By: Hamza Sultan~
The College of Health Sciences held it’s 2nd Annual Service Learning Showcase on Tuesday, May 1st, 2018!
Service Learning is a course offered to both undergraduates and Post-Baccalaureates alike. As a necessary part of the curriculum for both the 2+4 BS-MD and 3+4 BS-MD programs, the course integrates critical reflection and education on social accountability with service-learning placement in local community efforts.
The course instructor, Ms. Moira Delgado, has spent 20 years in higher education and non-profit management in both Texas and California. In addition to working at UC Davis from 2002 to 2015, Ms. Delgado also volunteered in Seeds of Learning, a non-profit organization that builds schools in rural villages in El Salvador and Nicaragua. When the community service position opened up at CHS, she saw this as the perfect opportunity to combine her experience with the benefits of service learning.
“I love working with undergraduates at this key period of personal development in their lives. When I research the different topics for the class, I always find something new to integrate.”
The Service Learning Showcase allows students, community partners, and faculty to celebrate the work the students at CHS have performed in the community over the semester. This year, students created presentations in the form of creative posters or short films, allowing students to display reflections from the experiences.
In addition to serving lunch, students presented certificates of appreciation for the work done by the community partners, speaking briefly on personal takeaways.
After initial discomfort, some students began to bond with the children in after school activities. Teja Narra, a student who spent days providing after school activities to students of the San Juan School District, actively felt a growing bond with the children.
“At the end of it all, I felt like less of a volunteer, and more like a friend. A number of the students got a lot more comfortable talking with me, asking me questions, and learning from me,” said Teja.
Ms. Delgado assigned personal reflections after every class. Upon reading these, she was astounded by the progress students made week-by-week and the honesty in confronting their biases.
“Reading about students’ personal reactions to the course material continually astounds me with the honesty of their perceptions as well as their accounts of discrimination in their own lives. Witnessing their compassion and empathy grow during the two semesters strengthens my commitment to underserved communities.”
As the course encouraged exposure to the community, students were welcome to feel nervous when entering environments with people from all walks of life. Saif Nasim, a volunteer at the Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services, spent Monday evenings making activities for local youth. This is a non-profit agency providing resources, education and services to families or individuals in need. When asked about his biggest surprise coming into the work, Saif discovered he and the kids shared more similarities than differences.
“At the end of the day, I knew we came from very different backgrounds.” Saif said. “However, when we started to communicate one-on-one, I began to bond with the kids and we both felt comfortable talking about our similarities.”
When reflecting on the experience, every student could find something very rewarding from giving back to the community for a few hours each week. Aiza Anwar spent her Saturday mornings volunteering for Project Ride. This organization provides safe, structured horseback riding instruction for over 500 individuals with disabilities. After volunteering, Aiza felt proud of the way the experience provided confidence and development for the kids.
“Every week, the kids were ready to learn more and try new things.” Said Aiza. “Rather than feeling sorry for them, I was constantly impressed and proud of the interdependence, confidence, and skills the riders displayed.”
The Service Learning Showcase provides an opportunity for the students to demonstrate the impact their work has made on the community, and to reflect upon the personal experience. Every student in the class felt rewarded by taking the course and gaining a new perspective on the needs of the local community.
For the future of the course, Ms. Delgado hopes her students use the experience to develop understanding of social justice and act as agents of change for marginalized communities in need of service.
“I hope the students can speak up in classrooms, clinics and hospitals. I even imagine that some students will also teach about social justice, cultural competence, and cultural humility.”