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Penn State McKeesport students learn while helping their community|
By Dottie Ikach
| Interviewing Native Americans to preserve their stories and myths, completing an architectural study of buildings in McKeesport, Pa., and performing plays for elementary school children proved to be more than just service-learning projects for Penn State McKeesport students.|
Penn State McKeesport and Penn State Fayette have developed service-learning programs that involve students in community projects as part of their course studies. The campuses submitted a proposal to the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation and received a three-year grant to support administration and funding for faculty and students involved in this intensive effort to link Penn State campuses with their surrounding communities. The campuses launched their student service-learning programs during fall semester 2000.
Dr. J. Patrick Boyle, director of Student Affairs, coordinates Penn State McKeesports service-learning initiative.
The goal is to introduce students to the concept of community service and how they can take what they have learned in the classroom and apply it in such a way that it helps others, Boyle said.
Projects addressed a variety of social issues. Students in the mythology class taught by Dr. Mary Preuss, associate professor of Spanish and comparative literature, chronicled oral history interviews with Native American Indians. Their interviews are being bound into a collection, and copies will be sent to the campus Kelly Library and to the Pittsburgh Native American Indian Center in McKeesport.
Student Ben Schivley of Elizabeth said, I really enjoyed meeting and talking with my Native American partner. I personally learned a lot about their culture, especially their practice of being in harmony with nature, and about some myths.
The mythology class students also attended the annual PowWow in Dorseyville and visited the Alcoa Hall of the American Indian at The Carnegie (museum) in Pittsburgh.
Two student projects benefited the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank located in Duquesne. A group of information sciences and technology (IST) students, under the direction of Robert Walters, professor of engineering and IST Champion, developed an e-commerce site to promote food and monetary donations to the distribution center. Visitors to the site are able to learn about the food banks mission and needs.
A second group of IST students mentored by Sam Zabec, instructor in engineering, designed a CD-ROM training program for food bank volunteers who want to work at the facility.
Volunteers will be able to pull up specific information about Salvage Sorting Guidelines on a computer and review them without interrupting food bank staff members to answer questions, Zabec said.
Theatre arts students performed Four of a Kind, a childrens play, as a community outreach project for area elementary schools and at the Carnegie Free Library of McKeesport. The play is based on four fables from international childrens literature. The students, under the direction of Dr. Jay Breckenridge, associate professor of theatre arts, took their production to the schools as an enrichment experience for the children.
Students of Dr. Joseph Marchesani, assistant professor of integrative arts, studied the architecture of several of McKeesports unique buildings, many of which are more than 100 years old. Their findings will provide a historical record for the McKeesport community.
Under the auspices of AmeriCorps, nine Penn State McKeesport students served as tutors in the after-school program at the Crestas Terrace Community Center in North Versailles. Students received an educational award toward their tuition.
David Shellenberger, campus ministry coordinator, arranged the program in conjunction with Dr. Janis Brooks, community center director. Forty kindergarten through 12th-grade students participated in the program, which included reading, English and math.
According to Boyle, journaling is a component of the service-learning courses. The process requires all participating students to write about their reactions to the community service they performed. The procedure is meant to help students see how their studies and future work can benefit individuals in the community.