved into a behemoth of an initiative.

The students went on to involve the mayor of Eagle Pass, where a proclamation was read during a city council meeting.

According to Dr. Amy Garcia, Quality Enhancement Plan Director approximately 500 students submitted roughly 1,800 service learning hours during the Fall 2016 semester. The courses included economics, psychology, and humanities.

According to Dr. Mitchel Burchfield, division chair of developmental studies, service learning projects can be conducted in any class.

Burchfield who is highly involved in the initiative delivered a presentation about Service Learning and how the college is doing during the second year of implementation of the “RISE to the Top Quality Enhancement Plan” at the Achieve The Dream Conference in San Francisco earlier this year.

During the presentation SWTJC faculty and administrators shared how service learning (a high impact educational practice) has promoted student learning outcomes in the college’s core curriculum classes.

SWTJC recognizes that encouraging civic engagement to its faculty, staff, and students result in the strengthening of the communities the college serves while improving the student learning experience in and out of the classroom.

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