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Catawba College Students Participate in Service Learning

December 08, 2004

Category: Academics, Events, Students


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Elisa Alfieri of Salisbury watched over a small group of Catawba College students as they worked with children from Nazareth Children’s Home to create Christmas ornaments. She knew that the ornaments they made would be used to decorate a tree in the Association of Retarded Citizens’ Festival of Trees fundraiser held at the Salisbury Civic Center in early December. She also knew that after the Festival of Trees event the tree which they decorated with those ornaments would find its way to Nazareth Children’s Home to be enjoyed by its residents through the holiday season.

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This was just one of several service learning projects involving Catawba College students this year which Alfieri witnessed and helped coordinate. A sophomore at Catawba, she had applied for a position as a resident assistant at the College, but was tapped instead as an R.A.A. (a resident assistant’s assistant) who would coordinate the efforts of students involved in service learning initiatives. For her, it was an opportunity to get fellow students involved in something she was an old hand at – community service.

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"But, community service has always been a really big part of my family and my church since I was little," Alfieri says.

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"My parents have always tried to instill in me the value of helping others. My family used to go to the homeless shelter and we would wash laundry, prepare meals and clean up. I’ve seen first hand that Salisbury is a beautiful town, but it has needs."

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Around a dozen Catawba students signed up to reside in a living/learning community in Pine Knot residence hall on campus. They were grouped into three different suite areas, according to their service learning project. The Catawba Girls for Service Learning (a suite of three girls) decided to raise money to create ornaments to decorate a tree in the Festival of Trees fundraiser, but Alfieri says, little did they know that their project would grow to involve more than just their small group.

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"They ended up raising $300 to buy materials to decorate their tree," she recalls. "They sold Krispy Kreme Donuts and collected donations from various businesses. When it was time to make the decorations, the Catawba Girls involved their friends and the children at Nazareth.

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"The tree’s going to be special in its own way. It did not win at the Festival of Trees, but it will be a winner because it’s a tree with a purpose, a tree that’s a part of them, now."

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And Sophomore Kathy MacDonald of Long Meadow, Mass., one of the Catawba Girls for Service Learning, agrees. "It was good to help out the community by getting kids involved and being able to leave them with a tree that they could enjoy on Christmas."

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The two other members of the Catawba Girls for Service Learning are Nikki Temple of Mooresville and Serena Adkins of Lexington, both sophomores.

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Other service learning projects involving Catawba students included one with student athletes (overseen by coaches in the College athletic department) who volunteered to assist residents at Trinity Oaks Retirement Center with various activities. A third group of students spent their semester getting their fellow Catawba students to fill out surveys regarding what their particular service project interests were. Next semester, that group will take the survey data they collected and compile a list of matching agencies in the Rowan County area. They hope to eventually come up with a directory of service projects for which Catawba students can volunteer.

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"We need to make time to do things to help others," Alfieri notes. "I think there has to be a balance. These students have all benefited from this program. They worked with their peers and the people they lived with. They came together to make a difference."

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Catawba College Professor of Psychology Dr. Lyn Boulter, who served as advisor for two of the three service learning groups, is a strong advocate for continuing such experiences on campus. "Service learning experiences translate the values and models of good citizenship into action through projects organized by students in collaboration with community programs.

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"Students have the opportunity to observe lifestyles different from their own, learn the importance of teamwork and organization, and carry out professional roles and responsibilities."

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This is the first year that Catawba has grouped students into living/learning communities based on their interest in participating in service projects.