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Profiles in Service-Learning

Erin Truhler, Director of Fast Forward Youth Program

Nominated by Jaime Compean and Charmagne Tessmer, Service-Learning Student

Since 1998, the Fast Forward Youth Program has worked with service-learning students through its tutor-mentor program to increase college participation rates of Latino/a students. St. John’s senior Jaime Compean states “We have many underprivileged students who don’t think that school is an option. But [FFYP] is there to show them that’s not true.” 65 to 80 CSB/SJU students, which includes approximately 15 service-learning students, participate in the program every semester. They partner with middle or high school students every week to work on homework and explore post-secondary options.

Through tremendous organization and individualized attention, the Program successfully creates an environment that welcomes and motivates service-learning students as well as its Latino/a participants. Compean also added that “the students get a sense of hope [and the CSB/SJU students] gain knowledge of how to be a role model.” Students are able to “apply what they have learned” while making a difference in the community.

Lori Klapperich

Nominated by Erin Szabo , Associate Professor of Communication

Lori Klapperich has had a tremendous effect on the CSB/SJU community through her service-learning partnership with Erin Szabo’s Strategic Communications Campaigns course. Lori played an essential role in the success of Buzzed, the class’s campus-wide responsible drinking campaign.

Szabo writes that “the benefits of working with Lori were exponential for my students and for Lori’s office.” According to Szabo, Lori recognized the learning goals of the course, as well as the goals of each individual student. She was “highly motivational” and kept all the students involved in the project.

Throughout the semester, Lori remained engaged with both the professor and the students to make the campaign a success. She made sure to attend all reflection sessions and met each week with the students. By being responsive and involved, Lori helped students gain educational experience beyond the classroom.

Through Lori’s efforts, the Buzzed campaign was highly successful, and went on to win a Gold ADDY award for outstanding advertising from the American Advertising Federation. The campaign has also been presented at regional and national conferences.

Robbie O'Brien, Social Worker, Sauk Rapids Middle School

Nominated by Janelle Hinchley, Adjunct Associate Professor of Social Work

Though Robbie O’Brien has worked with only a small number of service-learning students, she has had a tremendous impact on each of them. Robbie has been a patient guide for the students and has given invaluable time and support that has contributed to the success of service-learning projects. Janelle Hinchley writes that “She was very helpful in providing the students with guidance on how to apply group work skills, which were discussed in class, into ‘real-world’ scenarios.”

Service-learning students facilitated a skill-building group with a small group of adolescent girls at the Sauk Rapids Middle School. They were directly involved with the girls over an eight week period.

The Guidance Counseling Services at the school seeks to promote positive self-esteem for all students. Some of the services that they offer include individual and group counseling, home/school coordination, referral services, coordination with community services, and crisis intervention.

Hugh Knox, Stearns County Human Services

Nominated by John Yoakam, Professor and Department Chair, Social Work

In the fall of 2003, Hugh Knox worked with service-learning students in SWRK 347: American Social Policy. He was invaluable in educating the students on Child Protection Services, the legal system, and county, state, and federal policies. Through Hugh’s guidance, the students learned how these programs and policies impact the lives of abused children. John Yoakam, Associate Professor of Social Work and Social Work Department Chair states “Hugh loves to be a teacher, mentor, and supervisor and is a good fit as a community partner.”

The students learned valuable information about the structure of county Child Protection Services. In the project students focused on identifying funding sources for chemical dependency assessments for adult clients in the Child Protective Services of Stearns County. “The students not only became aware of funding streams, but also of all of the community resources that are necessary to help adults and children in the child protection system to heal the patterns of physical or chemical abuse.” Although the students were not able to secure the funding they hoped for, they narrowed the field and helped the county focus their future fund raising efforts. Because of Hugh’s leaderships, students were inspired to pursue careers in social work.

Erin Szabo, Associate Professor, Communication

Nominated by Lori Klapperich, Health & Wellness Coordinator, CSB/SJU

Erin has devoted to promoting service-learning in and out of the classroom. Service-learning is an integral part of Erin’s courses. She ensures that material being covered in the classroom has a direct connection to experience in the community. Erin maximizes learning experiences by maintaining communication with community partners and by implementing effective reflection processes with her students.

Over the last few years, Erin has collaborated with the Counseling & Health Promotion Department. Lori Klapperich appreciates Erin’s commitment and writes that “our [Counseling & Health Promotion Department] expectations were respected and promoted by Erin.”

The students “have been successful in developing, designing, and implementing a media campaign that resonated with their fellow students.” The nationally recognized Buzzed campaign was a result of the partnership between Erin’s students and the Counseling & Health Promotion Department. The students have also contributed to projects regarding STD prevention and healthy eating habits. Lori writes that “the students gained considerable knowledge and experience, as well as an appreciation for how this type of work is done in the real world.”

Jeff Carmack, Central Minnesota Habitat for Humanity

Nominated by Karyl Daughters, Professor of Communication

In the Fall of 2006, Jeff Carmack incorporated the service-learning students from Karyl Daughters’ Organizational Communications class into the unique reality of Central Minnesota Habitat for Humanity. Jeff’s success with Karyl’s students was, in large part, a product of his understanding of two things: the chaos that “is the way of life at Habitat” may be overwhelming for students and that students must become involved in the projects as soon as possible. By facilitating an excellent orientation and preparing a “long list of projects at the beginning of the term” ready for students to sign onto, Jeff was able to move Karyl’s students toward organizational engagement very early on in the semester.

In addition to the effort that Jeff made before the class began, he conducted individual interviews with each of the students to provide assistance as their projects progressed. By well informing himself of the course goals and what was to be expected of the service-learning students, Jeff was able to help them in more specific and beneficial ways.

The students, in turn, gained much more than they would have in a classroom setting. They received “hands-on organizational experience”, combined with the “challenges that they will face at organizations in the future.” The students successfully organized a volunteer recognition event with live entertainment from campus acappella group, Johnnie Blend. The recognition event was a success, and the students “received great feedback from attendees and the organization.” Other student projects worked on creating a campus chapter of Habitat for Humanity and spent some time at the build site as well as the Habitat offices.

Jeff’s dedication and involvement with the students make him an exceptional community partner.

Mary Kay Hawkins, Administrator, Arlington Place

Nominated by Steve Stelzner, Professor of Psychology

Mary Kay Hawkins has been a community partner with Steve Stelzner’s Developmental Psychology class for many semesters. Mary Kay creates a positive environment for the service-learning students to be involved in projects that directly benefit all those involved.

According to Steve, Mary Kay, along with Arlington Place, provides a “rich, welcoming service-learning environment.” Mary Kay is always willing to give presentations in the classroom, as well as attend multiple reflection sessions each semester. She is able to motivate students by communicating trust and confidence.

Students that have completed their service-learning at Arlington Place have reaped many benefits from the experience. They have gained “a better sense of the aging process as it relates to Developmental Psychology”, developed an appreciation for historical events and cultural changes, and learned life lessons and new skills from the residents. Last semester, a new project was started by the service-learning students. They began to develop a scrapbook of life lessons from the older population.

Mary Kay’s capability to motivate the students and her ability to provide a positive and cheerful environment help make her such a successful community partner.

Chris Kustelski, Unit Director, Southside Boys & Girls Club

Nominated by Dan Finn, Professor of Theology/Economics

Chris Kustelski is the Unit Director of the Southside Boys & Girls Club in St. Cloud. Though the students usually do not work directly with Chris, Finn believes that her efforts significantly contribute to the success of the partnership.

Chris does an excellent job providing CSB/SJU service-learning students with helpful information about the organization, which leads many students to choose the Southside Boy & Girls Club as their site for service-learning. She has a “no-nonsense, matter-of-fact approach” in describing the purpose of the program and explaining who the youth are that participate in the Southside Boys & Girls Club. She creates a positive environment for college students as well as the youth.

The Southside Boys & Girls Club has been a partner with the Liemandt Family Service-Learning Program since the 1997-1998 school year. In that time, approximately 190 CSB/SJU students have participated at the club.

Steve Stelzner, Professor of Psychology

Nominated by Mary Kay Hawkins, Housing Manager, Arlington Place

Steve Stelzner’s involvement in service-learning is truly inspiring! Of the three courses he has implemented service-learning in, at least one of them is offered each semester and this semester, all three courses are offered. He effectively prepares students for their experiences with community partners and presents service-learning in ways that give students encouragement and anticipating their project. He also stresses the importance of students’ dedication to the project. He keeps the class well-organized, especially regarding reflection sessions and tracking hours for the semester. Steve gives advance notice to the community partners to attend to the reflection sessions and manages to keep the environment relaxed, allowing conversation to flow.

Mary Kay Hawkins writes that “[The students] are learning how to grow old” and “that youth is more a state of mind than a state of their physical bodies.” The students benefit from the residents at Arlington Place, and “the wisdom on aging from our residents travels with them” after they leave CSB/SJU. She notes that there has been an increase in the amount of students who visit Arlington Place, a change that she attributes to Steve. Mary Kay adds that “Our residents and staff alike have developed some lasting friendships.”

Jo Ellen Johnson, St. Benedict's Senior Community

Nominated by Karyl Daughters, Professor of Communication

An encouraging and dedicated community partner, JoEllen Johnson at St. Benedict’s Senior Community (SBSC), has been a partner with Karyl Daughters’ Organizational Communications course for six semesters since Fall of 2001. Though her workload increases by participating in service-learning, JoEllen finds working with CSBSJU students motivating and fulfilling.

JoEllen provides a bevy of creative and innovative ideas for projects that better utilize the unique skills that different service-learning students have to offer. Projects include devising a new communication system to improve the efficiency of placing volunteers in SBSC, the creation of an e-mail and computer instruction manual for residents in the apartments at SBSC, the production of a video for a volunteer recognition event, and the development/implementation of a volunteer-needs assessment survey.

Karyl says that “[JoEllen] was prepared at the start of every semester with project ideas for the student teams and attended every in-class reflection session.” She goes above and beyond the expected role of a community partner by making herself available to the students and creating new projects every year, allowing service-learning students to take ownership of their projects while working with community members to improve their environment.

Sheila Nelson, Professor of Sociology

Nominated by Tony Generous, Stearns County Human Services

For the past 10 years, Sheila Nelson has been an outstanding example of a professor who believes in experiential learning and gives it priority in her classroom. Sheila puts invaluable time and energy into service-learning projects to make them successful.

In her Criminology and Corrections course, Sheila’s students partner with Stearns County Human Services, where they are paired with a child to act as a mentor for the semester. In such delicate situations, attention to detail and professor involvement is paramount. Tony Generous writes that “[Sheila] has been most willing to share her syllabus and time with our staff so that we can make the best matches for the children we work with.” In addition to front end planning, Sheila also devotes a great deal of class time during the semester to help students reflect on their experiences, drawing parallels between theory and praxis.

Both students and their partnered children benefit from Sheila’s dedication. Many of Sheila’s students have been “very good for the children,” and “some have gone above and beyond the basic expectations”, continuing their partnership after the course requirement has ended.  Sheila’s students have “shown children hope in their futures.” Some of the children paired with students have even gone on to pursue post-secondary options.  Without a doubt, this kind of success could not have occurred without Sheila’s attentiveness and support.