Service-Learning is much more than community service. Oftentimes, these courses are the catalyst for creating an inquisitive fire in students that helps them connect the material they are learning in the classroom with real world scenarios where they can improve the world around them.
“Students in service-learning courses have the unique opportunity to be the positive change they want to see in the world,” Instructor Beth Keefauver said. “Their work in the classroom has an impact, which is so, so much more than a grade.”
Keefauver’s own first-year composition professor utilized service-learning to inspire her lifelong love of learning and to empower her with the skills she needed to articulate herself not only in the course but in her life. Keefauver wanted to ignite that same fire in her freshman students when she challenged them to find out what happens when we harness the power of advertising for a good cause.
Teams of students in Keefauver’s English 102 classes welcomed the opportunity to help others while applying the concepts of their coursework, the rhetoric of advertisements and how they create consumer culture. For their capstone project, Keefauver instructed students to assist Upstate Forever, a local environmental nonprofit organization, by developing an air quality media campaign complete with educational outreach materials. Once complete, students would present their projects to a panel of esteemed community members.
“I love to see students excited about their work, and the new energy they exude when they know I am not the only one who will be reading their writing,” Keefauver said. “There is more at stake. And, that potential for recognition by a real audience excites and energizes them.”
Freshman students Monique Holland, Keeli Lake, Elizabeth Register and Shemerika Rainey were one of several teams who embraced the challenge. They refused to let being new to the Spartanburg community or being without a car on campus stand in their way of success.
The four students focused their efforts on the implications of idling vehicles on children and an increase in Asthma. Using the tagline “Oxygenate. Don’t Carbonate,” the students developed a marketing campaign and materials encouraging parents waiting to pick up their children at schools to reduce emissions through carpooling and reduced emissions from turning off their vehicles as they wait for their children. The students tested their campaign at an elementary school and reported their findings during their presentation.
To further their message, the students developed a simple, yet highly effective, activity to demonstrate how children feel when they are forced to breathe the smog created from idling vehicles. By solely breathing through a straw, participants were able to experience firsthand how difficult it is for a child trying to breathe while waiting to be picked up at school.
The panel of community members were impressed by the team’s efforts—particularly the straw activity— giving them top honors for their class. Upstate Forever Clean Air and Water Project Associate Katie Premo Hottel said the nonprofit organization will begin using the activity immediately.
“It was something we all got to put our hearts into,” Kelli Lake explained. The group learned to work well as a team by incorporating their own strengths while challenging themselves in the process.
“It made me step out of my comfort zone,” Lake said. “I get nervous when I speak in front of people. But, I feel professional speaking with people at that level,” she said as she referenced the panel of community members from BMW, Duke Energy, Ten at the Top, Greenville County, the Spartanburg Area Transit Authority and representatives from Upstate Forever.
At the end of the course, each of the group members agreed they had found capabilities and a passion within themselves they did not know existed. These newfound qualities inspired them to continue to find ways to improve the community around them through their coursework and service-learning courses. They had found the fire within themselves that Dr. Keefauver was hoping to ignite.
For more information on Upstate Forever, visit www.upstateforever.org.