Service Learning in the Spotlight - Humboldt State Now

Service Learning in the Spotlight

At Humboldt State –perhaps it's something in the misty air -- students seem to simultaneously catch the bug for student leadership, civic-mindedness, and community outreach. Example: the Youth Educational Services House -- better known as the YES House -- tucked away in the northern corner of campus. Every semester nearly 200 college students find their way there hoping to volunteer with one of its many community-serving programs.

This is nothing new. Next year YES will be celebrating 40 years, going strong.

YES has been home to dozens of student-developed, student-run volunteer initiatives, during those 40 years. “Campus programs like the Multicultural Center, Campus Center for Appropriate Technology, and the Campus Recycling Program originally started here at YES,” says YES House Director Annie Bolick-Floss. “Others have become local non-profits.”

Currently, YES runs 14 equally impressive student programs, tackling everything from educating local youth about the environment, visiting senior citizens, working with foster children, supporting local Spanish-speaking families, and leading recreation activities at juvenile hall — all of which were dreamed up, pursued, and brought into action by students.

These efforts and programs are coordinated through the HSU’s Service Learning Center. Service learning combines academic study with community experiences so that each is enhanced by the other. What is often abstract in a classroom becomes meaningful in the reality of an elementary classroom.

An ongoing partnership with the Cutten School District allows psychology students to develop mentoring relationships with youngsters while studying psychological development in the school-age child. For the college student training to become a teacher the real world lessons are invaluable. The elementary-age youth develop skills that eventually will make them college ready.

Humboldt State’s extensive community involvement is reasoning part why it was recently selected one of 81 campuses nationwide featured in the Princeton Review’s“Colleges with a Conscience.”

“If I had not been involved with YES, I would not have gained half the knowledge during my time at HSU,” student and former YES leader, Jaime Thompson says. “I think the ability to facilitate a group process and speak in front of others is the most valuable skill in and out of the work place. You also gain the ability to budget, write proposals, hold meetings, manage volunteers, connect with the community — in effect, directors are responsible for a mini non-profit. Where else can you do that?”

Nearly 200,000 students — half of the CSU system’s student body — give back to their communities in significant ways. In 2005-06, CSU students provided 30 million hours of service, which equals a minimum wage value of $200 million. That’s $200 million worth of skills invested in non-profits, businesses, cities, counties and the state by college students. Since 1999, more than 1 million CSU students have been involved in community service learning.

The California State University’s commitment to service learning and community engagement fosters an ethic of service that will last for a lifetime, not just a college semester.

YES co-founder and HSU alum John Woolley says, “Before you step away from campus you learn how to be part of the greater community. YES House was, and is, a vehicle for change. I really liked that — so much I decided to pursue community services and development as a career.”

CSU Chancellor Charlie Reed agrees.

Humboldt State’s service learning program has become the centerpiece of an effort showcasing CSU student efforts in service learning. A Bay area video crew visited the campus last spring to catch our students in action, serving the community. A streaming version of this video is now available online, as is a video looking at how students from across the CSU system are participating in service learning, available at www.calstate.edu/CSL.

For more information about Humboldt State’s service learning initiatives, or would like to get involved, contact the Service Learning Center, (707) 826-4964, or the YES House, (707) 826-4965.