For the past eight years, Augsburg College’s Center for Service, Work, and Learning has been helping students connect with their surrounding neighborhoods to emphasize the importance of community service.
As an institution that mandates graduating students to have two service-learning credits — the Augsburg Experience and the Engaging Minneapolis components — Augsburg attempts to bridge classroom theories with off-campus, real-life learning.
“The Augsburg Experience and the Engaging Minneapolis are required parts of the curriculum. I don’t think any other college requires that,” said Lois Olson, director and coordinator of internships at the Center for Service, Work and Learning.
Mary Laurel True, associate director and coordinator of Community Service-Learning at the center, has been with Augsburg since the service-learning movement began. She has been working to build connections among students and the community ever since.
“It was the coming together of all the experiential programs and career services,” True said. “All the pieces — growth, development, vision and strategic planning — were on campus since the 1960s. We decided to centralize it and create the Center for Service, Work and Learning.”
East African Women’s Center
One particular organization with whom Augsburg and the Center for Service, Work and Learning have partnered is the Confederation of Somali Community in Minnesota’s (CSCM) East African Women’s Center, located at 420 15th Ave. S., in Riverside Plaza. The East African Women’s Center, according to its website, is a resource open to elderly East African women, girls, and mothers with small children.
In May 2007, CSCM honored True for her volunteer work at the Women’s Center, along with student Kristen Hoyles.
“We built a brand new kitchen. Mary Laurel and some Augsburg students helped, they threw us a party, like a bridal shower,” said Doroth Mayer, director of the Women’s Center.
Hoyles began working at the Women’s Center back in October 2006, doing odd jobs.
“I started out volunteering with the young girls. I taught them some very basic skills in painting,” said Hoyles. “The girls and I worked together every week to complete painting projects at the center. This summer, instead of focusing on painting, I did some handiwork — fixing chairs, putting training wheels on bikes.”
Mayer said without Hoyles’ help, the painting would have been difficult. “[Hoyles] is amazing. I have actually been talking with her about doing another big project — not paint-related,” Mayer said.
It is those real kinds of activities that build relationships over time, not just coming once or twice, Mayer said.
The Campus Kitchen at Augsburg College is a program that works in association with the nationwide Campus Kitchen project. Its mission is to use food resourcing and recycling to meet the needs of community members. Campus Kitchen delivers weekly meals to many local sites, including the Brian Coyle Community Center and Trinity Lutheran Church’s afterschool tutoring program. Recently, Campus Kitchen became the first of the national satellite programs to become self-funded, thanks to its partnership with the Center for Service, Work and Learning. Soon after this achievement, Coordinator Brian Noy arrived.
“I really appreciate my time here. It’s inspiring to work in a higher [education] environment, where I serve alongside with dedicated students and have the strong support of the college,” Noy said. “I’m also excited about all the possibilities to work with different courses on service-learning projects related to food distribution and food production.”
In October, Campus Kitchen hosted a conference for the national organization from which they got their start. “Almost all of [the people at the conference] were very surprised at the diversity they saw and were impressed by the depths of some of our community partnerships,” Noy said.
Another community partnership the Center for Service, Work and Learning maintains is with Seward Montessori School. In 1999, the Augsburg Service-Learning Office — now a part of the center — established the Augsburg-Seward Scholarship. Through this program, youth who attend Seward Montessori are eligible to receive $1,000 per year for eight years toward an education at Augsburg.
“Augsburg’s involvement in this is just incredible … The Augsburg-Seward scholarship is a hope and a dream for those who are working toward it,” said Mary Delander, who is responsible for the scholarship program at Seward Montessori. “It is forward-thinking; it encourages the kids to have a plan and work hard.”
Four requirements must be met for students to earn the scholarship: good attendance, academic improvement, the involvement of guardians or family members in school conferences and attending two school events per year. One student now attending Augsburg on the scholarship is Ben Krouse-Gagne.
“I was looking at a lot of smaller colleges, and because Seward Montessori had a great relationship with Augsburg, I looked there and ended up getting $8,000 for college,” said Krouse-Gagne.
For more information about the Center for Service, Work and Learning at Augsburg, visit www.augsburg.edu/cswl.
Editor’s note: Interns Meagen Swartzer and Chris Stedman, who wrote this article, also came to us through Augsburg’s Center for Service, Work and Learning.