Schools challenge students to serve community - Word&Way

Schools challenge students to serve community

Sitting in a classroom isn't the only way today's college, university and seminary students grasp concepts. More and more higher education institutions are opting to provide service-learning opportunities – ways to use acquired knowledge to impact community.

Seth Mendenhall

Seth Mendenhall takes part in Hannibal-LaGrange University's nursing missions in Haiti.

For several years, Baptist-affiliated schools in Missouri have offered students mission opportunities, both at home and abroad, often during spring, winter and summer breaks. Often those trips have led to long-term partnerships. Hannibal-LaGrange University has had a longstanding partnership with the International Baptist Convention to provide leaders for the EuroVenture camp in Grindelwald, Switzerland.

For several years, HLGU students have served in Haiti, working with Dorce Ministries. Missouri Baptist University has sent students on mission in several locales. This year, mission trips are planned to Haiti and Guatemala.

Sometimes individual departments will set up trips. For example, Southwest Baptist University's physical therapy department has conducted medical mission experiences to India, Venezuela, El Salvador and Peru.

Missouri Baptist University students assist with repairs on a house in Haiti during a mission trip earlier this year.

Schools also work at home. HLGU partners with the North American Mission Board and has sent students to work in several U.S. and Canadian locations. Students also head to Florida each spring break with its Beach Reach outreach to college students.

Business majors and other students in SBU's strong Students in Free Enterprise program have a long-term commitment to Bolivar and the surrounding area.

Each year, SIFE members provide a variety of educational outreach projects, including budgeting, interview skills, starting a business and others, for elementary, high school and college students and adults.

SBU students also serve through Child Evangelism's Good News Clubs for elementary school students. Also this academic year, SBU will begin offering chapel credit for community service.

SBU raking leaves

Southwest Baptist University football players serve local residents in tasks such as raking leaves and other yard work.

MBU connects students with volunteer opportunities, as well as ministerial staff positions and internships throughout the academic year. In the winter, students also deliver clothing and food to the homeless in parts of metro St. Louis.

Each residence hall at SBU connects to area ministries and service opportunities, including Missouri Department of Transportation's Adopt A Highway program, the local ministerial alliance, a food pantry, area nursing homes and a host of others.

New HLGU students start their college experience with short service projects just before classes begin in the fall. Hannibal-LaGrange students also can welcome and serve visitors to the city's annual Folklife Festival and assist with a worship service, participate in a retirement center ministry and rake leaves for neighbors each November.

William Jewell College students in the SIFE program worked with local businesses to benefit the local economy while improving the environment. In one hotel alone they were able to provide $2,100 in monthly savings while educating more than 2,600 guests.

Emphasizing its liberal arts education as service, William Jewell College partners with several agencies in Liberty and Kansas City to connect students to community service through volunteerism. Opportunities include assistance to the homeless and poor, migrant workers, children and youth through tutoring, language skills, the arts and other skills.

Jewell also seeks to provide social service opportunities through its Forum for Democracy website. Eventually, participants will earn rewards and will be able to earn college credit.

The college also honors service efforts through its Pritchard Humanitarian Service Award.

In addition to mission trips and other service opportunities, Central Baptist Theological Seminary is partnering with Bethel Neighborhood Center in Kansas City to particularly minister to Burmese refugees. Students in Central's create program who travel to Myanmar (Burma) as part of their seminary experience are required to spend some time at the center.

Bethel Neighborhood Center Executive Director Kapzamang "Mang" Sonna assists a refugee from Burma. Central Baptist Theological Seminary is partnering with the Center.

Many state-supported schools also seek to lead students to make a difference in their communities, especially through religious groups, such as Baptist Student Centers, and service organizations.

The federal government also has incentives in place to encourage student service-learning activities. The Serve America (now Learn and Serve America) program was created as part of the National and Community Service Act of 1990. President Bill Clinton created the Corporation of National and Community Service in 1993 to bring all community service programs under one umbrella.

Then in 2009, President Barack Obama signed the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act. He also has honored schools on his President's Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll. William Jewell was recognized on the first-ever list.

In addition, this year more than 240 colleges responded to the President's Interfaith and Community Campus Challenge in which institutions were invited to commit to a year of interfaith and community programming.