Students find role in society through community action

by Ada Simanduyeva

After his close friend passed away from leukemia, University finances sophomore Matt Horton decided he wanted to give back to community. He started tutoring at Plymouth Youth Center, where he taught students poetry, English and computer applications.
Horton, however, might never have received his chance to give back if it were not for a class he took at the University this semester.
The class, “Writing in the Community,” offered by General College, combines writing and community work. The course culminates in a newsletter at the end of the semester.
“The personal satisfaction you get in the class like this, I think is immeasurable,” Horton said. “Here, you grow not only academically but also personally.”
Amy Lee, General College assistant English professor and the course’s instructor, said the students in her class tried comparing the readings they did with on-site work, thus finding out their role in the society.
The course was not offered at GC for the past couple of years, but when it became available, Lee immediately got involved. One idea Lee emphasized in class was that research does not just happen in a library.
Students can learn about analysis and reflection of issues through a hands-on experience during their two hours a week volunteering, Lee said.
“It teaches them a lot as writers, as researchers, they have to collaborate because it’s a group project — if anyone does not come through in the end, the whole project would suffer, so it really teaches a lot of important abilities,” Lee said.
Learning Center for Homeless Families and Plymouth Youth Center were some of the places in which students got involved.
University freshmen Kara Mack and Kia Cook, both journalism majors, volunteered at the Plymouth Youth Center. At the alternative school, they tutored the students and helped them with homework.
Cook said the experience has changed her views on alternative school systems and made her lose the stereotypes she held about their students.
“I learned to really appreciate what I had, the education that I received,” Cook said.
Besides being active in volunteering for the center, she and Mack said they also liked the idea of a newsletter, which could potentially help them in their journalistic future.
“It made me a stronger writer,” Mack said.
The 12-page newsletter was Lee’s idea. It gave students a chance to write for a real audience and at the same time help those organizations be known to the public, she said.
The University’s Community Involvement Office distributed the newsletter and used it both for informing the public and helping organizations to get grants.
Nicole McManus, a child psychology freshman, said she did service learning before joining the class and found it rewarding. During her community work in class, she volunteered at the Learning Center for Homeless Families. She said the class helped her decide on a career — child psychology.
“I think I’ve learned more from this class than any other class I’ve taken at the U,” McManus said.
University freshman Phuong Nguyen and pre-architecture freshman Megan Shechan also worked at the Learning Center. Shechan said the experience helped her overcome stereotypes she had about homeless people. Nguyen said no other writing course can offer a chance to do volunteer work.
“It’s really good, because you really get a chance to get out there and do different and new things,” she said.

Ada Simanduyeva covers international perspectives and can be reached at (612) 627-4070 x3223.