Saturday, May 5, 2012

Community-based Team Project Reflections

Team: Grace, Maggie and Val

Our team Valentino Contri, Maggie Flynn and myself, GraceLarson, worked to design and present information about our two community basedlearning Spanish classes to the community at a local symposium and showcase.The classes we are presenting are Spanish 232, Spanish in the Community andSpanish 332, Spanish and Entrepreneurship, designed and taught by our professorAnn Abbott. Our audience was the Public Engagement Symposium, which took placeat the ARC on April 18th, and the Service Learning and Social EntrepreneurshipShowcase which will be taking place in the Illini Union on May 2nd.

Our mission was simple: Effectively provide informationabout our classes to the professors, students and community members whoattended the showcase and symposium, as well as receiving feedback from them.We aim to spread the word about this class; where we are involving ourselves inthe community, and why. Not only are we looking to inform future students, butinform other professors about this style of service learning, and informcommunity members about how we are getting involved in their community, and howthey as well can be getting involved.

We began our project by parceling off pieces of work weknew that needed to be done. Val was responsible for a handout that spoke aboutthe two classes; their similarities and differences, that contained ourprofessors contact and blog information. Maggie was responsible for making ahandout of student ‘reflections’, which we obtained by doing a short writtensurvey in class of people’s reactions and memories towards this class andtowards their community experiences. I myself focused on making a handouthighlighting the many community partners we work with in this class; and whatis our mission as we go to work at those places. I also worked closely with Annto create a poster that would be attractive, and attention grabbing- giving themost important information without over-elaborating. We all took photos in ourcommunity settings to visually show what we were doing in the community. Valeven interviewed one of our classmates Stephanie who was doing a fantasticafterschool athletic program in Leal School; he even attended and filmed partof the program!

When it came to the actual presentation, Val, Maggie andI came to the symposium with our handouts, poster, and even some cupcakes Imade, in hand. We posted our informationand proudly stood by our table, speaking with many people- professors,students, and other community members about our program, and in turn learningwhat they had to share and what programs they were involved it. It was awesometo spread the word about our class, but I think we got more out of it then wethought as we interacted with others and learned about their programs and goalsin the program. It was a challenge to coordinate it all and make happen- butoverall, we achieved our mission, and learned more than we even thought we would.Hopefully we can only improve it for the next Showcase!

¿Y qué?
The symposium was a great opportunity to explain whatspanish in the community offers to both the students taking the courses and thecommunity that they serve. As a presenter, it was great to reflect upon what wedo in the community and also how our community partners have made an impact onus. But, the most beneficial part of the symposium was the collaboration thatoccurred between the different public outreach programs. We informed severalpeople about what we do in the community, but we also had the opportunity tolearn about other programs and ways that they were working to make adifference. This gives the possibility of future collaboration between thedifferent programs that could make an even bigger impact. The exchange of ideasbetween these like-minded people will only inspire improvement that willultimately benefit everyone.

¿Ahora qué?
Representing Spanish 232 and 332 at the Symposiums has taught us how to professionally present a concept to a group of people. Having to create materials and set up our space allowed us to prepare the information and ourselves. We learned the importance of combining points of information, personal reflections, and adding visual appeal. Beyond the creation and marketing of the presentations, we also got to practice networking.

Individuals would approach our table and ask us what the courses are about and the benefits they provide. In order to answer their questions in the best way possible, we really had to use our interpersonal communication skills. It was not the time to be shy! With a smile on our faces, we needed to be able to demonstrate the value that these courses have for their students and the community. IN a way we were "selling" Spanish 232 and 332. And many who approached our table had no idea these courses existed. However, after hearing our personal opinions and experiences, they often left saying that these courses sound wonderful. Some even thanked us for our work!

We were also lucky enough to speak with some of the other presenters at the symposiums and hear that they wanted to collaborate with us. A few examples of interested organizations included the Office of Volunteer Programs, a graduate student project on non-profit management, and local businesses that simply need some Spanish speakers. Making these connections with others and figuring out ways in which we could share ideas helped us practice our networking skills and taught us how useful they can be (especially now that we're all graduating). Overall, this was a very useful and helpful project to be involved in.

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