With a mission that is dedicated partly to serving humanity, Whitworth University strives to engage its students in learning that ties the classroom to the outside world.
This idea of service learning has been embedded in Whitworth’s history since the beginning when it was founded by George Whitworth.
“I would say it’s an integral part of Whitworth education,” said Steven LaPointe, Assistant Director of Service Learning.
This school year, about 165 classes have optional or required service learning activities that are offered.
According to the campus compact, during the fall 2010 semester Whitworth students provided more than 12,500 hours of service to the community. The economic impact for Spokane equates to around $254,806.
“Service to humanity is part of our Christian mission,” LaPointe said.
Whitworth finds ways to relate academics to service.
“Service learning enhances student understanding of the course material,” LaPointe said. “It also allows you to give back and equips students for a life-long service to humanity.”
Whitworth connects students with service learning activities that can earn them extra credit for courses such as Core 150.
“I was planning on volunteering with World Relief before I found out that Core 150 had a service learning component,” freshman Alexander Archuleta said.
“It’s a bonus that I will get credit for it but that is not my motivator.”
He already sees the application of Core 150 to service.
“Hearing someone else’s story helps you see through their lens of life and forces you to examine your own worldview,” Archuleta said.
Many students like Archuleta share a passion for service that goes beyond the extra credit that they may receive in certain classes.
Some students are even affiliated with programs that were born out of service learning such as the Bonner Leader program where students can learn true life lessons.
“I have learned that the smallest things I can do for a person, such as listening to people share their stories or playing games with little kids, can mean the world to them,” said freshman Veronica Fetzer, a Bonner Leader program worker.
The Bonner Leader program works with students to volunteer in the surrounding community to help make a difference.
LaPointe is highly responsible for the connections that Whitworth has made with surrounding agencies.
“My job is to build relationships with a large number of community agencies and provide service learning opportunities for students,” LaPointe said.
Some students take the aspect of service extremely seriously and their involvement did not begin at Whitworth.
“I worked with refugees from Nepal last year and at my church,” Archuleta said.
Archuleta likes services learning because he feels the hands-on experience gives him real world application that he may have not been able to get otherwise.
Fetzer has had many memorable experiences through working with the Bonner leader program but remembers one in particular.
Fetzer was Christmas carolling at a retirement home when an elderly woman started crying. Responding quickly, Fetzer stroked her back, comforting her. The woman gave her a kiss and thanked her; she also told her that she wished she could return the favor, Fetzer said.
“Maybe I am helping people but a lot of times, it’s my life they are speaking into instead,” Fetzer said.
Service learning teaches real world lessons that are also applicable to the classroom.
The idea is tying it all together. Service Learning combines service to the community with academic instruction and integrates it into a class curriculum, LaPointe said.