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August 2007
Volume 2, Number 8

Prince George’s Community College

from An American Mosaic: Service Learning Stories

Editor’s note: This month’s issue of Innovation Showcase features an excerpt from An American Mosaic: Service Learning Stories, edited by Carole Lester and Gail Robinson, and used here with permission. The publication is a report on Community Colleges Broadening Horizons Through Service Learning (Horizons), a project supported by the Learn and Serve America program of the Corporation for National and Community Service and administered by the American Association of Community Colleges. Click here to access the full text of An American Mosaic: Service Learning Stories.

In 2001 a “futures issues group” consisting of faculty and staff was charged with investigating the feasibility of implementing service learning at Prince George’s Community College. The committee developed a comprehensive plan that established the foundation for the service learning program and Horizons grant.

Intended Outcomes

  • Develop partnerships with public schools
  • Provide faculty development and training
  • Establish a service learning office

Accomplishments

  • Accounting students provided help to low-income residents through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program (VITA).
  • Health and Nursing students provided health screenings and information to nursing home residents and community groups.
  • A civic engagement leadership institute was created.

History Project

The Veterans Oral History Project was a highlight of the college’s service learning program. The project was a collaborative effort between the Library of Congress, Prince George’s Community College’s Book Bridge Project, and the service learning office. A better understanding and appreciation of those in the community who served in various wars, as well as a closer connection to U.S. history, was a primary goal. This project supported building a lasting legacy of recorded interviews, memoirs, and other documents chronicling the veterans’ wartime experiences, and how those experiences affected their lives.

The Veterans Oral History Project at Prince George’s Community College was part of a broad effort that encompassed colleges, universities, community organizations, and other participating groups throughout the country. The interviews and artifacts collected will be maintained by the Library of Congress as a permanent part of the nation’s record, capturing the reflections and experiences of veterans of wars in which the United States was a participant.

Prior to interviewing World War II veterans, an orientation and training workshop was held for faculty interested in incorporating the Veterans Oral History Project as a service learning option for students in their classes and for students interested in participating. Students were given several options for participation in the history project.

The history project overlapped with a collegewide initiative, the Book Bridge Project, in which a book was selected for reading by the entire campus. The featured book, Easier Said: The Autobiography of LeRoy A. Battle, highlighted the journey of the author as a boy in Harlem during the Harlem Renaissance to a young man in World War II, as a Tuskegee Airman, and finally as an educator in the Prince George’s County public school system. The campus and community kicked off the year-long celebration with a community forum featuring six Tuskegee Airmen, including Mr. Battle, who told of their patriotic experiences in a segregated army.

History Project Outcomes

Prince George’s Community College developed a partnership with Forestville High School to encourage both college and high school students to become engaged in the process of oral history and to develop an appreciation of those who served their country.

After participating in the oral history training, faculty and students from Prince George’s Community College joined with students from Forestville High School and participated in a day of reflection and celebration as they interviewed local veterans. Approximately 50 veterans came to the campus, where they were hosted and interviewed by more than 50 students and faculty.

Civic Engagement Leadership Institute

After participating in a training institute for LeadershipPlenty®, a leadership develop­ment curriculum sponsored by the Pew Partnership for Civic Change, the project team at PGCC designed a civic engagement leadership institute. This institute enabled a small group of students—who were not otherwise serving in leadership positions on campus—to meet monthly throughout the year to discuss local community issues, problems, and solutions. These students became more engaged in their children’s schools, with the county council, and in neighborhood associations, and organized a community service fair for local organizations to recruit more volunteers.

Reflections

“It is one thing to teach students history, but another to expose them firsthand to people who experienced life-altering historical events—it often inspires students to do more with their lives—an oral history project like the Veterans History Project at the Library of Congress does this.”
– Mary Brown, Book Bridge Project director

“At first I thought participating in the Veterans History program would be a waste of my time, but I learned a lot of history and am happy I participated. I left there with respect and gratitude for the veterans of the United States military.” – PGCC student

“Service learning has really made my focus crystal clear now. Before, I cared, but that won’t get the job done. I didn’t know how to respond. Now I know my role isn’t to carry people, but to get people on their feet.” – PGCC Civic Engagement Leadership Institute participant

Service Learning Across the Curriculum

Service learning has been integrated into the following disciplines at Prince George’s Community College: Accounting, Business Management, Computer Information Services, Engineering, English, Health/Wellness, History, Human Performance, International Studies, Math, Nursing, Psychology, Sociology, and Speech.


For information about the Prince George’s Community College program, contact Randy Poole, Service Learning Coordinator (301-322-0135, poolehr@pgcc.edu) or Betty Habershon, Service Learning Program Liaison (301-322-0713, bhab@pgcc.edu).

For information about the Horizons Service Learning Project, click here.

This material is based upon work supported by the Corporation for National and Community Service under Learn and Serve America Grant Number 03LHHDC001. Opinions or points of view expressed in this document are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official position of the Corporation or the Learn and Serve America program.

Photographs, courtesy of Prince George’s Community College, are from the original publication.


Cynthia Wilson, Editor