The power of service-learning

Some 450 Northeastern students participated in more than two dozen service-learning courses in the spring semester, teaming up with campus and community-based partners to complete 16,890 hours of service.

These partnerships were showcased at the second annual Service-Learning EXPO: EXPOse Your Mind to Service-Learning. The event, which took place last week in the Fenway Center, allowed students to educate and explain their projects to the Northeastern community.

“The EXPO serves as a forum for showcasing the good work done by our students throughout the semester,” said Becca Berkey, associate director and service-learning coordinator in the Center of Community Service. “We also encourage community members to use the EXPO as an opportunity to network, catch up, and brainstorm about future possibilities for collaboration.”

Mary Elliott, a first-year student with a dual major in linguistics and cultural anthropology, tutored children at El Centro del Cardenal, a Dorchester-based program that helps out-of-school and high-risk youth earn their GED certificate. Elliott and four other Northeastern students visited El Centro del Cardenal on a weekly basis, assisting Spanish-speaking students who needed extra help. This opportunity originated in “Advanced Spanish 2,” a course that shows students how to master grammar and conversation through engagement with the local community.

“I wanted the opportunity to speak and practice my conversational Spanish outside of the classroom,” said Elliott. “I’d been a tutor in the past, so this experience really appealed to me on a number of levels.”

Service-learning courses also allow students to interact with the community on subjects outside of the classroom, including techniques in bystander intervention. This past semester, the human services department offered a special topics course called “Mentors in Violence Prevention: A Bystander Approach to Ending Gender-Based Violence.” The course sent students such as senior human service major Eileen Rice into the community to educate and empower bystanders to take affirmative action when they see violence in a public arena.

Rice’s service-learning placement brought her to Mujeres Unidas Avanzando in Dorchester, an organization provides free social services and educational programs to low-income Latina women. At MUA, Rice met weekly with a group of 20- to 35-year-old women to discuss cultural stereotypes and teach them how to be active bystanders in the face of gender-based abuse and violence.

“It’s really important that everyone knows they don’t have to be passive bystanders,” said Rice. “That’s why I decided to take the class, and why I think people from all cultural backgrounds need to become aware of the options available to them.”