Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Berkeley College Students Reflect On Academic Service Learning

“Study without reflection is a waste of time;
reflection without study is dangerous.”  -Confucius

Reading my students reflective journals is one of the most rewarding experiences of teaching an academic service learning course.  It allows me to see how students make important connections between their service project and the academic learning experience.   This is why reflection is considered to be a core component of academic service-learning. 

This course represents the second service-learning experience with our international service partner, Casa de los Angeles, located in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.   Last spring our students designed blog prototypes for Casa's social media strategy.  Now, with help from Ed Rivera of the Berkeley College library, students are conducting research to find sources of grants for Casa de los Angeles.    The following are exerpts from student journals.

I learned that we are all entitled to respect and dignity; we all have the potential to fall on hard times and no one has the right to scrutinize us for that. Giving individuals a second chance as CASA does; a chance to believe in their abilities is more than anyone can ask for; the love and respect that they have for the less fortunate is what drives the organization. We need to continue to work together to make certain that CASA gets the resources that they need to stay afloat. This is why the grant research project is so important.  So far, the service learning experience has impacted me in many ways. I am able to see life through a different lens.  Living in my small world does not always allow me to open my eyes to the world around me; to see how life for others really is.  I have mentioned in my posts how people can take what they have for granted because they have it, but once it is taken away, what do they do? There are not many organizations out here like CASA, so it is great that women and their children in need are afforded this experience.   N.D.

The experiences in this course have been memorable and invaluable.  The theoretical basis combined with projects serving real organizations is more organic and holistic; I feel as though I have a greater depth and breadth of knowledge and perspective, that getting in and getting my hands dirty is the best way to experience the field and is integral to my future.  To segue into the next stage, a graduating student requires a little push in the right direction.  Community service-learning this semester has given me opportunities to show that I am a student, a citizen, and a member of a community; to show that I can manage my own projects, to see where strengths and weaknesses lie, and to truly engage in projects and research using methods and approaches which I can apply to future work and life.  --A.A.

I have already learned so much from this experience, from the readings, videos, photos, discussions and research.  Never one to volunteer or “work for free”, I have now developed a completely different outlook. Volunteering isn’t working for free. The happiness and second chances that places like Casa de los Angeles provides each and every day is reward enough. I believe that this experience may be teaching me something about myself. I feel that I have been selfish because I have been fortunate. As I said before, my favorite discussion so far has been the chance to "meet" real families that are being supported by Casa. It made me want to reach out to them and have a chance to contribute to their growing happiness.  The fact that so many others have given their time to help out at Casa shows me that there are really good and generous people out there who don’t take life for granted. I want to be one of those people. --C.G.    

For more information about reflective journals and academic service-learning, visit the
online library at the National Service-Learning Clearing House 

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