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Service-learning shines at Northeastern

john sirisuth
Freshman John Sirisuth discusses his service-learning experience at Thursday's Showcasing & Recognizing Spring 2012 Service-Learning Partnerships event at the Fenway Center.

It’s easy for numbers to tell Northeastern’s service-learning story: Over the last semester, some 430 students completed nearly 13,000 hours of service for 52 community-based partners under the guidance of 19 faculty members and 23 teaching assistants.

But another number stands out to freshman John Sirisuth: 30.

That’s how many pounds one woman, who was participating in Northeastern’s Healthy Kids, Healthy Futuresprogram, told him she had lost by taking Zumba classes. The program educates families about the importance of healthy eating and physical activity.

“That’s what really made things real,” Sirisuth told students, faculty and staff who gathered in the Fenway Center on Thursday morning for the Showcasing and Recognizing Spring 2012 Service Learning Partnerships event.

Sirisuth, who took a service-learning class for undeclared students called Connections and Decisions, added, “It was great to make a real difference in the health of our community.”

Integrating community service into the curriculum strengthens and enhances classroom learning, noted Carlos Cruz, a Spanish lecturer who teaches a service-learning class called Advanced Spanish Business.

“My students have an opportunity to interact with the Spanish-speaking community while improving their language skills and understanding of the culture,” Cruz said.

Thursday’s service-learning event, held regularly at the end of fall and spring semesters, gives Northeastern students and faculty members a chance to pause and reflect on the strong partnerships they have built with community organizations that work directly with Bostonians.

“I look out and I see our students and community partners that make this city a better place every day,” said John Tobin, a former Boston city councilor and Northeastern’s vice president for City and Community Affairs. “I know that you know the significant challenges that so many in our city face every single day, and I know that you also are making their lives better.”