Experiencing service-learning first-hand

Keiko Kuriyama, Professor of Japanese in the Department of World Languages and Cultures, equipped participants with a comprehensive approach to launching a service-learning project, from syllabus to project development, to course activities. Dr. Robert Bringle, co-founder of the IUPUI Center for Service & Learning also shared current trends in service-learning, including an evolution from just “service” mentality to one of “community engagement and cooperation.”

Drs. Cristina Santamaría Graff and Jeremy Price, from the IU School of Education at IUPUI, led a training session as part of a community partnership that brings educators and families together at Indianapolis Public Schools (IPS) Brookside Elementary School. Participants received training in two specific frameworks for developing critical and transformative service-learning in their own communities. “Dr. Price and I are grateful to have had the opportunity to work with so many amazing colleagues doing transformative work all over the world,” says Dr. Santamaría Graff.
The group also visited an influential local partner, ProAct Indy, a community nonprofit that serves diverse youth. Founder and CEO Derrin Slack led an interactive session that introduced participants to the ways ProAct Indy crosses social, racial, and economic boundaries through meaningful service projects and social equity training.

Sharing the knowledge

Equipped with a new foundation of understanding for service-learning, Kate was filled with inspiration and motivation as she traveled home to Ukraine. Her friends and colleagues were eager to know all she learned about service-learning while in the United States.

One of her students is a university music instructor. Kate recounts, “I told her about my experience, and she told me how her students went to a blood donor center to play the bandura (a traditional Ukrainian instrument) while people gave blood, and she wanted to know if that was service-learning. I said that was service, but that if she had her students research music’s influence on donors, learn what their brain is doing while they’re listening to music, how it affects them, then that would be service-learning. She loved the idea! I think they’ll go to the hospital again, and I think I’ll join her as the English component.”

Remember. Live. Dream.

Kate is planning to implement service-learning, or more specifically, e-Service-Learning, into her curriculum as part of this year’s virtual Access Program summer camp. The Access Program provides foundational English skills to promising, economically disadvantaged high school-aged students in their home countries. Kate’s students continue to deal with their own difficult circumstances, seeking refuge away from their homes, some in other countries.

“My project is called Remember. Live. Dream. I want my students to speak out. I want them to express their feelings, to tell their stories, because most of them are silent about what is happening in their souls, what is happening in their families, and students do not talk much about war.”

Kate’s planned approach is for her students to remember, then live in the moment, and dream, thinking about the future. How can they improve the situation? How can they project some of the future steps of their life?

“When you tell the story, when you share it, you can find support, you can find empathy and understanding. You can find someone who feels the same to share the experience together, so you are not alone in your fear, not alone in loneliness.”

“It’s people-learning”

Kate Filatova’s boundless optimism shined brightly throughout the program and during the closing ceremonies she was honored by her peers naming her “Most Hopeful for the Future.”

Looking back on her experience, “I really appreciate what you have done for us, and Dr. Connor, it was an amazing experience,” said Kate. “I think it is somehow life-changing, not only for me but for other participants, as I see people are still communicating in the WhatsApp chat, sharing ideas. So, it’s not only service-learning, it’s people-learning.”