At Chaminade University, learning extends beyond the classroom and into local communities through an enduring commitment to service-learning.
Each semester, more than 20 professors integrate service-learning into their course curricula. They challenge students to actively participate in service projects that relate to course material and benefit the community. Service-learning promotes a sense of civic responsibility and prepares students for life after graduation by bringing meaning to what they learn in the classroom through real-life experiences.
In honor of all the service-learning projects that take place every year, Chaminade hosts an annual Service-Learning Day in which students, faculty and community partners share their reflections—the most important component of service-learning and what sets it apart from other volunteer experiences—in a group setting. This year’s Service-Learning Day was held on March 8.
It began with a luncheon in Clarence T.C. Ching Conference Center. There, service-learning participants shared their reflections with a specific focus on how they impacted their respective communities and how their experiences impacted them. Following the luncheon was the Service-Learning Opportunities Fair in Eiben Hall, which was open to the entire campus. The fair gave participants an opportunity to share their projects and the work of their organizations with members of the Chaminade community who were interested in learning more.
Among those that attended Service-Learning Day were representatives from community partners like Palolo Elementary School, Project SHINE, Mālama i nā Ahupua‘a (MINA), Inclusive Recreation (I-Rec) and others. On average, Chaminade works with 45 community partners each year.
But the spotlight shined on the students who each shared a unique takeaway from their individual experiences. Professors that require service-learning as part of their curricula also require students to submit a reflection essay, journal or presentation at the end of the semester.
Nicole Cienna began volunteering at Project SHINE (Students Helping in Naturalization of Elders) last semester as a tutor and was so impacted by the experience that she returned for a second semester as both a tutor and a coordinator. SHINE tutors help elderly Chinese immigrants to learn English so that they can pass their citizenship exams.
She explained how at first, she was nervous to tutor at SHINE because she didn’t know any Chinese but has since gained confidence in teaching and has built a lasting friendship with the woman she tutors.
Through volunteering at SHINE, students also gain insight into the legal and ethical issues surrounding poverty, immigration and ethnicity in society.
Representing the students who volunteer at I-Rec, also known as the Ohana Club, was Shae Smith, who has dedicated her last four years at Chaminade to the organization. Barbara Poole-Street, former Chaminade professor, was inspired to create I-Rec by her son Ethan who has Down Syndrome. She feared he would lack social interaction once his siblings left home for college.
So she created I-Rec, which brings young adults with developmental disabilities together with Chaminade students for social activities held on Thursday and Friday evenings, which Shae said she gets excited about every week.
Pamela Carr, Intro to Nursing instructor, attended the luncheon with two of her students and spoke about how she was impacted by her class of freshmen who were all first-time service-learning participants. She said reading her 90 students’ reflection papers was humbling because nearly all of them wanted to continue volunteering at their service-learning sites.
“Even though it was a requirement for the course, it was no longer a requirement,” Carr said. “It was a need. They continued to want to do it. Even though it’s within this program, it’s embedded into them now.”