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Students use J-Term to deliver service

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

With the debut of J-Term — an optional three-week term for students eager to squeeze in extra credits between fall and spring semesters — many are using this new academic time frame not only to foster minds, but also to feed souls. 

Dubbed “J-Serve” by service learning, the department knew the students’ light course load during J-Term created an ideal opportunity to squeeze in some volunteer hours.

“The three-hour class times have allowed professors to consider local field trips and hands-on engagement within the community,” said Colin Hurley, director of service learning.

With an array of service options, many students have stepped up to lend a helping hand, said Hurley. J-Serve service projects have included:

  • Food Pantry and Clothing Sorting: A small group of students sorted clothing and assisted with food donations at the Bethany Outreach Center.
  • Shelter Donations: A group of student-athletes visited Our Neighbor's Place, an overflow shelter that rotates among several downtown Erie churches. Volunteers delivered hospitality and warm clothing items to the transitionally homeless population.
  • Martin Luther King Education: In celebration of Martin Luther King Day, student volunteers and staff visited the Trinity Center and the MLK Center, where they spent time with children teaching them about MLK through coloring, activities and word searches.
  • Senior Center Visit: Students journeyed up the hill to the Mercy Hilltop Center where volunteers played board games and socialized with the residents.

 In addition to service learning-sponsored events, several faculty members have integrated a community service component into lesson plans.

Students in the Liberation, Religion and Society course, taught by professor Mary Hembrow Snyder, Ph.D., came together as a team to provide free lunches and toiletry bags to visitors of Community Shelter Services. A long-standing relationship between the university and the organization has benefited hundreds in the community.

In a public health course, Medical-Legal Partnerships, taught by assistant professor James Teufel, Ph.D., students joined Second Harvest Food Bank to pack 315 “Blizzard Boxes,” packages containing food items that are later delivered to individuals, such as the elderly, who become shut-ins during extreme weather conditions. The students also packaged 150 backpack bags for the Erie City School District lunch program.

In addition, Teufel’s class held a week-long donation competition for local shelters, with 18 students collectively bringing in more than 500 pairs of socks and more than 200 towels.

And, in preparing for a U.S./Mexico Border Expedition, 11 students helped the Multicultural Community Resource Center, located on East 10th St., teach English to non-native speakers through its English as a Second Language (ESL) program. The study abroad trip is being led by assistant professor Natasha Duncan, Ph.D.

PHOTO: Dr. James Teufel and his class at the Second Harvest Food Bank