One Instructor, two classes, equals many happy students
Dr. Robyn Maitoza has witnessed the rewards of Community Based Learning in multiple classes. Starting in the fall semester of 2016, she partnered with two local elementary schools, McKinley and Jackson. These Community Partnerships are still viable today and she attributes part of the success to understanding the importance of keeping the lines of communication open. Meetings are held with each school at the beginning and end of each semester and work as a debriefing tool. This review is essential in studying results to make the program better each following semester.
Before an initial meeting, the elementary students complete an interest’s survey and in her classroom Dr. Maitoza pairs up the Applied Youth Development students. Each pair is then matched up with a 7th or 8th grader in accordance to the interests. Prior to the two student groups meeting, representatives from each elementary school visit with the class to introduce themselves, talk about their role and answer any questions the students might have. Starting the fifth Thursday of the semester, the younger students are invited to the YCP campus where the teams partake in activities. Over the past semesters, these activities have ranged from pumpkin carving to tie-dying tee shirts, but it is often the student-teams that will decide what they want to work on together.
Dr. Maitoza and representatives of the K-8 schools are always on site to observe and support. Her students are required to obtain clearances before they can interact with the children and this part can be tough. Dr. Maitoza states, “ … logistically this has provided to be a more challenging endeavor, however, I continue to do it because it has been so enjoyed by my students, as well as, the younger students. …it is truly rewarding to see the relationships that develop.” For their outcome, the YCP students have learned how to better interact and engage with a younger student. The visiting 7th and 8th graders benefit from having new caring adults in their lives and gaining an insider’s view of the college environment. Following their project time together, many of Dr. Maitoza’s students have continued this new buddy relationship long after the class has ended.
Another Community-Based Learning Dr. Maitoza has created is with her Senior Seminar students. She takes this class into the city and its surrounding neighborhoods. The mission of this CBL is to provide students the real-time opportunity to utilize the skills they have developed over their four years by assisting a community partner with a designated project. Because of the changeable nature with this type of venture the outcomes can be varied, however, the learning experiences on both sides are always beneficial. Working with a smaller group of students, 10 to 14 a semester, the community partners are able to see these students take ownership with confidence and professionalism.
When taking on the Senior Seminar course, it was important to Dr. Maitoza to be able to provide the type of opportunity that allows students to engage in tangible projects with direct benefits to the community partners. SpiriTrust Lutheran initially reached out in hopes of procuring students to help with their Embracing Aging initiative in York. This included SpiriTrust, RSVP, and Jewish Family Services who were all recipients of a grant aimed at improving volunteerism among older adults. These adults were defined by 50 years and over. Visiting the various locations during the spring semester, the students decided on a first step of conducting focus groups. Compiling that information, a survey was created and distributed. The surveys were completed over the summer and the torch was passed to the next fall class to conduct Phase 2. At the end of the fall semester, the data was compiled and the students presented their findings to the involved agencies with written reports available to anyone in attendance. Much praise was shared from the agencies for this work.
An example of one of the projects involved working with York City’s Bureau of Health to help Penn Market improve its foot traffic. This effort too was afforded by a grant. The students were asked to collect data from local residents and those shopping in the market. The data gathered was quite helpful for the Bureau but unfortunately not enough to garner results. This project, however, proved a very real insight to the students in understanding that while sometimes knowledge is gained, it is not enough to support or impact change.
For the spring 2018 semester, Dr. Maitoza’s class is working with Liz Grub, YCP Violence Prevention Coordinator for their on-campus community. The students will be helping Ms. Grub design a sexual assault communications campaign regarding this issue on campus. The Bureau of Health will be assisting also by providing tools and strategies to the students of this class. These materials are used in their own preventative and educational efforts. The working being done by Dr. Maitoza’s class this spring demonstrates that the ‘C’ in CBL can the very community the students live and learn in, and how these closer to home benefits might provide positive long-term results to their four-year home.