Thursday, June 27, 2013

What is the Value of a Spanish Community Service Learning Course...after It Is Over?

Whatever profession you enter, Spanish community service learning will serve you well.
by Ann Abbott

We measure the success of university courses by students' grades, student course evaluations, and other measures that we take during the semester.

But Spanish community service learning courses are unique. While the students might eventually forget what is the difference between a refugee and an asylee (the content of the course), they often take away much more than just bits and pieces of knowledge. Students tell me that the courses give them more confidence in their ability to speak Spanish with native speakers. More awareness about other people's perspectives. Specifically, the immigrant experience. The students carry with them experiences that they use when an interviewer asks them to talk about how they handle challenges, working on teams, working with multicultural groups, taking a leadership role, making a mistake and recovering from it. 

I received this message from a former student who, years after her Spanish CSL course with me, still felt the impact of the course.

"I hope all is well and has been well with you over the past couple of years. I am not sure if you recognize my name or not, but I was a former student of yours and graduated from the University of Illinois in 2009. I took a few courses with you and most notably participated in your Spanish and Illinois – community-based learning curriculum. During my senior year, you also supervised my Spanish Honors Thesis which was focused primarily on the community-based learning model as well. I cannot even begin to tell you how important this program has been for me in my career path. I have interned at a law firm for 6 years now and have been able to assist with a variety of tasks involving Spanish speaking. Many people comment that speaking Spanish in everyday life makes them nervous if they do not do it all the time. However, this fear does not exist in me because of the work I did at Booker T. Washington Elementary School. The children, environment, and experiences are things that I will never forget. I want to personally thank you from the bottom of my heart for your guidance throughout that process and learning. While these sentiments were not the reason for my emailing you today, I felt I wanted to share anyways! I always think about my work in your classes and at Booker T. Washington, as well."

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