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Students Share About Service Learning: First-year students reflect on their service learning experiences

      Now half-way into the semester, first-year students are beginning to work on their service learning projects within their Introduction to Faith, Reason and Justice classes. Service learning kicked-off early this semester with a day spent at UrbanPromise, but now students get to choose where and how they in particular would like to serve. Areas of service vary from student to student, but each one of them is required to meet a minimum of 20 hours of volunteering in the community. Now that these students have chosen and begun their projects, they reflect on what drew them to their respective organizations and how God is using this practice of service in their lives

      Hailey Kline, an eighteen-year-old nursing major, volunteers as a tutor at Aclamo, an after-school program for children with English as their second language. “I just love connecting with the kids and getting to know them better,” said Kline. “I love the challenge. I just think that they’re so smart, I could not be learning in anything that’s not my native language and working through math and things like that.”

      Through tutoring children, Kline has learned a bit herself. “It’s just really made me contemplate my patience and my heart for children, and my lack of knowledge on the Hispanic community and  what’s going on there, especially in the political climate right now” said Kline.

      Other organizations are involved with service learning, such as St Edmond’s Home for Children. St Edmond’s works to serve children with profound disabilities with both practical and emotional care. According to their mission statement, St Edmond’s view each child in their care as “a reflection of God’s love,” and says “lives are immeasurably enriched by the tender and compassionate care of all of the St Edmond’s family.”

      Carley Bobst, a first-year worship arts student visits St. Edmund’s Home for Children once a week. “St. Edmond’s is really focused on just providing the love and care that these people really need,” said Bobst. “A lot of these places aren’t really loving or attentive to what people are actually looking for or needing, and they can disregard a lot of their actual needs. However, at this place they definitely build those relationships whether they’re a nurse or a volunteer. It’s a really loving and welcoming place.”

      Through service learning, Bobst is building those same relationships she described. “I love the people,” she said. “They’re so sweet, everyone is very open to welcoming you and the kids are all so excited to see you every single week, they just like to hang out with some new people.”

      While their areas of service have changed, first-years remember their first weekend of service at UrbanPromise. “This work feels a lot more impactful on individual people, it feels a lot more like I’m actually serving,” said Kline. “Maybe it was because I just painted lines on the road at UrbanPromise, and in a cumulative sense it serves God, but in an individual way it doesn’t really feel like it does. Encouraging children is great because God really loves kids, and I do too.”

      Service learning provides for a whole multitude of groups, including the sick. Victoria Kramer, a freshman biology major looking forward to a career as a veterinarian, spends her service learning hours at MANNA. MANNA, or Metropolitan Area Neighborhood Nutrition Alliance, works to provide meals for people with debilitating or life-threatening diseases. People can choose from a multitude of dietary plans, with up to twelve different specifications available. Kramer spends her time at the organization providing meal preparation for the outgoing shipment of meals.

      “I like that most of the people working there all talk to each other and it’s really fun to get to know their story and why they’re there, and what they’re doing,” said Kramer. “It ranges from Eastern students, high school students and adults, too.”

      Though every student has a different experience with their service learning, the benefit is undeniable. Students learn about the community around them and are able to live out their faith in tangible ways and organizations get regular volunteers. Serving is foundational to the Christian faith and living this out as a student can shape one’s perspective and habits for years to come.

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