Service Learning Class a Success
Matt Griffith and Shanna Smith, center, participate with high school
students in a reality check exercise to demonstrate responsible
spending and use of credit. (Courtesy photo)
By Sherry Kughn
Dr. Nancy Stewart, Jacksonville State University assistant
professor of social work, heard about a program to reduce truancy and
improve retention of female high school students in Cleburne County.
She remembered that JSU once offered a course that gave undergraduate
students the opportunity to plan and carry out a service project. Dr.
Stewart met with JSU alumna Maureen Sullivan, who works in Cleburne
County, and discussed the possibility of combining the course and the
project. The result has been a success for high school and undergraduate
Dr. Stewart and the planners in Cleburne County recently
culminated the project with a week-long seminar that allowed undergraduate
students to help 18 high school girls improve their self esteem and
increase their desire to reach for success in the workplace and in life.
The undergraduate students drove each day for a week in mid-July to
Cleburne County where they spent more than eight hours a day with 18
Many activities took place during the week for both sets
of students. Some enjoyed meeting the girls they had contacted by telephone
to make certain they had transportation and knew they were expected
to attend each session. Some sat in and listened to the speakers they
had lined up for the girls as they all heard from professionals in the
fields of health care, fitness, beauty, wardrobe, and business. Several
students said they enjoyed simply interacting with the girls and possibly
being viewed as a role model.
"I shared with some of them that I work two jobs and
go to college," said Shanna Smith of Munford, who added that she and
fellow student Andrea Brothers worked together to formulate the interview
Other undergraduates said they encouraged girls whose
problems ranged from peer pressure to money to family issues, although
they did not attempt to be counselors. Their role was to assist the
professional social workers in many but not all of the aspects of the
program. For instance, the girls were chosen for the program by the
social workers who sent out applications to every female student at
Cleburne County High School. Also, letters were sent out to the male
students for a class dealing with male issues, but only three responded.
Planners are now considering a course for males that can teach social
skills through a sporting event.
Both the undergraduates and high school students gained
benefits, says Dr. Stewart. She recently asked the dozen or so undergraduates
to evaluate the course and to review what each learned.
"I learned about motivating volunteers," said Teresa Dawson
of Centre, who works for a nonprofit organization. "What I learned will
help me with my job."
Several of the undergraduates expressed a desire to follow
up with the teens that they took shopping, to the beauty shop, and to
a fashion show where the girls were the models.
"I wanted to have even more time with them," said Valencia
Ingram of Anniston.
The undergraduates were not all social work students.
Some are studying education, psychology, liberal studies, and sociology.
The only male undergraduate was Matt Griffith of Hokes Bluff. He had
studied how self esteem affects dropout rates and risky behavior. He
expressed an interest in taking part in the same type of class for male
students. All of the students prepared a paper about their role in the
Dr. Stewart said the project's planner certainly want
the JSU students involved in the future. She looks forward to reading
the evaluations filled out by the undergraduate students so she can
tailor future courses to meet the needs of her students.
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