Student reflections

A central aspect of service-learning is the student's reflection on her or his service and how it relates to the academic class to which it is attached. Below are excerpts from student reflections that are testimonials to the power of service-learning.

Maria found the service-learning experience to be meaningful in a number of ways that went beyond the specific class into which it was integrated.

I also wanted to thank you for presenting to our class the other week, and for running this program. Service learning has been a big contributing factor to my very positive experience as a Seattle Central student so far!

Last quarter I was a new student in the Learning Community 150 class that you also presented to. I chose to do service learning with Unite Here Local 8 over the fall and I found it so helpful; for my class research but also for my own process of discerning my career interests and goals. This is actually my third try at college, and while each school I previously attended had some form of internship or volunteer opportunities, none of it was totally integrated into the classwork and also super easy to access like this program is.

Maria Mandt

Karen Ly served with Public Works Seattle, Seattle Repertory Theatre’s major artistic initiative to make theatre of, by, and for the people of our region, to create works of participatory theatre. She discovered that service for a drama class can teach one about much more than drama.

I thought that volunteering and being around other actors would help me improve my skills and confidence. My expectations overall were to grow as an actor and get out of my comfort zone as a student. In the end, those goals were met alongside some other realizations.

This whole experience was extremely inspiring because I learned about a whole new different world that brings people together.

This service affects me as a student and a person by letting me do something that I am passionate about which gives me more confidence as a person and become a better student. This service also made me feel like I am a part of something and that I can make a difference. I loved seeing kids fall in love with theatre and the elders revived their love for the arts. The whole experience was very inspiring and it made me have a whole new perspective on people and community.

I also learned what makes me happy. I knew that being on stage made me happy because I used to perform a lot (singing), but I didn’t know that the relationships I make with people will also do the same. This whole service made me look at my life in a different way because I learned the things that I wanted to do. I think that my goals were always about me and that is not a bad thing, but I also learned that my purpose can be so much more than just what I do. I can find fulfillment beyond acting and singing. Meeting everyone that I have met made me learn to appreciate the small things like the journey and the relationships more than before.

Karen Ly

As a person who has always been involved in playful pursuits, Garrett Little decided to do his English 102 research paper on this "seemingly nonfunctional behavior" in older adults.

...I went on a mission to discover play in my local community...To better understand how we play throughout all stages of our lives, I volunteered to be a caregiver through Island Volunteer Caregivers (IVC). Working for IVC I observed what brought joy to two senior citizens, and discovered how to turn mundane activities into exciting puzzles...

Being a caregiver through IVC bought me a greater sense of pride and self-worth through serving others, and helped me see more about how humans play in all stages of life. Play can be subtle, like looking out the window for birds with Robert, and play can be passive like watching movies with Carolynn, but it is still play. I will be continuing to volunteer with IVC, and look forward to seeing further perspectives of play firsthand in all age demographics.

Garrett Little

At first attracted to service-learning by the additional academic credits, by the end of the quarter Taylor Cornwell viewed it as an experience of great value that she would carry into her future.

When I first started volunteering for Girl Scouts it was only to fulfill college credit however it has turned into an overwhelmingly fulfilling experience. I am so grateful that I took the leap, put myself out there and tried something I had never done before. It was not always easy as I work full time and took 15 credits this quarter, but it was more than worth the challenge. The relationships I created with my troop and the knowledge I gained from the Global Action Summit will be something I carry with me as I continue my journey.

Taylor Cornwell

Paige Rogan served at Green Plate Special, an urban garden project that works with public school youth and foster children. This was for her health and wellness class.

When I was growing up and still living in my parents' house my mom had a big garden that took up the entire backyard. Occasionally she would ask me if I wanted to help her do some weeding or some planting. I would always come up with some excuse to get out of it or help for only a few minutes and do the very bare minimum amount of work. I remember telling my mom that I was never going to enjoy gardening like she did and when I had my own house I was going to have only grass and no plants...

The work [at the service-learning site] was a lot more labor intensive then I expected since most of the work wasn't gardening as much as it was spending hours wheeling around a full wheel barrow and sawing wood. I worked hard though and kept up with the rest of the staff...

I've learned a lot at the garden, not just about planting and harvesting but about community service. On one of the days I worked at the garden they had a work party. I was expecting there to be a few more people there than usual, but over fifty people showed up from around the community to build garden beds and weed. I had no idea how many people there were that were willing to spend their Saturday morning waking up early and working for free in someone else's garden. I grew up on a small island where everybody knows everybody and helps each other out and when I moved to Seattle I expected to see a bunch of people staying away from one another and living separate lives. But this experience showed me that people will work together to benefit the community if help is needed, regardless of where it is.

Paige Rogan

Jian Malihi made a short promotional video for The Norse Home as his service-learning project for his introduction to film class.

As you already know that for my service learning I spent my time at The Norse Home the retirement community in the Greenwood neighborhood. This place happens to be my job where I normally work as a maintenance technician but where I spent my service learning time was in the marketing department.

In the marketing department my assignment was to create a short commercial video to promote The Norse Home as a great place for the elderly to live. We spent a total of about 11 hours editing it and eventually came out with a nice tight little commercial that was about 6 minutes in length. We presented the commercial at the annual fundraiser party and it was a huge hit...

I learned a lot of things through this experience. This was the first time I had ever really made a thought-out film. Since it went so well, meaning I had a good time doing it, I learned a lot, and I came out with a good finished product I have an interest in continuing to make films. The main thing I learned from this experience is about the dichotomy of the fact that filmmaking is both very easy and very difficult. Anyone can do it. Anyone can think of a concept and plan out how to create it and then create it. But film as you know is a very evolved art so there is an incredible amount of things to learn...

In essence this was the little kick-start I needed to jump into the industry. At this point I am already mid-way through shooting my, I say my but in reality I mean our because a film can hardly be attributed to one person, second project which is a PSA for a local nonprofit organization...

I am assuming it is obvious how this pertains to the topic of film. I learned a ton about film while doing this project. It was also a double-whammy so to speak to be learning about the history of film in class at the same time.

If you would like to see the film I made for The Norse Home go to and then on the right side you will see “Testimonials” click that and then go down to the bottom of the page and click “Norse Home Testimonials” you will then be redirected to the youtube video.

Jian Malihi

Stephen Campbell served at The Vera Project,an all-ages music venue, in connection with his health and wellness class.

The Vera Project offers popular music concerts, audio engineering training, youth-driven governance, visual art exhibits, live and studio recording, leadership training, silkscreen printing/classes, event production training, and internships...

While volunteering at Vera I learned that I take a lot of things in my life for granted. There are so many youth who have little to nothing but are making a difference in the future of Vera by volunteering. I observed a lot of unfortunate and troubled youth...Young adults who were very talented in music and art but had no real family life or a place to call home; some were living on the streets...

I have a roof over my head, a bed to sleep in and food on the table every day. There is not one minute in my day I stop to worry about not having any of those things readily available when I need them. As I write about the fact that I don't even stop to be makes my stomach tighten up--it repulses me. Working at Vera has made me appreciate how fortunate I am for everything I have...

The Vera Project enhances the health and well-being of others by promoting artistic experimentation...

I have always had a positive view of volunteering. Until this experience, I have never heard of service learning. I think it should be required in the curriculum of all colleges and high schools. Some of life's biggest lessons are learned by helping someone else.

Stephen Campbell

Georgia Gilbert served at the Bainbridge Island Historical Society and Museum, as part of a requirement for English Comp. Sometimes service-learning can teach us a lot about ourselves.

I love volunteering at the museum. I always feel like I learn so much, even if all I’m doing is sitting behind a desk. It’s a slow learning process – how do the environmental controls work? What about where things are placed? Etc. – but feels really rewarding when someone gets really interested in what you’re lecturing about. I was really surprised by that at first – that people would actually listen to me while I told them anecdotes about Bainbridge Island history. It made me feel really…good, that I was able to spread a little bit of knowledge that way. I also noticed that the way they train docents at the museum is really amazing for learning new things; instead of working with one volunteer the whole time you’re training or working, you rotate between volunteers so you can hear all new perspectives and stories. It’s really an amazing way to learn, even if there wasn’t really a pattern to how you learn new things. It’s more chaotic, but I think I like learning that way much better. Even though I was very skeptical about volunteer service, and almost wholly convinced that I would end my volunteer work once the required hours were completed, my experience thus far has made me realize that there is so much to be gained from volunteer work. Because of this, I’ve decided to stay on as a volunteer at the museum for as long as possible.

Georgia Gilbert

Rachel Swanson not only made connections between her biology class and the work of an agency addressing HIV/AIDS, she shattered her stereotypes and gained insights about herself.

The 18.5 hours I spent volunteering at the Lifelong AIDS Alliance have been incredible and invaluable. Although the amount of time I have volunteered is not substantial, my view of the disease itself, and the people living with HIV/AIDS has changed dramatically. My views about my capabilities and self-involvement have also been altered...

Before I started volunteering, my thoughts on interacting with people with HIV/AIDS made me a little nervous. I had a picture in my head of someone I had seen in the movies; a bed-ridden skeleton of a body, covered in sores, sad, wasting away. I was afraid of what I might see, how it might affect me. I am ashamed of this thought now that I have been given the opportunity to interact with the brave people who live with this infection each day. I realized very quickly that I was thinking too much about myself, my own feelings, and my own fulfillment. I looked at this service learning project as a way to get extra credit to help ME get a better grade so MY grade point average would look better. After coming up with a very short list of reasons (excuses) of why I couldn't volunteer, I came up with a much longer list of reasons why I could and should...

During my 3-hour shifts, I was able to interact with people who had different belief systems, cultural backgrounds, and lifestyles, that were a diverse group of individuals who were all involved at LLAA in different ways. Interacting with the clients was interesting for me because they were not at all similar to what I had seen in movies. The clients who were able to come get their own groceries were smiling, talkative, and often danced/sang along to the music in the background. Most of them were the people I see everyday; business people, parents with young children, baristas at Starbucks. I had everything in common with these people except for a virus.

Rachel Swanson

John Hord's service-learning for his English Comp class enabled him to gain a deep understanding of what community means, and further refine his future college and employment goals.

Service learning has given me the opportunity to understand how I as an individual can enhance community. As a college student, who has not yet obtained a degree, service learning has given me exposure to community. Through this exposure I have been able to refine and define my personal ambitions in a way that just solely an academic environment could not have provided. If looked at in the proper way a student will be able to experience the part of the community/world that they have been thinking about being a part of...

New friendships, professional networking, and community enhancement are some of the other rewards that Service Learning offers a student. You meet other people like yourself and are able to coordinate conversation with questions that you may have about your chosen field of study. If you are content with what you have found in service learning then as a college student you have the opportunity to start professional networking with real professionals. You will know about upcoming opportunities before others and you will know about changes in your chosen field as they happen and are implemented...Community involvement provides for a sense of belonging and allows one to be part of community enhancement.

John Hord

Emma Reh found an organization that not only connected with her history class, but connected her with community people who can help her pursue her interest in government and politics.

“I was so grateful to come across CIRCC [Coalition of Immigrants, Refugees and Communities of Color], especially because of my interest in government and politics. I had no idea what I was going to be doing when I started, but I was soon in the midst of many projects where I felt like I was making a meaningful contribution to the community. It was extremely rewarding and I will be continuing my work with CIRCC.”

Emma Reh

Alexa Villatoro came to appreciate both the short and long term effects of service-learning.  While helping incarcerated men pursue a college education that would better their lives, she could see the potential for larger social change.

As a journalist and a writer passioned for engaging in learning about how our world is transforming given our present and past, service learning opened my eyes to new connection between my education and personal interests. I had the incredibly exciting opportunity to volunteer with University Beyond Bars, where I spent a month meeting with a team to investigative practices for efficient learning in constrained environments- something that opened my eyes greatly to the impact of education and the accommodations that can open doors for a better world, one step at a time. Having that balance of school and volunteering is crucial- it fills your heart and mind with passion and motivation to work and help others. I highly encourage service learning as a way to get involved with your community and spark change within yourself and others. Our world, more than ever, needs us to engage in the intersectionality of education and social change.

--Alexa Villatoro