From a potato farm to an elementary school classroom to an after-school program, learning outside the classroom is enriching students’ education at Palm Beach Atlantic.
Four students shared their unique service-learning experiences during a town hall meeting on the University’s Quality Enhancement Plan: Reach Out | Reach In | Reach Up implementation.
Students reach out through community service, reach in to reflect on that service and its connection to course learning outcomes and reach up by channeling those experiences into spiritual formation, said QEP Team Co-Chair Dr. Tom St. Antoine.
The 2018-19 - 2022-23 Quality Enhancement Plan to improve student learning is an integral part of the University's regional accreditation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC). You can view a video about it and student outcomes here.
In the 2018-19 school year, 251 student assessments were completed, and 13 students took two or more service-learning courses, QEP Team Co-Chair Dr. Angie McDonald said. Planned changes for the upcoming academic year include edited reflection prompts, intercoder reliability sessions to ensure accuracy, career peer interviews with students who have taken two or more service-learning classes and a community partner survey.
Sydney Mantay, a junior intercultural studies major, had an enlightening experience volunteering at the Rosemary Village after-school program in conjunction with her Foundations for Christian Ministry course.
With experience taking care of seven children, she thought serving at Rosemary Village would be easy. Then she realized the children there had vastly different needs. Some would pull on her wanting attention and others wanted nothing to do with her.
“It really has encouraged me to look not so far away,” Mantay said. “I can step a few blocks away and have a cross-cultural experience.”
From collecting leftover peppers from a farm on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, NoraNoel Nolan gained a deeper understanding of “Jayber Crow,” a Wendell Berry novel she read in her Communication Ethics course. The service learning opportunity enhanced the meaning and message behind the book, which is set in the fictional farm town of Port William, Kentucky.
Nolan helped others — the peppers were donated to a local food bank — and grew spiritually as she felt God speaking to her through the work, she said.
Kristi Martin, an early elementary education major, saw how important it is for teachers to select books in which their students see themselves represented. She read with children in a kindergarten classroom at South Olive Elementary School in conjunction with her Children’s Literature course.
The school has a sizable population of Hispanic students, who were thrilled to read “Just a Minute” by Yuyi Morales. The book introduces students to counting in English and Spanish through a fun story that incorporates Mexican culture.
Martin recognized the need for Christian teachers who will show fruits of the spirit — patience and kindness — in public schools.
Prior to engaging in a service-learning opportunity with his business ethics course, Walter Haims, a junior management major, was disillusioned. He had been reviewing case studies of agricultural companies that violated ethics, the law or both. Then he and his classmates gleaned 8,000 pounds of potatoes from a farm.
The concept of gleaning comes from Scripture, specifically Deuteronomy and Leviticus, and it is practiced in the Book of Ruth. Service-learning is invaluable for everyone, but those who do it through the Christian lens will have a more fulfilling experience, Haims said.
“Volunteering on the farm taught me lessons that cannot be learned in the classroom,” Haims said. “The program bridges the gap between academia and real-world issues.”
President William M. B. Fleming, Jr. stressed the University’s role as a pioneer in championing service-learning.
“Each of your stories touched me and showed the intersection of faith, learning and service at Palm Beach Atlantic University,” Fleming said. “We will become a resource for others around the nation to learn how to do service-learning well.”
Contact Carolanne Brown, assistant provost for accreditation and assessment, with questions about the QEP: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo 1: Sydney Mantay, a junior intercultural studies major, shares about her service-learning experience at the Rosemary Village after-school program. She volunteered there in conjunction with her Foundations for Christian Ministry course.
Photo 2: NoraNoel Nolan shares about how her service-learning experience picking peppers informated her understanding of the Wendell Berry novel "Jayber Crow." She read the novel and gleaned for peppers as part of her Communication Ethics course.
Photo 3: Early elementary education major Kristi Martin shares about a transformative service-learning experience she had reading with students at South Olive Elementary School. She realized the need for teachers who display Christlike character in public schools.
Photo 4: Student Walter Haims shares about how his service-learning experience gleaning potatoes redeemed his view of the agricultural industry. He had been researching agricultural companies that violated the law or ethical principles for his business ethics course when he participated in gleaning as a service-learning component of the course. Quality Enhancement Plan Team Co-Chairs Angie McDonald and Tom St. Antoine listen.