“Service learning is a pedagogical teaching technique that instructors use to achieve course objectives,” said Dr. Sharon Ballard, professor of family and community services, and chair of ECU’s service-learning committee. “It differs from volunteering in that instead of going into the community and asking a partner what they need done, we look at what we want our students to learn. With service learning, there is a balance between the needs of the student and the needs of the community partner.”
) Seniors Kelly Floyd, Lindsay Wood, and Jackie Darigo, join Dr. Rebecca Dumlao after presenting a fund-raising workshop.
The university offers service-learning opportunities in all 14 colleges and schools, and the work that service-learning projects have contributed to the community is reflective of that diversity. ECU’s service-learning program is responsible for everything from improving HVAC systems at the Ronald McDonald House, leading recreation activities at after-school programs, writing grants for area nonprofit organizations, coordinating genograms for local residents, and even conducting a recent series of communication workshops for community partners.
Each year, associate professor Dr. Rebecca Dumlao incorporates service learning into her Senior Seminar course in the school of communication. This year she worked with the VSLC to find out what the community partners wanted in the way of a service-learning project. The feedback she received helped her decide to ask her students to put on a series of communication-related workshops for community partners to attend.
“In this class, we have media production students, journalism students, communication students, communication studies students, media studies students, and public relations students. So there’s this wide variety in the kinds of skills and backgrounds that these students have,” she said. “We broke the students into groups based on their expertise and their interests, and they’ve been working all semester learning how put on a workshop.”
Pen Friends coordinator Jade Shields with just a few of the letters she receives every week from area elementary-school students.
The afternoon event at Mendenhall Student Center drew more than 30 community partners who attended student-led workshops covering many topics related to communication, including Web site design, fundraising, social networking, writing press releases, and public speaking. For many local organizations, especially smaller nonprofits in which the director is also the fundraiser, Webmaster, and graphic designer, the workshops were well received.
“We live in a time now where economics and costs are real issues for us. So to learn about the most cost-effective, efficient ways to get our message across is important,” said Kendra Windley of the Beaufort-Hyde Community Partnership for Children. “I learned a great deal today, and I feel that events like this reinforces the link between ECU and the nonprofit community.”
Volunteering is the other side of the VSLC. Each year, thousands of students participate in volunteer efforts both in the local community and in their hometowns. According to the national Points of Light Institute’s metric, which assigns a dollar value to a volunteer’s time, the VSCL oversees the equivalent of more than $3.3 million worth of service. And while the dollar amount is impressive, the true value of volunteering is immeasurable.
“I was in middle school when I started volunteering,” said Jade Shields. “It is just something I really, really enjoy.”