Service learning and volunteerism through Parkland

Humna Sharif

Staff Writer

Photo by Austin Jacobson/Prospectus News Ashanti Thomas (left) and Julie Shirley study together in the mentoring room at the Urbana Middle School. Mentoring is one of the many ways students can volunteer and take part in service learning around Champaign.

Photo by Austin Jacobson/Prospectus News
Ashanti Thomas (left) and Julie Shirley study together in the mentoring room at the Urbana Middle School. Mentoring is one of the many ways students can volunteer and take part in service learning around Champaign.

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

College said.

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

and volunteering.