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The Michigan Daily, 2002-12-05

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8B - The Michigan Daily - Weekend Magazine - Thursday, December 5, 2002

The Michigan Daily - Weekend Magazine -



Community-based classes offer students real world experience

By Megan Murray
Daily Arts Writer
English, chemistry, lunch, Spanish, group meet-
ing, library ... does this remind you of your sched-
ule? The daily life of a student generally centers
around classes, friends, activities and studying. With
the pressure and competition at the collegiate level,
it is easy for students to get lost in the microcosm of
the University and to live in the bubble of college-
town Ann Arbor.
Yet, the University actually offers a plethora of
classes that get the student out of the classroom and
involved in the local community.
One of the longest running academically accredit-
ed service-learning courses in the nation is the
University's Project Community, a partnership
between the Department of Sociology and the
Division of Student Affairs. Since 1973, more than
600 students each year combine a large variety of
community service with academic learning.
There are many sites and opportunities within
Project Community; from service in education,
health or prisons to housing or dependency pro-
grams. Many programs work solely with specific
populations such as children, women, the elderly or
disabled. Students can choose an area that is related
to their particular acad-
emic discipline or com-
pletely venture into a
new domain to expand T
their horizons. EDWAR i D i NS
One section of
Project Community is a A
feminist mentoring pro-
gram called "It's GreatA
to be a Girl," where
"femtors" are trained to
work with groups of
sixth grade girls to dis-
cuss issues such as
friendship, harassment_
and body image.
"The undergraduate
female mentors help
these young girls chal-
lenge societal scripts
and recognize their
power as girls to change
the world," said Carole
Lapidos, director of It's The Ginsberg Center is one
Great to be a Girl.
"It's important to realize there is a universe outside
the University. This program is a good eye opener
and reminds students of real issues, rather than just
focusing on 'me.' Helping someone else is also a
way of helping yourself" Lapidos added.
Another educational Project Community class is
America Reads, a class dealing with issues in litera-
cy by setting up students as tutors to disadvantaged

children who are at least one grade level behind in
reading. Undergraduate students are trained and
taught to develop lessons for their one-on-one ses-
sions with a small group of kids throughout the
"The aid of these tutors helps the children work on
getting exciting about learning. They also encourage
taking risks to learn, while simultaneously building
self-esteem and establishing a relationship," said
Whitney Begeman, America Reads tutor program
"University students benefit just as much as the
tutored children. Getting off campus and involved in
the community gives students the opportunity to
focus on something different and gain a new per-
spective. It also opens their eyes to issues they may
never have thought of before," said Begeman.
Another area of the sociology program works with
Ozone House to focus on housing and homelessnes.
The agency is dedicated to improving the lives of
runaway and troubled youth with a 24-hour crisis
line serviced by trained Universi'ty students dealing
with issues ranging from suicide to abuse to home-
"Often the volunteering was intense and difficult,
but it was great to be able to have the in-class dis-
cussion as a means to process and debrief with other
students at an academic
level framing the issues.
The class served as a
support group and made
-(the experience more
R(, worthwhile," said LSA
junior Mia White.
According to the
Project Community
2 mission, the program is
- committed to student
involvement in commu-
nity service and social
action where students
grow in social responsi-
bility, develop critical
thinking skills, assess
personal values and
come to better under-
stand themselves.
"For some, the
learning environment,
BRENDAN O'DONNELL/Daily which is different from
Project Community site. most of the courses at
the University, is difficult to adjust to. We have
been socialized to learning in a traditional format
where students absorb knowledge from profes-
sors," said Rackham student Jessica Charbeneau,
who also serves as a sociology graduate student
"But, this is-part of the point of Project
Community, to expose students to another way of
learning and to apply that learning to their experi-

ences at site and in their own lives. If students can
embrace this format, they will get a lot from the
course," Charbeneau added.
Another community-based program with multiple
sections and opportunities is the Department of
Psychology's Project Outreach. It is similar to the
sociology programs that engage the student in real
hands-on community work designed to meet com-
munity needs and a
expand the students' I chose the se
experiences and with children
Project Outreach needs, such as
was started in 1967D
and is the largest pro- Down syndro
gram on campus. was something
Since its inception,
almost 35,000 stu- familiar with a
dents have participat- challenge. The
ed in Outreach, mak-
ing it one of the experience has
biggest and oldest in The childi
service learning in
courses in not only become part o
the University, but the
"Many studentsIL
report that Project
Outreach is one of the most meaningful educational
experiences that they have while at UM," said Jerry
Miller, Project Outreach faculty coordinator.
"Most students remember their Outreach experi-
ences long after leaving here. Also for many stu-
dents, the program has significantly influenced their
career choices," he added.
Sara Katterjohn, an LSA senior, said, "The expe-
rience has not been like any other experience I have
had at the University. No other class gives you the
freedom and agency like it does. It is a structured
class, but in a completely unstructured way. There is
a set list of requirements and things you must do, yet
you have a lot of choices about how you want to
accomplish these things."
Project Outreach has multiple sections that incor-
porate various aspects of the surrounding communi-
ty. There are sections working with preschool chil-
dren, a big siblings program, placements with juve-
nile delinquency and criminal justice issues and a
program working with health, illness, and society.
Students may elect to take the course more than once
or serve as a peer group leader.
"I chose the section working with children with
special needs, such as autism and Down syndrome,
because it was something I was not familiar with and
offered a challenge. The volunteer experience has
been amazing. The children have become part of my
life and I plan on volunteering there after the class
ends at semester," said Jenna Naylor, an LSA sopho-
"It's fulfilling for me to know that I've helped

them in some way, that I've had an effect on their
lives, no matter how small. Seeing the kids connect
with something they've been struggling with is very
rewarding," she added.
Beyond the effect the courses have on the stu-
dents, the community benefits from the University
students who volunteer their time and effort. Often
solid relationship are formed and students continue

ction working
with special
autism and
ne, because it
I Was not
nd offered a
been amaz-
en have
f my life."
- Jenna Naylor
SA sophomore

to work at the sites after
the class ends.
"Our sites have really
appreciated having
University of Michigan
students volunteering
with their children or
elderly adults. I know
that many students have
strong connections with
the children they work
with and these relation-
ships are very meaning-
ful to these kids; said
Hilda Halabu, a psy-
chology GSI. "Alsb,
outside of these two
major programs, the
University offers many
other classes that bal-

ance in-class learning with active service in the
community," Halabu added.
The Department of Women's Studies offers a class
on "Women in Prison" that combines the education
aspects of repeated oppressions against this often
ignored population along with personal interactions.
Students teach these incarcerated women life skils
such as healthcare and writing resumes, while alto
acting as a support group.
"My volunteer experience with the Women in
Prison class totally changed my perspective on the
criminal justice department and opened my eyes
to what goes on behind closed doors. It helped me
contradict stereotypes and see the women as peo-
ple. These women touched my life in a special
way and their capacity for love is profound," said
"The most important part of education is about
experience, when you can personalize the situations
and learn on a greater scale. I have learned the most
at the University through these community involved
classes," she added.
Although it is easy for students to get trapped in
the day-to-day activities of college life and acade-
mics, most students say that their experiences
with programs outside the classroom have been
"Overall, I believe connecting academic theory
with lived experience is key to internalizing knowl-
edge and empowering oneself to critically assess the
wor we live in - even after graduation day,"
Charbeneau said.

Stephanie Kaplan, an LSA junior, works at a preschool as part of her Project Community class.

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