At the end of the semester, I’m always reminded why service learning matters. I hear a lot of comments from students at the conclusion of their service learning experience which indicate that it was both educationally enriching and also personally transformative. Here is what Rebecca Hutchinson, a Loyola freshman majoring in English, had to say about the service learning she did for Dr. Sue Mennino’s sociology course called “Race, Class and Schools”:
“The purpose of our class was to observe and analyze the role race and class play in our education system. We had to choose from one of the pre-approved service learning sites, all of which dealt with children in New Orleans’ schools. I chose to work with STAIR (Start the Adventure in Reading), a program that tutors second graders and helps them to read at a second grade level. It is interesting to see the topics we discussed in class actually come to fruition in the service learning experience.
As I said many times in class, I was extremely lucky to get my student, whom I’ll call Jimmy. He is always eager to learn and truly wishes to improve his reading skills. However, there were many times when Jimmy could not come to STAIR, because he couldn’t get a ride home, and when he could get a ride home, it would be with an uncle on the back of their bike. If he had to miss, he would always come back the next day, telling me how much he missed not being there. It was at these times that my heart would go out to him because, by no fault of his own, he would have to miss something that truly brought him joy. I realize that coming to STAIR is one of the only “constant” things Jimmy can count on, and that even at times is taken from him. I love going to STAIR. I love watching Jimmy’s face light up when he learns something new and when he reads a book by himself. It is one of the greatest feelings in the world. This whole experience has been so rewarding that I signed on to tutor for the rest of the year. At times, yes, it is frustrating; he may be hyper and uncooperative, and I have a hard time getting through to him. No matter what issues I come across though, I would not trade this for the world. I am kind of upset that Jimmy’s STAIR program will have to move to a new site starting next year, because the current site is becoming a magnet school, and most of the presently enrolled students won’t be returning. I will continue doing this as long as I can, though, because it truly has changed me. Most of the kids in STAIR just need to know that someone cares about them and their education, and that is mainly what we do.”
Rebecca’s words remind me just how much service learning embodies Loyola’s mission of helping young adults learn to think critically and act justly.