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Service-Learning Enhances Student Experience

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Bloom

Written by Gena Guthrie; Photo by Amanda Boomershine

“We have unique skills and passions that allow us to make people’s lives better – right here, in our own backyard.”
 
For UNCW student Spencer Bloom, that was the takeaway from his service-learning experience this semester. Spencer participated in the fourth annual Spanish Service-Learning Showcase presented by the UNCW Department of World Languages and Cultures last month.
 
The event gives students enrolled in Amanda Boomershine’s “Spanish Service-Learning and Research: Hispanics in NC” class a chance to share their work with the university and the public. The course, offered each fall, provides Spanish majors with opportunities to use their Spanish language skills to provide a needed service to the community.
 
Regional partners include New Hanover County Schools, Coastal Horizons Clínica Latina, Interfaith Refugee Ministry, Pender County Farmworker Health Program, and local law firms, as well as the Dilley Family Detention Center in Texas. Students complete a minimum of 30 hours with their partner agency while also researching and learning about North Carolina’s Hispanic community.
 
This type of applied learning is the hallmark of the UNCW student experience. Every student is required to participate in experiential learning during his or her time at the university, and faculty use these opportunities to engage students and enhance teaching. Faculty-directed undergraduate research, internships, service-learning and study abroad opportunities challenge students to apply knowledge gleaned inside the classroom to the real world.
 
While hands-on learning is important for UNCW students, it is also enormously beneficial for the community. Applied learning opportunities and community partnerships enable students to use their skills to address issues affecting residents here in the Cape Fear region and beyond.
 
Spencer worked one-on-one with a sixth-grade student at the International School at Gregory, a bilingual K-8 magnet school. He saw firsthand how both students and the community benefit from experiential learning partnerships.
 
“The course changed my whole attitude about service, and in the future, I know that I will be the person who raises their hand, the person who steps forward when someone needs help,” he said. “Our city, our university and our students all stand to gain immensely by participating in service-learning at UNCW.”
 
Service is one of the College of Arts and Sciences’ core values. The college is committed to preparing students to become engaged and informed citizens who will work toward the betterment of the region, state, nation and world.
 
The “Spanish Service-Learning and Research” class is just one example of the abundance of applied learning opportunities the college offers students. This is the type of learning that empowers them and stays with students long after graduation.
 
Spencer’s advice to other students: “Take this course but don't let that be the limit of your advocacy or of your service.”
 
This is the type of education that the College of Arts and Sciences prides itself on providing – one that is transformative and impactful for students and the community.