History Class Uses Service Experience to Enhance Lessons

When Professor Meghan Winchell’s African American History class switched from three credit hours to four, she didn’t add more reading assignments.

“It created an opportunity to incorporate a service learning project into my class,” said Winchell. “I wanted to go to four credits for this purpose.”

Winchell and her students spent the fall semester serving at the Clyde Malone Community Center, which serves the local African American community. Each student in Winchell’s class was required to volunteer 20 service hours throughout the semester. Students volunteered with the afterschool program, playing games with children and helping them with homework.

“Our students seemed to enjoy the time they spent with the kids,” said Winchell. “They learned a lot about poverty and education.”

The service project didn’t take away from the classroom work, rather, it enhanced it.

“We reported back in class what they learned,” said Winchell. “They applied their knowledge of race and power and class to their service. They made connections across time.”

For sophomore Anna Eiringerg, a psychology major from Omaha, the service enhanced her learning.

“I have a much better understanding of the challenges within the African American community and can relate that back to the many topics that we discussed in class,” she said.

Winchell said time spent at the Malone Center impacted the Nebraska Wesleyan University students in other ways.

“I think it pushed them to interact with poor children and they may not have done that before,” said Winchell. “They are seeing another side of the community and how it’s hard to address big societal problems.”

“I became more aware of the importance of afterschool programs for elementary school students,” sophomore Betsy Reimer said of her experience.

NWU students were not the only ones impacted by their work at the Malone Center.

“With the number of volunteers who came each week from Meghan’s class, it helped us meet our goals to get every child on level in reading, writing, and math,” said Nate Woods, assistant director of the Malone Center. “This experience for our kids has been very rewarding.”

Now Reimer hopes more NWU students can experience the same.

“I think community service is important for students to experience because we need to be aware of what is going on in our community,” she said. “Instead of being ignorant about the conditions of those with less money, we need to help them by using resources available to us in order to make Lincoln a better place.”

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