Student spotlight

Sierra Stevens

  • Class Standing: Senior
  • Major: Community Health Sciences
  • Service-Learning Course: Gerontology 431 - A Life Course Perspective on Aging and Society

Describe the service-learning activity you participated in.

I worked with a group of students to design, plan and host an event at the Senior Center in Cold Springs for my service-learning activity. The purpose of our event was to host an inter-generational activity that was inclusive, fun and would bring various community members together. Our theme was "Casino Night" and we had a variety of board games such as Jenga, cards and a mini Blackjack table. We also had snacks, prizes and decorations for the senior center.

What was your initial reaction after learning about your service-learning project and community partner?

I was worried when I learned about my community partner, and the scope of my service-learning project, because I had bias about the community we were serving. I learned that most of the older adults in my community are in poverty and have immense health, financial and social isolation challenges in their daily lives. I thought that we would have very little participation and engagement in our event. I was also worried that our event would have a poor turnout. We were very fortunate that our event was successful overall, and that the seniors that participated really enjoyed it and had fun!

What advice do you have for other students considering taking a course with a service-learning component?

My best advice for other students considering taking a service learning course is to be prepared to represent the university when going into the community. I recommend that students maintain respect, professionalism and consideration for their group members and community partners at all times. I also suggest the importance of supporting your group members. Remember to try to carpool as much as possible, always follow through with your assigned tasks and COMMUNICATE!!!

What was your favorite part of the project?

My favorite part of the project was designing the theme and presentation of our event. I also enjoyed using Canva and other graphic design tools to create my poster for the Service-Learning Poster Showcase in Spring 2018. Although the Service-Learning Poster Showcase was not required for my course, it was extremely fun and rewarding and I wouldn't have participated if I was not enrolled in a service learning course. I put immense time, effort and creativity into my poster and it made my in-class project even more valuable to me.

Name something that you have learned (as a student) through your service-learning course.

This course was special to me because I was able to apply my course knowledge in a real-life, professional setting. The information and statistics I learned about older adults in my community enhanced my project and gave me a better understanding of challenging concepts I learned in class. One thing I learned through this service-learning course is to take advantage of opportunities that allow you to apply your coursework to jobs, internships and other unique opportunities outside of college. I find that I often question the relevance of my classes to my career and life after college. I was fortunate that I finally enrolled in a course that I felt applied to real world situations.

Name a specific aspect or moment from this experience that prepared you for your future career.

During our event setup, we found it was challenging to engage with the seniors because we were shy. Our TA did not show up right away and we only met our community partner once in class before- which was not an excuse for our timidness, but we still felt uncomfortable. The awkwardness at the beginning of the event continued throughout the day. The seniors were extremely aware of our shyness, and some even gave us feedback about improving our public speaking at the end of the event. Although I was disappointed with our group's overall interaction with the seniors, I took away important elements from the experience that will help my future career. I realized that it is extremely important to be assertive and take ownership of different situations depending on the circumstance. I know there will be many cases in my career in which I will have to speak in front of a group of people I do not know. I also realized the importance of effective communication, and I think our group would have been more successful with our community partner if we were more rehearsed in the presentation of our event.