#CapturingCommunity: Community Learning

By Service-Learning Program Assistant Asta MacKieOffers an introduction to community learning, social justice, and cross-cultural collaboration in Boston. The main objective is to help students prepare for, gain from, and reflect upon

In continuation of our #CapturingCommunity series, this month we’re highlighting service-learning course Community Learning, part of Northeastern University’s American Classroom program in the College of Professional Studies, by speaking to several of the faculty members, S-LTAs (Service-Learning Teaching Assistants), and community partners involved!  Read on to see how faculty members Lucy Bunning and Barbara Shimer, community partner Cynthia Wilkerson of Little Brothers – Friends of the Elderly (LBFE), and S-LTAs Taylor Drysdale and Kelsie O’Flanagan contribute to the learning goals of the students and the goals of the community partners involved with this course.

 

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Lucy Bunning, faculty member of Service-Learning course Community Learning.

Name: Lucy Bunning
Role within Service-Learning: faculty member for Community Learning

How did you become involved in Service-Learning?
I first learned about “Community Learning,” the service-learning course I teach, when I was interviewing for my position at Northeastern. I was really excited by the potential that service-learning offers for multilingual international students and knew I wanted to be a part of it.

How do you see the relationship between Community Learning and its community partners meeting both the student learning goals and the goals of the community partner? How does your role contribute to this?
In order for students to meet the goals and contribute to the missions of the community partners they work with, they have to communicate with the partners. Through this communication, students can improve and refine their language skills. My role is to support this process through my teaching of ESL and intercultural communication skills. Maybe what’s most important, though, is providing a lot of genuine encouragement for students who are stepping outside their comfort zones and taking risks.

What have you learned from Service-Learning?
I’m learning new things every day about my students’ talents, experiences, and perspectives on how they view the world around them. I’m also very grateful for the relationships I’ve been able to develop with the inspiring people in the Center of Community Service, S-LTAs, and our community partners.

If Service-Learning were a spring break destination, where would it be and why?
A back-yard camp out. It’s close to home yet special and exciting, and we get to spend time with friends from the neighborhood. Unexpected things come up to keep us on our toes, but we’ve got the tools we need to adapt.

 

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Barbara Shimer, faculty member for Community Learning in Summer and Fall of 2017.

Name: Barbara Shimer
Role within Service-Learning: faculty member for Community Learning

How did you become involved in Service-Learning?
I have been teaching in the Northeastern GPAC (Global Pathways/American Classroom) program for seven years and have taught a broad spectrum of the undergraduate ESL and content prep courses, with a special focus on writing and culture courses. As our GPAC curriculum has moved increasingly towards an emphasis on community engagement across-the-board, our faculty felt it would be beneficial for me to fully understand the community service-learning component of the curriculum so that we can integrate community engagement-based projects into the writing and culture classes in tandem with the Community Learning courses. I first taught Community Learning in the summer of 2017, found it especially gratifying, and took on two lively Community Learning sections in the fall of 2017.

How do you see the relationship between Community Learning and its community partners meeting both the student learning goals and the goals of the community partner? How does your role contribute to this?
Community Learning is often a life-changing experience for our students, many of whom have never experienced community volunteering. Over the course of a couple of months, I have witnessed students become more outgoing, mature, and caring. They improve their language skills and develop confidence through the experience of making a child’s day happier, an older adult more comfortable with technology, or a budding basketball player more pleased with their game. In terms of meeting the needs of the community partner, the majority of our students are very responsible and caring and have often taken charge of meaningful activities that may brighten the lives of our community partner clients. I understood my primary role to be to provide a sounding board for understanding the challenges our students faced, and to provide moral and technical support to help them accomplish their goals.

What have you learned from Service-Learning?
I have learned that students can often accomplish more than they had imagined and that, as teachers, we can play an important role in encouraging them to be adventurous and unafraid of new challenges. I was also struck by how transformative a relatively short experience in volunteering can be for young people in terms of developing their self-confidence and broadening their vision for their own future. Furthermore, the experience reaffirmed my belief that the distance between different human cultures and societies is not as great as many people believe it to be.

If Service-Learning were a spring break destination, where would it be and why?
Service-Learning could be analogous to taking a trip to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, a fresh and inspiring setting which should encourage international cooperation and understanding, and should serve to uphold human rights and human dignity.

Additional faculty members of Community Learning for the Spring 2018 semester include Frank Garro, Alex Oliviera, Lisa Roe, and Hillary Sullivan.

 

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Cynthia Wilkerson of Little Brothers – Friends of the Elderly.

Name: Cynthia Wilkerson
Role within Service-Learning: Community partner at Little Brothers – Friends of the Elderly (LBFE)

How did you become involved in Service-Learning?
I became involved in service-learning when I joined the staff of Little Brothers-Friends of the Elderly (LBFE) in 2015.

How do you see the relationship between Community Learning and its community partners meeting both the student learning goals and the goals of the community partner? How does your role contribute to this?
Community Learning students are part of LBFE’s intergenerational program, CitySites. Students have the opportunity to meet elders throughout the city and support them in a number of different activities. In return, students have the chance to begin to build a social network off campus, and make meaningful connections to older adults. Some students have even referred to the elders they have met as their “American Grandparents.” LBFE’s role is to facilitate these connection points and to help create welcoming spaces that allow all participants to give and receive encouragement, support and friendship.

What have you learned from Service-Learning?
From service-learning I have learned, anew, that people can be incredibly kind and generous to strangers, and that with kindness and generosity, strangers can quickly become friends.

If Service-Learning were a spring break destination, where would it be and why?
Miami–because it is warm, it is lively, the food is great, and people from all over the world gather there to create something entirely new!

Additional community partners for Community Learning in Spring 2018 include Bird Street Community Center, Boston Chinatown Neighborhood Center, CharlesNewtown Housing CooperativeDigital Grandparents, Inc., Hernández After School ProgramMorville House, Peace Through Play, Scholar Athletes, Susan Bailis Assisted Living, and Wang YMCA.

 

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Taylor Drysdale, S-LTA for Community Learning

Name: Taylor Drysdale
Role within Service-Learning: S-LTA for Community Learning

How did you become involved in Service-Learning?
I took an S-L class my first semester freshman year and that professor reached out to me and asked me to TA for her my junior year!

How do you see the relationship between Community Learning and its community partners meeting both the student learning goals and the goals of the community partner? How does your role contribute to this?
I think for students this is an amazing opportunity to break out of their comfort zones and explore the community that they are a part of. It is amazing to see their confidence in speaking English grow as the semester is continuing. Community partners also benefit from having such eager volunteers who are so willing and ready to learn everything they possibly can.

What have you learned from Service-Learning?
I think that the concept of Asset Based Community Development has been a huge takeaway for me. ABCD has reshaped the way that I look at community service. S-L is really the perfect symbiotic relationship in which we are able to learn from our community as well as serve in the places that the community is asking for help in.

If Service-Learning were a spring break destination, where would it be and why?
I think that S-L would be any destination that you have never visited before. S-L is all about learning from your community.

 

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Kelsie O’Flanagan, S-LTA for Community Learning

 

Name: Kelsie O’Flanagan
Role within Service-Learning: Service-Learning Program Assistant, S-L Team Manager, and S-LTA for Community Learning

How did you become involved in Service-Learning?
I had an amazing service-learning experience when I was in Dublin, Ireland for NUin, during my first semester in college. When I returned, I met Lisa Roe through Lead 360 and become a part of the S-L world forever.

How do you see the relationship between Community Learning and its community partners meeting both the student learning goals and the goals of the community partner? How does your role contribute to this?
The relationship between Community Learning students and their community partners it vital for their success in the American Classroom Program as it helps students integrate into the Boston community, practice their English skills and improve their reflection and presentation abilities. My role is to be a liaison between students and partners, and to facilitate reflections and discussions in class.

What have you learned from Service-Learning?
I have learned that the definition of a community can be different to every individual, but that it is so important to connect with the neighborhoods around our university. My students have also taught me so much over the years, through all of their hard-work and reflection.

If Service-Learning were a spring break destination, where would it be and why?
A California road trip! So many different settings: beaches, mountains and more, that the fun and different adventures would never end!

Additional Service-Learning Teaching Assistants for this course include Lianxizi (Cici) Wang.

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