Students at UL have been given nearly $20,000 to advocate math and science in local classrooms; bolster low-income homes in the community; and put on a “Sustainable Living Roadshow.” The University of Louisiana System launched the special initiative to place students in their surrounding communities as a means to making them better citizens through service. All of the system’s eight campuses are participating.
Service-learning projects like these offer numerous benefits to students. Participation can even have positive impacts on leadership ability, grades, retention, degree aspirations, critical-thinking skills and commitment to helping others in difficulty. Moreover, the research shows that at least 50 percent of students who engage in service-learning during college will continue volunteering after they graduate.
University of Louisiana System Board Chair Elsie Burkhalter says service-learning is simply good teaching. “There is ample evidence to suggest that students who engage in service have more fulfilling college experiences and transfer their service mentality to careers and personal lives,” she says.
The local awards are part of a $1.2 million Learn and Serve grant secured by the system in 2005. The grant, along with required university matching funds, brings the state’s total financial commitment to service-learning to $2.4 million over a three-year period. The service-learning projects UL students will be hosting next year include:
· Project RUNbus: Using a bus that incorporates green technology to demonstrate ecological options, students will visit schools and other venues to teach environmental protection, sustainability and social entrepreneurship.
· Environmental Awareness: The goal of this project is for students from the College of Engineering to perform energy and environmental savings testing on the low-income homes in hurricane-ravaged communities. Students hope to entice homeowners to improve insulation, purchase energy efficient appliances and modify their energy consumption habits.
· Advocating Math, Science and Environmental Issues: The UL chapter of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers plans to educate elementary, middle and high school students on the importance of math, science, engineering and environmentalism. The club will meet with one of each of the schools in Lafayette Parish to discuss the need for recycling; energy and water conservation; and the effects of pollution.