LEWISTON – During another year of service-learning initiatives, students from USM’s Lewiston-Auburn College have provided assistance to the community.

Whether it was helping children to read, assisting the elderly or creating data bases, students experienced first-hand the challenges faced by people of different backgrounds and learned more about schools, social service organizations and other groups that strive to address local community needs.

Service-learning is a teaching method that combines community service with academic instruction as it focuses on critical, reflective thinking and civic responsibility.

Service-learning programs involve students in organized community service that addresses local needs, while enhancing their academic skills and commitment to the community.

It also enables students to apply concepts learned in the classroom to real world situations and provides an opportunity for them to develop a greater appreciation of their role as citizens in a democracy.

“Without service-learning, community needs might not be met, due to lack of time or people,” said Laurie Hearne of AmeriCorps*VISTA, who coordinates service-learning at USM/L-A.

In the annual service-learning report, Hearne and her supervisor, Marv Druker, professor of leadership and organizational studies, wrote that more than 450 students and 15 faculty members from USM/L-A participated in public service education and volunteerism, with students contributing almost 2,000 hours during the 2004-2005 academic year, resulting in a significant increase over the previous year.

USM/L-A’s committed goal is to institutionalize service-learning as part of the higher educational learning experience, which is now firmly rooted in the Lewiston-Auburn community. Some examples of community service completed by USM/L-A students include the following:

• Occupational therapy students partnered with independent elders from Maison Marcotte’s congregate living facility and observed the elders’ skills around occupational performance and their elder partners’ engagement in occupations in daily life. Students also facilitated learning and fun activities with Somali girls in the seventh-ninth grades with the support of United Somali Woman of Maine.

• Computer science students provided area nonprofit agencies with database assistance and helped them develop brochures and bulletins. Research methods students compiled data to assist the Lewiston Police Department conduct a neighborhood survey.

• English as Second Language students tutored new immigrant residents in strengthening social skills.

• The International Students Organization of Lewiston Auburn raised community awareness about multiculturalism in L-A by hosting potluck suppers, discussions, dances.

• Leadership and organizational studies students, sponsored by the Androscoggin Chamber of Commerce, conducted community leadership training workshops in collaboration with USM/L-A’s Civic Leadership Institute.

• Environmental science students worked to develop the USM/L-A nature trail and completed the “Botanical and Fungal Nature Trail Guide” to encourage the university community and the public to enjoy nature and green space on the campus grounds.

• Western civilization and human geography students hosted the second annual Androscoggin Labor Folk Festival and also raised money for the Seeds of Peace Camp in Otisfield.

• Applied social policy students participated in orientation and mentoring of Lewiston Middle School students (Lewiston Youth Empowerment Program); assisted with a supplementary reading program for school children at Sherwood Heights Elementary School; worked on the research and design of a model preschool program; and helped design and implement a children’s safety and spirituality program.

Students from the class also worked to enhance the ability of local agencies to pursue micro-level policy and program initiatives, including grant-writing projects to provide support to special needs students so they will be more likely to graduate from high school; a grant to fund the L-A Civic Leadership Institute; a grant for research for the College for ME/Androscoggin initiative; research for the Maine Community Foundation on how to best collect and share information on the impact of donor dollars to encourage future donations; and a Community Partnership grant for service-learning project expenses.

For more information about service-learning at USM/L-A, contact Hearne at 753-6547 or check the Web at www.usm.maine.edu/servicelearning/index.html.

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