Service learning and volunteerism through Parkland
Parkland College, apart from offering its students a multitude of educational programs to
choose from, also gives students several chances to contribute towards the development of the
community through volunteerism and serving learning. These opportunities foster and strengthen
the relationship between individuals and the community.
“Volunteerism is a great way to build up your resume and get experience in real life
situations. Apart from that several programs at Parkland have service learning requirements,”
Brian Nudleman, Associate Professor and Coordinator of Humanities said.
Nudleman explained that service learning combines giving back to the community and applying
things learned in the classroom to real-life experiences. Many classes at Parkland require that
students take part in service learning to further emphasize a course concept or learning objective.
Service learning can also gives students more experience in a particular major offered at
Service learning is seen throughout the Parkland Campus. The Occupational Therapy Assistance
program has service learning as a requirement so students can have experience regarding some of
the work that they’ll be doing. It’s also recommended for Public Relations classes, Introduction
to Psychology and the Dental Hygiene Program.
Many other courses do not require service learning, but still offer opportunities for students to
take part in to earn extra credit.
“Though each teacher is a little different sometimes service learning can also be done instead of
a special project,” Nudleman explained.
Orpheum’s Children Science Museum, Champaign School District, Champaign County Nursing
Home and Wesley Campus Food Pantry are some of the places around Champaign-Urbana
where students working usually volunteer.
Nudleman also emphasized the importance of volunteerism and service learning when it comes
to building a resume and having a good career.
”Anything extra that you did in addition to the courses and classes that you can have
on your resume is enormously significant. Whether it’s for an employer or for transferring to
a four year college it is always a good strategy to do extra. It can in the future help you land a
better job,” Nudleman remarked.
“You are not only giving back to the community you live in but a lot of experience that you can
get through service learning is not attainable otherwise, especially with lots of entry level jobs
looking for experience it’s hard to get that,” Michael Moran, Volunteer Coordinator at Parkland
Furthermore Moran explained that Parkland College did a service learning report in July 2013,
which followed students for four years. The report showed that students taking part in a service
learning project had a higher percentage of fall to fall retention as well as a higher graduation
rate compared to students who didn’t take part in the extra activities outside of class.
Many students who volunteer usually say they feel like they engaged more than if they were just
sitting there listening to lectures and taking tests. By volunteering they feel more connected to
the work they do.
Nudleman gave the example of a student in a photography class doing service learning,
explaining that the work was no longer just for their own projects or a grade.
“It’s for someone else, somebody else’s memories are connected to that photo and it’s that
service which really makes him take the work even more seriously, service learning really does
increases engagement in classes and courses as well,” Nudleman said.
Nudleman and Moran work together on Parkland’s Service Learning Programs, which includes
partly putting together the biannual Volunteer Fair and running it.
The volunteer fair takes place early on in the fall semester. This year their goal is to have about
25 different nonprofit organizations come to Parkland from the C-U area. All these organizations
have tables set up and are looking to recruit Parkland students to volunteer with them.
“Boy scouts, girl scouts, special Olympics everyone comes that day. The idea is to have multiple
organizations there so students have a chance to volunteer where they feel they can work the
best,” Nudleman commented.
Nudleman, in collaboration with Lauren Smith from Champaign Unit 4 schools has been
running the Homer Club for 8 years now. It’s an after school tutoring program for Garden Hills
Elementary where Parkland students and Faculty/Staff members tutor and help third, fourth and
fifth graders with their homework.
Moran, who started working with Nudleman two years ago, said that a big reason the tutoring
program was started was because the school is so close to Parkland, making it easy for students
to get there and help out. There is also no free after school tutoring program for children at
Garden Hills, but there is a great need of tutors for the students who needed help with math or
On average the Garden Hills Tutoring program has 25 volunteers each semester. It’s a semester
wide commitment, and adds to the resume but more than anything else students have the sense of
doing good work for the community.
“It’s a complicated relationship working with elementary school children and definitely a
challenge. It doesn’t always feel like a positive experience, but after a while the kids definitely
come to really look forward to meeting the college students and to work with them,” Nudleman
commented. “Apart from tutoring it’s also mentoring in some ways. At the end everyone benefits
from the service being provided.”
Another good opportunity for community service and volunteerism is Urbana School District
116’s mentoring and tutoring program. Barbara Linder, Mentor Program Coordinator Urbana
School District 116 explained that this program looks to pair a community adult with a child in
elementary school, and the commitment usually continues through middle and high school.
This program focuses more on connection building rather than tutoring, giving students
somebody they can rely on and feel close to throughout their young academic development.
“Mentoring is really about being a friend and building relationships. It helps a student value
school and helps them feel more connected to school in the way that there is someone who
cares,” Linder explained. “Learning happens in context of a relationship with someone who
really wants them to succeed and really believes in them.”
The Volunteer Fair for this semester will be held on Wednesday, Sept. 17, 2014 at 10:30 a.m. in
the Student Union. Nudleman and Moran strongly encourage all students and faculty to attend as
the fair provides an excellent chance to find the right place and organization for service learning