“Prior to this class, I thought that what I did would not make a difference in the community,” said LaRhonda Williams, a student at Minnesota School of Business-Brooklyn Center (MSB). “I always thought, ‘Why should I care about what other people are doing and where they are going in their lives?’ In attending classes, writing papers and completing my service-learning project, I learned that all of us are capable of making an impact on the world.”
At times, students struggle to understand why an applied learning project is a required part of the college course they are taking, and they don’t realize the benefits until the course is over. Michelle Rivard, faculty member and AVID liaison at MSB-Brooklyn Center, encounters this every quarter.
Students are not always confident that they will be able to coordinate their schedules to perform a service and worry about finding a community partner. Fortunately, Rivard had some extremely motivated students this quarter who were willing to jump right in to find the perfect project.
Students LaRhonda Williams, Anessa Brittain, Kristen Clyke, and LaVonda Williamson joined forces, and with the help of HandsOn Twin Cities’ website, they found the perfect project: WaterFest. As parents, all four women wanted to work with children and families, and Waterfest would provide that opportunity.
According to their website, “WaterFest is a celebration of our clean lakes and offers an opportunity for outdoors, hands-on learning about the water quality, wildlife, and special ecological features of our beautiful watershed.”
Families have been attending this annual event at Lake Phalen in St. Paul since 2000. Individuals who attend participate in many activities sponsored by the Department of Natural Resources, the Minnesota Outdoor Heritage Alliance, Asian Outdoor Heritage, and Joe’s Sporting Goods.
Going into the project, the students were not sure what to expect; however, they were willing to go wherever they were needed. The four women were assigned to the “fishing lessons” booth and tasked with registering the participants, having the participants sign waivers, passing out wristbands, checking fishing poles in and out, and baiting the poles. While times became hectic throughout the day, the students found a rhythm and were as productive as they could be. Not only did the students learn about fishing that day, but they also practiced their communication and teamwork skills with their teammates and the other volunteers.
After the students did their final presentation on the last day of class, Rivard could not believe that the four women had just met only eleven weeks earlier. She said, “The students became fast friends and were extremely supportive of each other throughout the quarter. As an instructor, I love to see students making connections and forming community. I was proud of their hard work, teamwork and enthusiasm.”
Pao Yang, President of Asian Outdoor Heritage, was so impressed with the team that he asked them to come back next year. Congratulations on a job well done!