Service-Learning as Wellness

At Broward College (BC), students are encouraged to participate in Service-Learning.  This is a program where students may perform community volunteer hours and receive credit for their efforts on their co-curricular transcript.  The underlying goal is to combine service to the community with classroom learning.

Last weekend, BC student volunteers assisted the “Tour de Broward” a ride, bike, swim event to support the building of a new children’s wing for the Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital in Hollywood, Florida.  Student volunteers assisted with activities such as registration, set up, clean up, hydration stations and cheerleading along the route (pom poms were provided).

On the academic side, the participating volunteers in my classes – both face to face and online students – were requested to write about their experience and how it related to any of the six dimensions of wellness.  This volunteer opportunity was available to my online students as well as my face to face students.

Most students started their paper noting that they woke as early as 4:30 a.m., temperatures were in the low 40’s (cold for South Florida), and it was Valentine’s Day.  As the temperature climbed, however, so did their spirits.  Below are the Dimensions of Wellness the students correlated with their experience.

  • Physical: lots of walking; setting up tables; directing people and traffic; handing out water to the participants; handling registration
  • Interpersonal / Social: keeping children away from the lake; met amazing people that they would not have met otherwise; met reggae fusion singer and rapper Sean Kingston; cheering for the walkers, encouraging them to continue; networking; some students brought their children and other family members to share the experiences; working together as a community
  • Environmental: picking up trash; recycling
  • Intellectual: earning points for Service-Learning, but learning about themselves; a positive experience to list on a resume
  • Spiritual: as a parent, one student noted that she is “paying it forward” to help support a children’s hospital that her family or other children may someday need; increased self-esteem
  • Emotional: It was unanimous among participating students that they would volunteer for another event – even on a cold day.

By the end of the day, the oft-mentioned cold had worn off and was replaced by a sense of accomplishment in helping others. The Service-Learning volunteers were glad they assisted and in the process, enjoyed meeting fellow Broward students, alumni, and so many community members that they would not have otherwise met.  Through this event, students helped the Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital reach its $250,000 goal.

Overall, it was good to see college students, as part of our larger community, are willing to take time from their busy schedules and volunteer to help others.

One student summed up her Service-Learning experience with the words of John F. Kennedy, “ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country.”

In addition to my student’s enthusiasm for volunteerism, I have agreed to be a faculty member of the college’s Service-Learning advisory committee for the 2011 academic year.  My next event will be to accompany college students and staff to the Gulf-South Summit on Service-Learning and Civic Engagement through Higher Education, hosted by the University of Georgia in Athens, Georgia.  I look forward to exchanging ideas and promoting new Service-Learning opportunities to our community.

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