Service-learning program is a win-win
By Karleigh Creighton
Madonna is one of seven schools in the state involved in Ford’s Community Corps Program. It’s a program where students’ expertise and skills acquired through their education are put to use to create a service project for a local, nonprofit organization.
The program is a win-win. It creates real value for the student participants who get to put their education to practical use and prepare themselves for the real world and it benefits their nonprofit partner with monetary fundraisers, volunteer service, and awareness campaigns.
Olga Martinez, Director of the Office of Service Learning and program head, believes this program brings real value and great opportunities to the university.
“Ford Community Corps provides students with an opportunity to be part of a unique service-leadership program. It involves small teams of students partnering with faculty and non-profit organizations and collectively making positive impacts in the community. It also increases their networking for future career opportunities,” Martinez said. “Students have shared with me that they enjoy the leadership opportunities, making friends and contacts, and being part of solution-centered projects. Many students also feel the program helps them prepare for internships and job opportunities.”
Students and faculty members participating in the program are positive about it.
“I think that the Ford MU Community Corps program is such an amazing experience. It gave me the opportunity to use the skills that I am learning in my classes and apply them to real life situations while giving back to my community at the same time,” said Emma Cook, member of the Journalism/Communication team.
Rocio Campos, Sociology team member, agrees.
“This program has become an integral part of my personal agenda. It has given me the opportunity to use my knowledge and skills in a real-world setting while serving individuals in impoverished communities with passion and perseverance.”
Michelle Proctor, Sociology Chair and faculty advisor for the Community Corps Sociology team, highlights the numerous benefits of this program.
“As an applied sociologist, I believe that it is crucial for students to put theory into practice - praxis. In other words, service-learning allows students to walk the talk,” Proctor said. “This program allows students to move beyond the stereotypical ideas that they may have regarding individuals and communities. Having this experience makes them better citizens, which reflects positive on the University. But I would have to say that, for me, it is more about what we can do for the community rather than what the experience can do for us.”
Madonna has a variety of Ford Community Corps teams including: Education, Dietetics, Science, Journalism/Communication, and Sociology. The projects completed by each team serve a wide variety of individuals in the community.
Team Science goes down to Saint Vincent Sarah Fisher Center once a week to do science experiments with the kids to get them excited about the subject. It started out as a project to help younger girls see that they can achieve success in careers in the science field but now boys participate in the team’s activities as well. Experiments included: making ice cream and crystals (with a scientific perspective), looking at and comparing plant and skin cells, measuring how much sugar is in candy and calculating how many jumping jacks it takes to burn off a candy bar.
The dietetics team partners with Plymouth-Canton Schools Adult Autism Spectrum Disorder program. The team helps to increase the students’ knowledge and skills about healthy eating and cooking habits by providing nutrition and cooking lessons.
Team sociology served at the Michigan Urban Farming Initiative where they addressed food insecurity in the city of Detroit.
The education team worked with and read to kids at a Title I school in Livonia. The group previously worked with First Step.
In contrast to the other teams’ direct volunteer service work, the Journalism/Communication team planned and hosted an electronic clutter collection with proceeds benefitting the Beaumont Silent Children’s fund. This team has also hosted Lunch-and-Learns and on-campus fundraisers for local nonprofits in the past.
Veronica Riha, Biological and Health Sciences Instructor and Team Science faculty advisor, is very happy with what her team is doing.
“The students we are helping are always so excited to see the MU students. They are excited to learn about science. Long term, I think this will help keep them connected to science and math in high school,” she said.
Hayley Wallace, Biology major and Team Science member, suggests that more students should get involved in the program.
“I would definitely suggest this program to other students because it is such a simple way for all of us to give back to the community and we can do it in a way that really utilizes what we are majoring in,” she said. “We are experts in science in the eyes of these children and it’s cool that we are able to teach them some interesting things about science that got some of us involved in the field.”
The Ford MU Community Corps program came to MU in Winter 2013 and since its beginning, 60 Crusader students have participated. If you are interested in participating in the program, contact your advisor and ask if your major has a team or email Olga Martinez at firstname.lastname@example.org.