The Service-Learning Initiative (SLI) is held for new students the week before classes start (Launch) as well as for current students during a spring semester weekend (Engage). Over the course of three days, students volunteer with different local community partners in small groups, reflect together on their experiences and learn about social issues through various activities. Every year, SLI takes on a theme that the participants will be able to explore throughout the three days. The current theme for SLI is sustainability which includes environmental sustainability, sustainable practices for food and waste (which coincides with the university’s pan-campus theme) and sustainable partnerships, which is an important component of APPLES Service-Learning.
Many students will have the opportunity to connect with long-time community partners that work to alleviate the issues of food insecurity or work to protect the environment. Additionally, all students will participate in a small-group social innovation activity facilitated by several organizations working directly with relevant social issues. Throughout the program, participants will be engaging with student leaders who will be able to provide insight into service opportunities at UNC-CH as well as general knowledge on college life. An SLI T-shirt and meals are included in the cost of participating in the program.
The SLI itinerary usually follows this outline:
- Move into residence halls (for SLI Launch only)
- SLI check-in and introduction
- Dinner and presentation from site leaders
- Social activities
- Volunteer with first community partner
- Volunteer with second community partner
- Free time
- Social innovation activity focused on program theme
- Reflection session
- Volunteer with third community partner
- Presentation on SLI alternative fall break
- Reflection session
- “How to Get Involved” session with SLI student leaders
SLI incorporates two main reflection sessions – one after the first day of service work and the second at the end of the program. Reflection sessions introduce students to service-learning and encourage them to think critically about the service in which they are participating. Less formal reflection that grows out of participant experiences often occurs throughout the program, as well.
SLI tries to return to many of the same sites each year in order to maintain relationships with community partners. Many partners are connected to other components of the APPLES Service-Learning program, as well. Community partners for SLI 2016 included Anathoth Community Garden and Farm, Battle Park, Carolina Campus Community Garden, Club Nova, Heavenly Groceries, IFC HomeStart, Meals on Wheels, Orange County Rape Crisis Center, Orange County Schools, TABLE and SECU Family House.