Not your typical English class-that's what Casey Reid's students found when they enrolled in English 102 at MCC-Longview. Expecting only to "read books/write papers" they were surprised by a class that took them beyond classroom walls. And though they learned typical English class skills-planning, research, writing, documenting work, presenting to the class-they learned them in a way that was far from typical.
The class began with a weighty project: solve homelessness and hunger. To tackle it, they formed three groups of six students each. Here are three:
Kelsie Woodward was just looking for some credits when an advisor suggested she try a new English class. The freshman from Blue Springs had no idea what service learning was about.
Her group worked with Harvesters, Metro Lutheran Ministry and Kansas City Rescue Mission. The group raised funds, served at fundraisers and interacted with homeless people.
"It was a real eye-opener, talking with those who before were just faceless people who crossed your path," says Woodward.
"I learned about myself in many ways and drew upon the values I was raised with: optimism, caring and willingness to help."
Says Woodward, "We only spent about 30% of our time in class (the group and instructor kept up in touch with e-mail and BlackBoard)."
The experience was intense for Woodward, "You have to be strong to deal with this issue and have a solid heart. As Ghandi said, 'You must be the change you want to see in the world.'"
Yet, there was another side to her experience, "It was a blast to work with your group, and despite all the personalities, get all noses pointed in the right direction."
Woodward plans to major in journalism and transfer to University of Missouri-Columbia.
Neither Kasey Calton nor Derica Phillips had heard of service learning before taking Casey Reid's English 102 class.
They soon were absorbed in the class. Their group partnered with Independence Community Services League, Wal-Mart and Sonic, and even held a bake sale. They raised more than $3,000 in just two weeks-enough to provide food for 342 people for more than a month.
That fundraising power was one of the reasons the group took first place in the class competition for best project.
Says Calton, "It was dynamic. I really liked the hands-on approach. It made learning easier and fun. And we discovered there's a world out there.
"I'd definitely recommend a class like this to a friend-certainly to anyone whose learning curve benefits from hands-on learning."
Phillips agrees, "It's great for people who like to work in a group setting. It was exciting to see how we could incorporate different personalities into a team that achieved our goal.
"Service learning is awesome!"
Both women invested a lot in the project. Each has two children, and the project took time away from family (although Calton's daughter set up a lemonade stand at the Wal-Mart food drive!). Calton plans to transfer on to Graceland to study nursing. Phillips is studying psychology and intends to transfer to a four-year school.