Service-Learning: A Future Nurse Reflects

July 2, 2018
Jenna Ruiz Headshot
Jenna Ruiz

Service-learning makes me feel inspired to continue to give back to the community and work to benefit the needs of others. I feel as though that is a large part of who I am as an individual and it makes me excited to know that I am going into a career that will allow me to make the same positive impact on my patients on a regular daily basis. I am very grateful for service-learning because it has truly given me the confidence to continue to pursue a career that is so meaningful to me. Furthermore, it has encouraged me to establish a lifestyle that is centered on giving back to those around me. I have come to realize that there is no greater joy than being a part of something that is larger than yourself. Therefore, I am thankful for service-learning and all that it has taught me and I look forward to continuing to make a difference in the lives of others for as long as I possibly can.

Service-learning is defined as the process of combining academic learning with community service projects in order to promote the growth of students and enhance the common good. More specifically, it is a teaching strategy that incorporates meaningful community service in order to enrich the learning experiences of students. It teaches the importance of compassion, responsibility, and civic involvement in order to strengthen communities.

As a student in the Lifespan Development psychology course, I have had the chance to engage in two service learning opportunities, Book Buddies and Discovery Day. I really enjoy working with children, so I was very excited to be a part of Book Buddies. I had the privilege of working with a young girl who was seven years old and in the second grade. When she first arrived, I introduced myself to her and we sat down at the table together. Next, I walked her over to the table with all of the books and helped her pick one out. Once we were finished reading the book, it was then time to help the children create their own storybook. I helped her come up with the ideas, while she drew the pictures. After we were done, we sat in a circle and listened to the children share their stories. She was really proud of her story and I felt very inspired to have been a part of that experience. After the children shared their stories, we all went back inside the ballrooms and listened to the storyteller. After the storyteller was finished, we took the children on a small campus tour before they departed. Once the children left, I went back to the ballrooms for a final debriefing.

Related: Book Buddies V

On Discovery Day, we broke out into smaller groups and did an icebreaker game. After the icebreaker was over we each paired up with a RUP student and began the campus tour. I was paired with a girl in the ninth grade. She was very sweet and we got along very well. Having lunch together gave us a chance to really bond with each of the RUP students in our group which made for a really memorable experience.

Related: Discovery Day XV

These experiences were examples of service-learning because we as Sonoma State students were able to take the knowledge and skills that we have learned in the classroom and apply to it a real hands-on experience in order to benefit a larger community of younger students. I feel very grateful to have been a part of two such meaningful experiences.

I really enjoyed both of the service-learning experiences because not only did they allow me a chance to give back to the community, but they were both great examples of how the information we learned about the various life stage groups is applicable to the real world. For example, the children who attended Book Buddies were all in the life stage of middle childhood. One of the developmental tasks of this particular life stage is skilled learning, which is known as the process of combining knowledge and practice in order to solve a problem. One of the skills to master during this developmental task is reading. Reading is the most significant skill to develop because it opens the doors for many other opportunities. In addition, literacy transforms children as it provides access to new information, language, and new forms of thinking.

Before I began reading with my book buddy, I asked her if she felt comfortable reading the book or if she preferred that I read it for her. I could tell that she wanted to read it out loud to me, but she was a little apprehensive about it and needed some motivation. I encouraged her to read the book and reassured her that I would help her along the way. However, as she started reading the book, I noticed that she struggled with her reading skills and was not as advanced as some of the other children that were reading next to her. She was able to read the majority of the book, but only with my assistance and she would often get stuck on simple words. I found this to be a bit surprising, but I reminded myself that every child develops literacy skills at their own pace. I was patient and understanding of her abilities and together we finished the book. However, I did feel a sense of concern for her because, without the skill of literacy, children lack the skills and knowledge to be successful in school which then causes them to fall behind both socially and academically. As mentioned in our class's textbook, parents greatly influence their child's ability to read. Therefore, it is important for parents to help teach their children to read and write, and not just leave it for the teacher to do. I got the impression that my book buddy did not practice her literacy skills at home, because when I asked her if she had any books at home, she said she only had a few. I encouraged her to ask her parents or teachers for more books, that way she could practice outside of the classroom which would help improve her literacy skills.

Furthermore, the development of literacy skills can also contribute to the psychosocial crisis of industry versus inferiority. "Industry" is referred to as the eagerness to acquire a new skill, while inferiority refers to the feelings of worthlessness and inadequacy. My book buddy was very eager to read me her story, yet she struggled along the way and began to doubt herself from time to time. Lacking literacy skills can lead to feelings of inferiority because children may compare themselves to one another and begin to feel as though they are not good enough. While my book buddy is still too young to realize she is behind in her literacy abilities, I worry that as she gets older she will begin to feel shame for not being able to read as well as her fellow classmates, which is why it is so crucial to master these skills at a young age.

Related: Service-Learning Case Study: Psychology and Early Childhood Education

While Book Buddies was very enjoyable, I was able to draw a deeper connection with the older students from RUP. Although all the students were very different, I enjoyed getting to know each of them, especially the student I was paired with. She was very respectful and engaged in what we were doing throughout the entire day. I noticed a higher level of maturity in her in comparison to most of the other students in our group. She asked a lot of questions and made it seem as if she was really motivated and interested in learning more about the college lifestyle. She even told me that wanted to become an architect and that she has already been looking into colleges with notable architecture programs. I was especially impressed when she told me that she would be the first generation of her family to attend college. Both of my parents hold master's degrees, so to me going to college has always been the "norm." But I found it very inspiring that she was so determined and motivated at such a young age, especially coming from a family where no one holds a college degree.

It was evident to me that my partner is already engaging in the developmental task of formal operations, specifically planning for college. Early adolescence provides teens with a chance to predict college and occupational options that may be open to them depending on how well they do in academic coursework in high school. They also come to realize that the actions they make may have detrimental consequences in the future. I personally witnessed this when I asked my partner why she was so eager to attend college. She answered my question by explaining to me that if she dropped out of school and didn't finish her education, certain career options would no longer be open to her and she would be unable to achieve her dream of becoming an architect. I was so impressed by her response and I felt so grateful to have contributed a little bit of my time and effort in order to help her continue to work towards achieving her dreams.

Related: Service-Learning: An Economics Major Reflects

The service-learning projects have been a wonderful experience for me. Helping others and giving back to the community is something that I am very passionate about and something that I take great pride in. I am studying to become a pediatric nurse, so being able to work with children and early adolescents has only reassured my decision of going into a career that works to benefits the needs of others, especially the youth. Service-learning has greatly contributed to my personal growth because it has given me the opportunity to set aside my own personal needs in order to extend a helping hand to the larger community. I really enjoyed having the chance to make a positive impact on the future generation. I was able to provide advice and personal feedback to both the elementary and high school students, and it was really inspiring to be a part of something that was greater than myself. Knowing that I was able to make a small difference in their lives by contributing to their future success was such a rewarding feeling. I believe that we all have a civic purpose and it is our duty and moral obligation to contribute what we can to the community. It doesn't take much to create such a profound impact in the lives of others, especially in children. I personally feel as though service-learning is a crucial component to a college education and that community service is something that we should always continue to do, without feeling like we are obligated or required to do so.