» «

Junior/Community College Breakout
Service Learning/Sportsmanship
(Tuesday, June 20, 11:00 a.m. - 12:15 p.m.)

Steve Murray:

This panel has been put together by NATYCAA concerning junior and community college issues. This afternoon, we're going to be talking about service learning. For many of you on your campuses, service learning is a new idea that's being thrust upon us as a result, in many cases, of presidential mandates. In other cases, it has evolved through a sense of community responsibility.

As many of us know, essential themes have emerged during the past two days as we have looked at athletics in the year 2000. One of the themes is a validation that athletics plays an important part in the character development and is a character-building activity for many of our athletes. Our purpose during this session is to expand upon this idea of athletics as being character building and look at in it terms of how we can provide for our different communities' experiences in which our athletes can go out into those communities and gain, through community service, a sense of teamwork and responsibility and helping those who are less fortunate.

It's my pleasure to introduce two individuals who are involved in service learning, more specifically, Sue McLevy, who is the director of the Center for Public Policy and Service at Mesa Community College and Allen Benedict, the director of athletics at Mesa Community College. Sue will share with us a description of the program, specifically at Mesa. Allen will provide an overview of how his athletics program can interact with what's going on at Mesa. For your attention, here is Allen Benedict.

Allen Benedict:

Thanks Steve. I'd first like to tell you how I got involved in this. My personal experience with service learning is, for the most part, very limited. When Steve called Mesa Community College because we happen to have a national office of campus compact on our campus and out of that arose our service learning program, it was that I would be a good one to address how athletes fit into service learning. We've been involved in some programs, but to that extent, I thought there had to be somebody across this country at this level that might have had more expertise than myself. Sue, whom you'll get to meet, goes about 100 miles per hour and she's a real nag. Our director of the Campus Compact Program told me I could do this. I'm going to give you my personal feelings and maybe some of our involvement in what I call volunteerism and not necessarily service learning. To me, both of them go hand-in-hand.

I became involved with Campus Compact back in 1985-86. I attended a national conference that was held at one of our local community colleges. At that time, I was introduced to this concept. It took me, and also some of my colleagues, approximately one year to figure out exactly what campus compact was because at the community college level it hadn't reached a degree of notoriety. It was at a major college level, especially back east. Presidents got together and formed a compact that had to do with public service. Our chancellor in our district joined that compact. That's how we got involved.

I've been volunteering with a local community agency. I've been part of a nonprofit organization as a board member for approximately 23 years. I've also served as a volunteer in the city of Tempe on various boards. So, volunteering and being involved on things outside of my occupation was nothing new to me. It was more like a habit. I never looked to getting anything in return except what I got in return was to make a lot of new friends. I got involved with some people I never would have known if I hadn't taken the opportunity to get involved. I think that's the issue with service learning and also volunteerism, getting involved.

I've heard it a few times during this Convention. By the way, this is my first time here. I've only been an athletic director for three years. I'm the men's athletic director at Mesa Community College and, at the moment, serving as the athletic director. I've heard the word, models. If this is going to work at our local community college, you have to have models. Who are going to be those models? Are they going to be your coaches, parents, brother or sisters or friends? But, there have to be models. We get caught up with the idea, as we look at our professional athletes when they're donating their services and their money and time, that maybe our young people wait to get to that point. Down the road, when they become famous, then all of a sudden they start giving back to the community. It needs to start sooner than that. It has to be introduced and at what level should it be introduced at.

One of my models and one of my heros is Batman. I just went to see "Batman Forever". I see him as a volunteer. He's also service oriented and he gives his money. In his latest episode, he takes on a partner. His partner, Robin, wants to basically live the same way and dedicate himself to what Batman is doing. We need more Batmen out there at that level. Maybe we need to perceive it that way.

I heard the word character and establishing values. What better way to establish some values and increase your character than by giving your time? Not necessarily money because you have a choice. When you're an adult, you can give a check to your local charity and they can do what they want, or you can give your time. It's a lot easier to give the money than to give your time. When we ask the community college athlete to give of his time outside of what we are already asking him to do, it's a lot to say. Our challenge is to find a way to incorporate him into this concept.

My experience with service learning has been as an instructor. I teach our recreation and health classes. There has been talk to include service learning as part of their service. I have not done that. I encourage our students to get involved as a volunteer only from the standpoint of building a resume. You can't always go out and get a job in order to get some background and experience, so volunteer. We also had a class called "Community Involvement". Our coaches have been involved in this as long as I can remember. Students would register for a three-hour course. They would go out into the community and find some place to work such as a playground, parks and recreation area, elementary or junior high school, that type of thing. So, service learning started way back for me.

The athletic academic problems we have with our students, say our Prop 48 students, do we add another thing to them? The other question I have is, who should be responsible? Should the athletic director initiate these programs? Should the coaches be responsible? Should you, as ADs, hold your coaches responsible? Should all other college personnel be responsible? We had a program called "Into the Streets" where on one specific Saturday, a group of students would be taken out to do some community project such as cleaning and painting houses. This year it was "Have a Heart". I was aware that we had one coach involved and we had a number of football and basketball players involved. Our campus has 20,000 students or more. When you have a community service sponsored and it is advertised throughout your campus and you come up with less than 200 people, there's something wrong. We're either not getting the message out or it's not very important. Should individual athletes be involved? Should your teams as a whole be involved? Should you be part of one-day events? Should you begin small and work toward the larger goals?

To prepare for this, I did a little research. First of all, I picked up the Service Learning Program Manual. There was a quotation, "Any definition of a successful life must include service to others." That was a quotation made by George Bush. I really believe that volunteering should be a part of a person's life. Give of themselves without anything in return. My debate with myself is that, should I get involved with service learning for credit? Should I be forced to give some of my time if I receive financial aid? Should that be part of the financial aid package? Should I support the idea that if our athletes are on scholarship, that some portions of their time be given back to the community? I don't know if that is the true message that I want to send to my coaches or my athletes. I would like to create a situation where they would like to get involved.

How do you create student interest? Each one of you has different situations, different climates, different cultures and you have to design it anyway you want to. Our football players went out on a fund raising drive for scholarships. They had a chance to go out and make some extra dollars at one of our large activities in the community. They went out as a group, raised some dollars and put it back into the scholarship fund. That's positive.

Why do we have to have a project to give you something to do? Why do we have to have a project to pick up a piece of paper that's laying on your sidewalk on your campus? Why do we have to have a project in order to do something out of the ordinary? It seems today, you don't have to help your buddy, let things lay and don't get involved. Should we reward people for volunteering? Should we recognize that? Work study, to me, if we're going to ask a person to volunteer as part of their work study, they are volunteering as it is, because they don't get that much.

Another way to find out what's happening across the country is the Internet. I don't have Internet in my office and if I did, it would take me a couple of days to figure out how to use it. My colleague got on the computer and sent out a message. An hour later, she had gotten answers from people and what they were doing on their campuses. Stanford University has a person in their athletic department who works with student-athletes on their campus to involve them in service. There's a project where they connect football players with junior high school children. The players go into the schools and work with the children on self esteem issues, making choices, peer pressure, etc.

Coaches of certain sports require students to participate in community youth partnerships. The word require is a word I'm not ready to buy into. What Steve mentioned about feeling the pressure, yes, there's pressure out there. It's going to come from your presidents and it's going to be passed down. You're going to be asked to get involved and get your student-athletes involved in community service, whether it's for credit or part of their scholarship, but they're going to be asked to do that. I hope we can educate our athletes and our staffs to do it because they want to do it. Thank you.

Sue McLevy:

Good morning. I have some handouts which I'd like to distribute. Please feel free to contact me if you want any, since I'm sure there's not enough for everyone. I would like to know a little bit about my audience so that I know exactly what to speak to that will be the most helpful to you. I would like a show of hands about how many of you have a good grasp of what you think service learning is. A few of you raised your hands, most of you did not. How many of you have service learning programs on your campuses? Just a couple of you.

Jeremy Collins and Dennis Kinsey say that service that combines public service which relates to academic work. Tim Stanton at Stanford says it is "A particular form of experience and education. One that emphasizes for students the accomplishment of tasks that meant human needs in combination with conscious educational growth." My definition tends to be very simple. It's a blend of academic study and community service in order to try and promote civic responsibility, citizenship, involvement. Our program at Mesa Community College is called the Center for Public Policy and Service. We have a variety of things we do out of that office and they seem to grow every month. We have a very creative president and I'm a little too close to him for comfort at times. We have two different service learning programs. One is the standalone modules. We have 22 disciplines in which we offer credit, recreation being one, which is how we could balance support from time to time.

We're constantly trying to add to the 22 disciplines. They tend to be liberal arts, for the most part. We have some other subjects in there as well. I'll be happy to share them with you if you're interested. Those were rather gruesome to try and get through some of the various curriculum committees because they had to go through our 10 districts. Having said that, they are very successful. We have about 45 students a semester that sign up and the number tends to be growing all of the time. The students give us great accolades and the community and faculty are all very happy with the way the program is progressing. That's one prong of the program.

The other one is the one that Allen was referring to when he said that we have some instructors that are offering services as a requirement or an option within their existing classes. I've been teaching sociology at Mesa Community College for 10 years and I do that. I got involved with this program because I was putting together what eventually became a pilot for this program when it first took off the ground.

I was also, until a couple of years ago, a social work practitioner out there in the trenches. I was working in an inner city school district for many years. One of the things that really troubled me was that we had over a three-year waiting list for Big Brothers. I was seeing children who were troubled and hurt every single day. I was identifying their problems and doing what I could within the educational system to try and meet their needs. It was becoming increasingly difficult as our resources in the external community were being cut back. I wanted to try to promote involvement at MCC in our community by offering them credit. I was going to do that through a special projects class. That was the background of my involvement. I also have a long background of involvement with citizenship issues, volunteerism, etc. I'm currently a Big Sister to two little boys that I've know for several years. His mother died of AIDS several years ago and his father currently has AIDS and is non-custodial. I do try and put my money where my mouth is with our programs. I don't try and promote anything that I'm not willing to do myself. That's important when we're dealing with students. We need to be able to back up what we're saying in terms of our own involvement, in terms of citizenship.

As a sociology instructor, I took a plunge a year ago and made this a requirement. Having said that, there are a couple of my students who chose not to do it. They were interested, but just couldn't get their act together. One of them had a severe back injury and couldn't do it. But, the response has been interesting. Initially, they thought, "the woman is crazy. Let's see if we can sign up for another class." They told me this later because they were surprised at the extent to which they enjoyed the experience. They were glad that I'd forced them into it. The dilemma that Allen was posing to you in terms of whether or not we should make that as a mandate for students is an interesting one. We don't want to divert attention away from the value of people making a contribution through their own efforts and choices. We don't want to divert attention from the fact of citizenship and start focusing on mandatory volunteers. However, I would say that if you, yourselves are convinced of the value of service and the value of integrating it into your classes and you can see some relevance to that interconnectedness, then you can prevail in terms of influencing your students.

The journaling and the feedback and the class processing that I do with my students is that they were glad I pushed them into it. They didn't know what to make of this and it was something new to them. They didn't know what to expect outside of their comfort zone. They say it makes the curriculum more relevant and they have learned a lot about themselves. If we look at what is being written about service learning around the country, it has been written that the tragedy of our educational system throughout this country is not that test scores are so low or that we have so many that are bereaved of extra services, but that we have failed to provide the education for citizenship that is so essential to a democracy.

Another famous person wrote that we have this attitude that if the rooming house is burning on the first floor and we're on the third floor, it's not our problem. We're not making the connection that if it's burning on the first floor, it's eventually going to get to us. Another metaphor is the row boat. You've got a hole in one end of the boat. It's not my problem, I'm at the other end of the boat. Eventually, we'll all sink.

The gap between the haves and the have-nots is widening in our society. Hunger is at an all-time high. I read a study of California and they say that by the year 2000, as many as one in three children in California will be going hungry every day. We're the richest nation in the world. You hear many liberal arts professors saying our students are indifferent and they don't seem to care. How can we get them involved? How can we get them concerned? I can tell you from experience that if you start giving students a function over and above what they've been expected to do in the past, they rise to the occasion. We have about 80 to 90 percent of our students that write in their journal that they are planning to continue to serve after their required hours are over because they feel valued. You think about our basic human needs to love and belong. That's why gangs are so important. We don't love and belong to our families in our communities the way we'd like to, so we join gangs. We have a need for freedom of choice. We have needs for power and control and feelings of importance and recognition for accomplishment. Students say they get those needs met more effectively by their service than they do by attending school and through paid employment. You're appreciated when you go, generally speaking. For the most part, they feel very valued and they feel good about the fact that they're making a contribution.

We have to instill in our children from day one in schools that citizenship is as important as academic achievement. We need to bring them closer together. If students are feeling good about what they're doing and it's making them more well-rounded people and they're making a contribution, that's a good start to getting them more involved in citizenship.

In Mesa, we have the lowest voter turnout of the state. One of the things we try to do in our program is alert students to politics. We ask them to bring in newspaper articles about current issues and make them aware of the current leaders. We have them write sample letters to their electoral leaders whether it's a state level or a city level. Many of our students are intimidated at the thought of doing this. They don't know how to do it. They don't know how to feel like they make a difference.

There are some principles of good practice in combining service and learning and sustaining a program. We are going to get some of those nitty gritty things in conjunction with some ideas as to how athletics can get involved.

I just want to spend a few minutes talking about my own experiences with some of the issues that we confront as leaders in our own internal communities. When I was a social worker in the school district, I had a master's in social work. A young man came to me one day who was very good looking and a good athlete. He was immediately accepted by the children. Students, especially the boys I had been trying to reach in various ways through therapeutic interventions and getting them involved in extracurricular activities, etc., had not born the fruits that a few weeks of being around this young man bore. It was amazing to see the response these children had to a young man who was, obviously, very interested in them. He was able to go and just shoot some hoops with them and relate to them at a different level. He was able to make some changes in those people that nobody else could do. It was a different way of relating. It's non-threatening, it's fun and you can have a great influence. This was a white middle class guy. I was thinking to myself that these children are African-American children and Hispanic children and what impact it could have if we could get people who have even more credibility who could say they came from the streets too.

Allen touched on the issue of mentoring. Mentoring is a very complicated programmatic issue. It's very worthwhile, but it's also extremely time consuming. It takes a lot of resources and it takes a lot of money. How many of you have been involved in a mentoring program? Some of you, I see, have.

If we're going to be leaders in our community around these issues and expect our young people in our athletics to get involved, we have to know ourselves and we have to encourage them to know themselves. What are our own personal values? To what extent are we willing to put our money where our mouth is? You've got to be able to articulate your goals for a program like this. You've got to be very clear about what it is you want and what you're prepared to do yourself. How involved are you going to be to try to get this going and what kind of a role model are you going to be to set this thing in motion?

I would advocate that for those of you interested in the mentoring programs, there is a very useful book called Youth at Risk. It's here and I would ask you not to remove it, but to take down an address inside so you could send for it. It talks about the fact that because mentoring programs are so new, we don't have a lot of data yet to show the success or otherwise of them. We can use anecdotal material and that is certainly positive, but it is certainly problematic in the sense that you cannot throw two people together and expect a miracle to happen. Sometimes it does. Sometimes it doesn't, but oftentimes it requires a lot of work. A lot of times, the mentor can be very judgmental of the family and of the decisions and choices being made. How are you doing to deal with that if you're helping to put something like this together? How are you going to help your students reflect in a way that's going to be productive to make it work?

There is some information in our packets concerning a Guide to Service Learning Sites and Student Responsibilities. Thereafter, it refers to some material on reflection. The importance of reflection is we learn not from the experience, but from what we think about the experience. What part do perceptions play in all of our lives and in the shaping of our social realities? We have to encourage ourselves and others to think in terms of what conclusions are we going to draw and how are we going to act based on those conclusions as a result of our service experiences. Mark Twain's cat sat on a hot stove. He learned from that never to sit again. Is that the kind of lesson we want our students to learn? I don't think so.

The processing of the information is crucial. What I have our students doing is journaling around it. We also hold reflective sessions. Allen has done the reflective session for the "Into The Streets Program" that has been run out of our volunteerism office. That piece is important. How many of you have faculty service days on your campus? For those of you who have, I need to pick your brains. It's something we've never done and we're hoping to do. What worked for you in trying to generate enthusiasm for that? You got very little support for it. There is a lot of talk right now about communital mobilization and what part higher education institutions should play. Basically, what we're talking about here is the difference between working with a more loosely knit association and a very organized agency. Sometimes people, even faculty, may have some disagreements with the goals or the ways in which the agency is trying to achieve those goals. If we're talking about communital mobilization efforts, we're talking about informal neighborhood groups who are trying to lobby, perhaps at the city council level. We have a very strong group in one of our neighborhoods in Mesa. They have an asbestos tower in the middle of their neighborhood. The city has said it's too expensive to bring it down. While you know that if that asbestos tower was sitting in a higher social area of Mesa, that tower would have come down a long time ago. This neighborhood is now organizing to try and do something about that. In the meantime, the asbestos in flaking off into their community, which is already very poor and under served and under privileged.

Service learning has more of an implication than just sending people out to paint houses and to do good things for people. That's important. I'm not knocking it. It's a good start and it's better than nothing or indifference. But, I think the implications are that we can surely get involved in community change. The iron rule of service is that you never do for someone what they can do for themselves. The full intent of service learning is to try and help students to see that what they do today is only important in as much as they are helping people to do it for themselves tomorrow.

I had the opportunity to participate in a hunger banquet. Basically, you took a raffle ticket and, depending where you fell down with your ticket, you were either in the first world, in which case you got a table in the back with a nice white tablecloth. You were waited on for a three-course meal. If you got the second world country, you got to sit on a bucket and you got some juice, beans and rice. If you got the third world country, you got to sit on the floor, got water to drink and some rice in a big bowl which you all shared and got out with your hands. I got into the latter group. The feeling from the people in the second and third world countries was that even though the people in the first world countries eventually started sharing their food because their guilt got to them, the reaction was that this was very nice of these people. But, if they think that is the answer, they're wrong. We are not there for handouts or for charity. We are there to help see how our society functions. It is not equitable and how can it function in a more equitable way. How can it be need fulfilling toward us human beings to be connected.

Have any of you seen the movie "Mind Walk"? "Mind Walk" is a movie that is saying that what we have done in western civilization is segmented everything in our world. We have seen the world in a mechanistic part-by-part fashion. It has worked well in many ways for us, but what we're seeing is that we are needing to start thinking more holistically, thinking more along the lines of our Asian spiritual leaders, thinking more along the lines of our native American traditions. Basically, if we don't see that higher education, elementary education, what's going on in our communities and what we're all doing in this very complex system that we have in this society, how very interconnected they all are and how we need to make them all more relevant and more useful to each other, than we are really missing the boat. That's what my grant is all about, to try and point out and shape our education so that we are team teaching. We don't have the artificial breakdown between disciplines and that we can connect with different segments of the community that is really trying to improve everything, because if we don't improve things for one segment of our society, we're all going down. The gates of communities are only going to work for a short time. We can't protect ourselves indefinitely from the kind of rampant, random crime that's been hitting this country, especially among our juveniles. How many of you are concerned about personal safety issues? That's really where it hits the pocketbook for all of us. We're scared to walk down the streets at night because somebody might take a shot at us. I can tell you that I've been in the trenches with these gangs. I've been to so many funerals, I had to get out of there. It was starting to burn me out. I had to get more balance in my life because I couldn't take that kind of stress without being able to do anything more about the conditions which gave rise to it.

I'm not saying that to depress everybody. We've got to start focusing on the strengths that we have in our communities internally and externally, the strengths we have in our colleges and the strengths we have outside the walls of the campus. We build on those and we don't focus so much on the problems, because by that, we're already limiting the process. If we start defining everything as problems, we're limiting the strengths that can come from the challenges and the creative process.

There is a program that we have in the valley area called Arizona Conservation Core. They have a variety of functions that people with the physical willingness can get involved. It's basically to provide employment, education and personal development opportunities to youth and to engage in conservation of community activities to accomplish them. The boys and girls' clubs, of course, are a natural, such as the Big Brothers, Big Sisters Programs, Campfire boys and girls, the YMCA, a lot of coaching opportunities. The schools are crying out for help with their children and the children are crying out for attention. It's a natural set. The Salvation Army has a variety of programs as well. There are lots of after school programs. We had one response that one of their programs gets involved with the state hospital and has people going to work with the mentally ill in terms of their needs for physical exercise. You can be as creative with these programs as you see fit. Your biggest challenge is how do you sell it to your students.

Allen Benedict:

We need to network all of the different ideas and all of the different things you're doing as far as the idea of service learning, volunteerism and maybe somewhere, something will fit the shoe. I do believe in it.

Sue McLevy:

I would urge you who are doing things to leave your information so we can pool it and follow up with you.

Steve Murray:

It is reality to say that our presidents see our athletes as a captive audience so that they can talk to their other fellow presidents to say that here's what we did on our campus to help promote your ideas. It is a reality. It was our intent today to acquaint you with some of the issues related to get your athletes involved in these voluntary activities. They are wonderful and meaningful. We are going to have to deal with this as we approach the next decade.

Thank you very much.