Enhancing Education: The Benefits
of Service Learning
(Continued from 1)
But don't worry. While the field of education lends
itself naturally to volunteer opportunities, you don't
have to be a future teacher to take part in service
learning. Advertising students can work on ad campaigns
for community groups that otherwise couldn't afford
professional media services. A writing instructor can
add a service learning experience to an introductory
class by asking students to interview senior citizens
and write stories based on their experiences. If your
professor hasn't already included service learning in
a course, think of a way to use an existing project
or paper for community-minded purposes.
Service learning doesn't have to be related to a specific
class. If you join a student
professional organization on your campus you can
enjoy networking opportunities and career-related learning
while also taking part in volunteer activities that
are tailored to your professional interests. That's
half the service learning equation right there. Take
the lead and ask to include some time for reflection
at the end of each project.
If you're attending school online or through distance
then these methods aren't going to be as useful. You'll
need to look to your local community for inspiration.
Check out online databases like VolunteerMatch,
the "volunteers" sections of Craigslist,
or local equivalents for quick searches. Keep your eyes
and ears open, and keep an open mind. If you read the
local paper, look at fliers that are posted on bulletin
boards, and ask around, you'll find community dinners,
non-profit organizations, charity walks and any number
of other chances to volunteer while learning.
How Can I Use My Service Learning
Experience After College?
So, you've spent some time during your college years
volunteering and taking part in service learning; now
how can you capitalize on this experience during your
Employers love well-rounded employees. While they realize
that not everyone has time to take a full load of classes
while chairing the homecoming committee and single-handedly
building a local soup kitchen, they do like to see that
candidates for a job are willing to move outside of
their comfort zones and give back to the community.
They're also looking for candidates with job experience,
and if you planned your service opportunities carefully,
this could be the biggest personal benefit from service
When it comes to creating a top-notch resume, highlighting
your service learning experience is usually a matter
of wording and organization. Don't lie about your responsibilities
or job titles, but also don't shortchange yourself because
you think it's "just" a volunteer job. If
you planned a successful public relations campaign for
a non-profit organization, your future employer is going
to be more interested in the outcome than in whether
you were paid for the job.
When organizing your resume, don't be afraid to combine
volunteer and paid jobs under catch-all headings like
"Desktop Publishing Experience" so that you
can include your time as an administrative assistant
and your service learning experience creating newsletters
for a charity side by side. Consider creating a skills-based
resume that allows you to list relevant experience and
abilities more easily than the standard chronological
I'm sure you've heard of the various versions of "Tell
me about a time when you..." you're going to hear
during job interviews. Your service learning background
should provide you with concrete, specific, career-related
examples of your skills and experience that you can
call on at a moment's notice.
Also, if you are in a career where a portfolio would
be appropriate, let your service learning experience
shine when creating it. Think about concrete examples
of your work, like newsletters or spreadsheets. Since
service learning focuses so much on reflection, select
journal entries you would like to share, or write an
essay detailing your growth during a service learning
experience. Even a certificate of participation would
be a nice touch since it helps paint a picture of a
individual who didn't just spend his or her school days
studying. Think about this end product while you're
volunteering so that you're not left with blank pages
in your portfolio. A little forethought will let you
save important documents and ask for letters of reference
or official documentation of hours volunteered.
What Are You Waiting For?
With all of the benefits service learning offers, it's
easy to see why I feel that it should be an integral
part of any college experience. Why not make service
learning a part of your educational plan this semester?
Lorie Witkop completed an MA in Education from Michigan
State University in 2003.
| Service Learning Awards
and Scholarship Opportunities
successful completion of service, students can
receive an AmeriCorps Education Award, which can
be used for college tuition or to repay student
loans. Learn more on the Corporation
for National and Community Service Website.
and Serve America and the Corporation
for National and Community Service offer many awards
and scholarships to students involved in service learning.
Visit the Service Learning site for additional information.
service is also an influential factor in winning
scholarships to help fund your education from
private and professional sources. For example,
Scholarship program offers ten $10,000 scholarships
and 150 $1,000 scholarships for excellence and
leadership in community service.