“Pay It Forward” grant enables students to shadow and serve in the local community
February 17, 2011 By Leigh Cocanougher
Sarah Goodrum (above) is sending students in her
“Microsociological Theory” course to local United Way Agencies,
where they will complete 15 hours of service throughout the term.
“Implementing service-learning as part of any course allows
students to understand how everything we learn can be applicable
once we graduate,” says senior Josh Blair (above, background).
Nathan Frye ’11 (right) says that “students in this course will
participate in a service of their choice, but they will also learn
how these services affect and shape our society.”
Centre College sociology professor Sarah Goodrum has long believed in the value of field observations and shadowing experiences. For many years, she has built a shadowing component into her “Microsociological Theory” course, requiring students to compete several hours of field observations by shadowing professionals in fields in which the students are interested.
“I’ve felt strongly that the shadowing experiences were helpful to anthropology and sociology majors in particular because this major can lead to many different career paths,” she says. “The project gives students the opportunity to explore one of those careers. It also forces students to get off campus, make professional contacts and think about their post-Centre lives. In the projects, students write detailed field notes describing their observations and experiences and they use microsociological theories to analyze the field note data. The projects have lead to internships and job offers after the course ended and upon graduation.”
This year, however, the shadowing component has changed for the better. With the aid of a Pay It Forward (PIF) grant of $4500 from Kentucky Compact, Goodrum received the “framework and funds to take the field observation projects to the next level—so that students’ observations and service work benefit both the student and the community.”
(Pay It Forward grants aim to “strengthen communities through student-led philanthropy” and fund service projects that students identify as activities that will benefit their schools, neighborhoods or local communities.)
Kerri Howard, AmeriCorp VISTA Community-Based Learning Coordinator at Centre, played an instrumental role in Goodrum’s receiving the grant.
For the course’s field work component, students will be assigned to a local United Way agency that has submitted a proposal to participate in the PIF project. Currently, eight agencies have expressed interest. Goodrum’s students will decide how the money is allocated to the proposing agencies, and up to three UW agencies will receive $1000 or more to fund their proposed projects (in addition to students’ service work).
“The students will be volunteering with the agencies in a variety of roles, including as a swim coach assistant, youth mentor, and field trip counselor,” Goodrum says. “My students are selecting the UW agencies and volunteer roles that best match up with their post-Centre career interests. My hope is that the students will help out a local agency and gain professional development skills.”
Senior Jill DeGonda, one of the students in the class, says that she is “really excited to be working with United Way. It’s a great organization with a lot to offer, and I’m eager to learn more about what United Way does and how they work with each of their partnered organizations. I also want to gain more knowledge about the specific group that I’ll be working with and be able to lend a hand in any way that I can.”
Nathan Frye ’11 is eager to learn first-hand how community service relates to the field of sociology. “Students in this course will participate in a service of their choice, but they will also learn how these services affect and shape our society,” he says.
Fellow student Josh Blair ’11 agrees that the course will be valuable in many ways. “Implementing service-learning as part of any course allows students to understand how everything we learn can be applicable once we graduate college,” he says. “And service-learning provides us with experiences that look nice on any post-graduate ventures. Being able to say, ‘I went out into the community and used material from class to help organization x and achieved this,’ is more commendable than just stating the class I took.”
Goodrum also hopes that by completing the 15 required hours of service in the community, the students will “gain an appreciation for the needs of other people and organizations in the community, develop a deeper understanding of the intricacies of social interaction and learn how to allocate limited funds to worthy non-profit organizations.”