Since Monday of last week, students in the First Year Seminar classes, along with their orientation leaders and some staff, have been taking part in O-serve projects off campus. These three-hour service projects have been taking place throughout Sioux County and will continue until Saturday.
In past years, these service projects have happened soon after students arrived on campus. This year, however, the Franken Leadership Center (located in the Ramaker Center) encouraged these service projects to be incorporated into the FYS course because academic service learning is tied to the course goals.
Sandi Altena, director of the Franken Leadership Center, works with academic service learning Altena said that incorporating service with learning, “works best if the service is embedded into the course and reflection is added both prior to the service and afterward.”
At this point in the semester, FYS classes are beginning to explore the question of “who is my neighbor?” FYS professor Sara Tolsma hopes these projects will broaden students’ idea of who their neighbors are.
“Sometimes it’s easy to miss people who are in need in Sioux County,” Tolsma said. “Even if we can’t easily see them, they are our neighbors, and we are called to serve them. We just need new eyes to see.”
Altena made the service arrangements and explained that the Leadership Center’s objective was to expose students to various organizations that serve a variety of neighborhoods.
“We wanted students to recognize that loving our neighbor means loving all kinds of people with all kinds of needs,” Altena said. “We wanted to show our students organizations that showed mercy and we wanted them to be exposed to places where it would be possible to serve throughout their career here at Northwestern.”
Altena chose service projects based on the organizations she knows personally and her confidence in them to provide students with a good work experience. Altena focused on area organizations that need volunteers to do service work.
While a few classes served specific individuals in the community, many worked with local nonprofits. One such nonprofit was ATLAS of Orange City. ATLAS is an organization that works to provide Christ-centered mentoring relationships. The FYS class sent to ATLAS divided their number in order to cover more ground. One group stayed on site to clean and organize the facility while the other sent a short distance to help a client clean and pack for an upcoming move. ATLAS office manager Daniel Den Boer said the organization relies on volunteers for much of their work.
“We could not continue to function without people donating their time to our mission,” Den Boer said.
He explained that because ATLAS is a donation-driven organization, whenever they can stretch the budget with aid from volunteer work, they are able to help the community even more. Both students and the client were benefited by the time donated.
“Not only did they [the students] accomplish a tremendous amount of work at her apartment, but they provided her with some very, very welcome company,” Den Boer said. “In turn, she really provided benefit to those of us helping her by her wit, humor, stories of trial and victory, and sense of determination with us.”