Students saluted for involvement in community

by David Anderson

Sarah Morgan is one of many University students who have discovered the benefits of community involvement.
Morgan, a journalism freshman, spends time each week at the Phyllis Wheatley Community Center in Minneapolis, helping elementary school children with their reading and writing skills as part of her English class.
“It has really taught us that to help the community, you need to be involved with the people living there,” she said.
To recognize the efforts of those who contributed to the Twin Cities community through their programs, the University’s Community Involvement Program held its annual celebration Monday at the Humphrey Center.
The involvement program, part of the University’s Office for Special Learning Opportunities, links people from the University with organizations in the community.
Students and professors at the celebration spoke about their experiences as community volunteers.
Matt Horton, a finance sophomore, said when he was younger, he had a friend with leukemia who depended on the support of volunteer helpers.
Horton said the people he had met then made such a good impression on him that, when he entered the University, that he decided to become a volunteer himself.
But Amy Lee, a General College assistant professor whose class is involved in student learning, said there was some resistance to class-related community involvement among faculty members because some professors don’t want to change the way they teach.
However, Kristin Dawson, a student program coordinator, said 73 percent of students surveyed by the center last fall were in favor of making community involvement a requirement to graduate.
Students can get involved with the Community Involvement Program through classes that have a service- learning component or as volunteers.
“I think that one of the biggest benefits is that students get to actually apply what they’re actually studying in the classroom,” said Kristopher Gruba, program adviser for Community Empowerment through Learning and Leadership, a student-led division of the involvement program.
Dawson said between 750 and 1,000 students get involved each semester, and the numbers are growing.
Eric Daigre, a graduate in English who teaches Morgan’s class, said his students volunteer at different community centers to improve the children’s reading and writing skills. Daigre’s goal is to increase his students’ civic awareness and to make them think more broadly about social change.
“We’re trying to break down the boundaries between the University and the community,” Daigre said. “We realize that writing skills can serve beyond the academy and that we have skills that we can bring to the community.”

David Anderson covers international perspectives and professional schools and can be reached at [email protected].