Learning through summer service

Tar Heels do not stop learning when the academic year breaks for the summer.

For nearly 30 years, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill students have found a way to continue learning throughout the summer with APPLES Service-Learning based out of the Carolina Center for Public Service. The student-led program pairs Carolina students with community or governmental organizations for internships in either the spring semester or during the summer.

Through this program, rising senior Jennifer Barber of Waxhaw, North Carolina, a public relations major, spent her summer as a paid intern at the North Carolina Therapeutic Riding Center, working with children of all abilities during summer camp sessions.

“People usually say, ‘What does therapeutic horse summer camp have to do with a major in public relations?’ But I really get to use those skills here,” explained Barber. “I am working with campers of all abilities, but I’m also writing press releases, sending those out and doing professional communications. I can take these examples, a portfolio, to an employer.”

This week, we’ll profile three Carolina students participating in the program.

Learn more about the APPLES Service-Learning program by visiting the APPLES online.

By Carly Swain, University Communications
Published Aug. 1, 2017, UNC.edu

Ami Patel goes outward bound to build leadership skills

WAmi Patel Outward Bound 2017hen Ami Patel ’18, APPLES Service-Learning president, agreed to spend four days in the North Carolina wilderness with fellow Tar Heels during a North Carolina Outward Bound experience, she didn’t realize how much the outdoors would challenge her. After four days of dehydrated meals and no bath, three nights sleeping on the ground in a sleeping bag (one night sleeping in a cave) and 89 mosquito bites later, she says she would do it all again.

“When my friends and family asked me what I would be doing during this four-day Outward Bound program, I consistently ended with a shrug of the shoulders saying it won’t be that bad,” Patel said. “While I was not wrong, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I could not have imagined the challenges I would face within those few days; physical challenges, mental challenges and emotional challenges.”

Each year, the Carolina Center for Public Service sends UNC student leaders to the North Carolina Outward Bound School in the Blue Ridge Mountains where they work together on wilderness survival and grow as leaders. The 10 participants experienced backpacking, caving, mountaineering, rock climbing, rappelling and a ropes course.

Patel joined Stephen Buys, Student Government deputy chief of staff; Hope Gehle, SMART Mentoring co-chair; Laura Gerlach, Newman Center president; Simran Khadka, APPLES alternative fall break co-chair; Taylor Newsome, APPLES 2017 Outward Bound UNC student leadersexecutive committee member; Anna Silver, APPLES alternative fall break co-chair; Leah Simon, a Buckley Public Service Scholar and First-Year Service Corps participant; Courtney Staton, Campus Y co-president; and Zachary Walker, APO secretary and pledge master.

During the Outward Bound experience, these students were immersed in a wilderness environment while they learned more about their leadership roles on campus and about themselves. Outward Bound’s four pillars of physical fitness, self-reliance, craftsmanship and compassion were stressed through the different activities and tasks the students tackled each day.

“As I was struggling to complete the four-mile run on the last day of this experience, I recall a conversation with fellow participant Taylor Newsome during the last mile,” Patel explained. “In an effort to motivate her, as well as myself, I cheered that we could get through this last mile. Her response was simply, ‘well, we have to.’ This conversation summed up one of my takeaways from this experience: it is surprising what you can do when you don’t have a choice but to do it. The only way to join the rest of the group was to finish the run.”

During the course, Patel said one of the Outward Bound instructors suggested that four days doesn’t seem like enough time to make a change or allow students to feel different than the first day. At the end of the course, the instructor followed up on the comment saying she admired the students for proving her wrong. Patel agrees.

“I didn’t know many of my fellow participants before we travelled to the Pisgah National Forest together,” Patel said. “But it is clear that in just four days, this experience changed our outlook on life and service.”


Murdock family supports students serving communities

When Brian Murdock ’99 and his wife Laura considered making a gift to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the Carolina Center for Public Service was a natural choice. Murdock, who was recently appointed to the UNC Board of Visitors, has been connected to the Center since his first gift in 2005 and served on its outreach and development board beginning in 2008.

“Service has always been at the center of what my wife, Laura, and I are trying to accomplish in our day-to-day lives and to teach to our three young children,” Murdock said. “It’s so important to do everything we can to be actively involved in our communities and to contribute to improving the parts of society that may need some extra attention.”

Through multiple generations, the Murdock family has made a difference in the lives of others in myriad ways: family, faith, business and civic leadership, helping neighbors in need, volunteerism and philanthropy.

Brian, Laura and Grig Murdock“When the Carolina Center for Public Service approached us about making a gift and suggested that it support APPLES alternative break experiences, it made perfect sense to us,” Murdock said. “Helping a group of 10-12 students voluntarily spend their breaks investing time in the community is a great way to help address some of the pressing issues in our society while laying the groundwork for these students to make service a vital part of their identity for the rest of their lives.”

Murdock added that giving this gift in honor of his mother, Grig Kirk Murdock ’69, also seemed fitting. “My mother has lived her life in service of others through her family, her long career in healthcare and the volunteering she has done in schools, at church and for a variety of organizations,” Murdock explained. “She has been a great example to many of putting others first for the greater good.”

Launched in 1999, APPLES Service-Learning Alternative Breaks provide an avenue for students to engage in meaningful service experiences. Each year, approximately 200 students encounter and actively address a wide range of social concerns from health and the environment to poverty, homelessness, civil rights and disaster relief. Through partnerships created and sustained by ongoing projects, students gain an in-depth understanding of complex issues. They work alongside and in partnership with community stakeholders performing needed direct service and advocacy.

“Due to limited funding, we have to turn down more than half of the students who apply for alternative breaks,” said Becca Bender, program officer for student programs at the Carolina Center for Public Service. “For some experiences, we often accept less than a third of applicants. Interest and demand from communities in need are on the rise as well. With increased funding, new alternative break experiences could be implemented to address more need and serve in more communities.”

The Murdock Family Alternative Break Experience Fund will have an immediate impact and also create a legacy to provide life-changing experiences for students and for the people in the communities they serve. The Murdock family gift provides annual support for one alternative break for up to 12 students with a preference for experiences in areas or on issues related to health. Their gift also established an endowment which will sustain and grow opportunities for students to participate in alternative break experiences in perpetuity.

Murdock said, “Laura and I are excited about the impact this gift will have on our community and look forward to talking to students whose idea of service has been broadened and developed by this experience.”

For more information about alternative break experiences or providing financial support for these or other opportunities, contact Tricia Daisley at 919-843-2219.

APPLES launches SLI: Engage

APPLES hosted its first Service-Learning Initiative (SLI): Engage event March 31-April 2. This is a unique student-lead introduction to service-learning and allowed APPLES SLI Engageparticipants to learn more about APPLES opportunities and local organizations in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro community. Traditionally, SLI takes place in the fall over three days before classes begin and allows incoming students to get to know each other and serve local community partners. This was the first offering of a spring SLI which was open to any UNC student and included local service as well as reflections on sustaining community engagement beyond college. Twenty-five students participated, including student leaders who previously served with SLI.

SLI: Engage participants served at local community partners including IFC Community House, Triangle Land Conservancy, North Carolina Botanical Garden, Wildwood Farms, the Caring and Sharing Center and Battle Park. Activities and reflections followed the program’s sustainability theme, including ethical food and environmental practices, as well as sustainable partnerships and maintaining strong community relationships, a primary value of the APPLES Service-Learning program. Students also heard from a panel of UNC young alumni who have pursued service careers. Panelists included:

  • George Barrett ’13, associate director of the Marian Cheek Jackson Center
  • Sarah Cohn ‘13 , advocate program coordinator for the Community Empowerment Fund
  • Sarah Smith ’10, global civic engagement coordinator at the Campus Y
  • Alexandra Zagbayou ’09, executive director at Student U

Taylor and Abby SLI Engage“We were excited that the program went so well for its first year and are looking forward to SLI: Launch in the fall and continuing to grow SLI: Engage in the future,” said student co-chair, Taylor Newsome, a junior biology and global studies major from Davidson, North Carolina.

Co-chair Abby Gostling, a sophomore economics and global studies major from Raleigh, North Carolina, said, “The participants were very engaged and we hope that they continue to serve the local community during the rest of their UNC careers.”

2017 APPLES Award recipients recognized

By Veronica Ortega

The APPLES Service-Learning program recently honored five individuals and organizations for providing significant contributions to service-learning to the UNC campus and in support to APPLES.

2017 APPLES award recipientsFour individuals, Finn Loendorf, Sonda Oppewal, Patricia Parker, Michael Ulku-Steiner and one community partner, Robeson County Church and Community Center, were recognized at the annual APPLES Service-Learning Award Brunch for sustained service as an integral part of the academic experience through their involvement with APPLES.

Lindsey Hollbrook, APPLES president, said, “These individuals continue to build the strong foundation for service-learning at Carolina and challenge us to do better every year. Their involvement, along with the University’s commitment, will ensure that APPLES continues for years to come.”
Finn Loendorf, a sophomore physics major, received the 2017 Undergraduate Excellence Award for their leadership and substantial contributions to the campus and community through organizations such as Carolina Advocating Gender Equity at the Campus Y and Boomerang, a youth empowerment program in Chapel Hill. Loendorf is also a former participant and student leader in the First-Year Service Corps and APPLES Service-Learning Alternative Break programs. Loendorf is from Stanley, North Carolina.

Luis Acosta, the 2016 award recipient, presented the Undergraduate Excellence Award to Loendorf and said, “More than many students in just their second-year at Carolina, Finn embodies the APPLES values of integrating all of the various threads of a students’ life.”
Sonda Oppewal received the 2017 Teaching Excellence Award for developing and teaching, since 2010, the course Health Care in Global Context. As part of the course, Oppewal leads an interdisciplinary group of students to spend a week in Tyrell County, North Carolina examining a wide range of factors contributing to residents’ health. Students gain perspective and concrete skills while contributing to the work of their partners through screening older adults for risk of falls, taking blood pressure, conducting home visits, and discussing long-term healthcare and medications.

Abbey Kinnaman presented the award and said, “Professor Oppewal’s willingness and commitment to contribute so much of her time, enthusiasm and ideas toward the service-learning experience and partnership in her course has exceeded our greatest expectations.”
Robeson County Church and Community Center received the 2017 Community Partner Excellence Award. Since 1969, the Robeson County Church and Community Center has involved people across cultural, racial and denominational barriers in partnership with each other to address a wide range of social needs in the community. The organization has a sustained partnership with APPLES Service-Learning Alternative Break programs, providing students with substantive opportunities to participate in its work while learning more about social change and the history of Robeson County.

Darlene Jacobs accepted the award on behalf of the organization. Kevin Giff and Austin Gragson presented the award. Giff said, “This organization has partnered consistently with the APPLES Service-Learning Alternative Break programs, providing students with substantive opportunities to participate in its work while learning more about social change and the history of Robeson County.”

Michael Ulku-Steiner ’92, received the 2017 Outstanding Alumni Award. A member of APPLES’ founding team, Ulku-Steiner has remained dedicated to service through his accomplished career in education. He currently serves as Durham Academy’s head of school, where he also has worked as a teacher, coach and advisor. Ulku-Steiner continues his connected to APPLES and recently came back as part of the alumni speaker series to talk with current organizers about the early days of service-learning at Carolina and his career in education.

Alexandra Zagbayou, the 2016 award recipient, presented the award to Ulku-Steiner. Zagbayou said, “Michael has remained dedicated to service through his accomplished career in education. His work is an inspiration to us and we are grateful to honor his contributions to APPLES.”

Patricia Parker, department chair and associate professor of Organizational Communication, received the 2017 Service-Learning Award in honor of Ned Brooks for a career of engaged teaching and research in social justice leadership. Her experience includes founding The Ella Baker Women’s Center for Leadership and Community Activism, developing a diversity liaison program for the College of Arts and Sciences, and decolonizing organizational communication processes within her research. Parker has taught several popular APPLES courses, including Collective Leadership Models for Social Change.

Mike Caragher presented Parker the award on behalf of Ned Brooks. Caragher said, “We are grateful for all of Patricia’s service to this state, university and communities. Her efforts have brought people together, to work together and to support one another in numerous ways.”


Battle Grove serves as a model for living-learning lab

University Gazette, March 8, 2017

Sustainability @ UNC, Feb. 22, 2017

Geoffrey Bell and students Jun Wang and Brooke Benson tested the water in Battle BranchGeoffrey Bell wanted a way for students in his fall 2016 Restoration Ecology class to link concepts in ecosystem restoration with the practical application of research techniques they were learning. Sally Hoyt wanted to find new ways to engage students in the campus infrastructure around them.

So it was only natural that the two found a common purpose in the Battle Grove Restoration Project, which turned the once-soggy area beside McIver Residence Hall into a gentle stream that flows from Raleigh Street to Country Club Road.

The stream was created last year through a process called daylighting, where water from a Battle Branch tributary that had been piped beneath the road for 75 years was released in an aboveground stream. The new Battle Branch stream was designed with a filtration process that would naturally filter pollutants and contaminants out of runoff water, benefiting water quality downstream as well as in the immediate area.

A professor at North Carolina State University has worked with Hoyt, the University’s stormwater engineer, and her team to examine the effect of storm conditions on the stream’s water quality, but that work didn’t include monitoring Battle Branch’s base flow conditions – taken when it wasn’t raining as a way to gauge nutrient concentrations on an average day.

That’s where Bell’s class became instrumental.

“That was a gap in information we needed,” Hoyt said, “and I worked with Dr. Bell on parameters that were both useful to the project and feasible for his students to measure with the equipment that was available.”

Testing the nutrient concentration over time is important because the Battle Grove area is part of the Jordan Lake watershed, and that lake already has too many nutrients, some of which reach it through base flow conditions, Hoyt explained.

A three-student team in Bell’s class took on the base flow-monitoring project and designed their measurement and analysis methodologies to provide the information Hoyt needed. They sampled the water multiple times during the semester at four sites within Battle Branch to measure base flow concentrations of nitrate, nitrite, ammonium and phosphate in the water as well as dissolved oxygen, salinity and temperature.

Although their research didn’t yield conclusive patterns – phosphate was the only nutrient that differed significantly among the four sites – that in itself is a finding. It points to the need for additional testing at different times during the year to create a more complete picture than tests within one semester can show, the students explained in their report.The sites were selected based on varying degrees of treatment, including two places where water enters the system and a third location where water coming in from both entry points exits the system, said Brooke Benson, one of the students on the team.

The Battle Grove project was one of six community partnerships Bell’s class developed. Student teams also worked with University clients to examine ecological issues related to short-leaf pines in the North Carolina Botanical Garden, oyster restoration in conjunction with the Institute for Marine Sciences, stream monitoring on Outdoor Recreation Center land and endangered species restoration in Battle Park, as well as a project with the Town of Chapel Hill to monitor water quality for a local stream.

The class, which Bell has taught each fall for the past several years, is an APPLES service-learning class, requiring students to devote 30 hours outside of class to their assigned restoration project.

“As I developed the course, I saw an opportunity to bring both the service component and a practical application of research into the classroom because there was so much restoration work going on around campus,” said Bell, senior lecturer in the Curriculum in Environment and Ecology.

Bell focuses not only on teaching his students key concepts in restoring ecosystems, but also the research skills they need to design experiments, think critically and test hypotheses, and analyze their data.

“The biggest benefit for the students is that they can take what they learn in the classroom and apply it to a real issue,” he said. In the process, they’re learning how to manage projects and meet clients’ needs while giving back to the community.

In the Battle Grove project, for example, Hoyt showed the student team around the site and provided parameters for the information she needed, and the students took it from there. They determined the specifics of the study design and analysis.

“Projects like this are critically important to being good stewards of our environment,” said Benson, who is majoring in environmental studies with a concentration in ecology and society. “Nature has done a good job of taking care of itself, and we have to pay attention to the effects of pollution and urbanization on our natural systems.”

Bell’s class is a model for using the campus as a living-learning laboratory, as Chancellor Carol L. Folt has championed as part of the new Three Zeros Initiative. On March 24, Bell will be part of a Center for Faculty Excellence-sponsored panel to discuss innovative ways to integrate research and service into a living-labs classroom.

And his students’ work has laid the foundation for further assessment.

This semester, Stephanie Monmoine will take additional water samples from the Battle Branch stream, and she will create a time-lapse photo vignette of the area to show how the site has changed in terms of vegetation, animal habitats and other factors.

Monmoine, an intern with the Sustainable Triangle Field Site Program, is also focusing on education and outreach efforts.

“As students, many of us don’t consider how much planning goes into taking care of our campus,” she said. “I have a chance to see some of what happens behind the curtain to make our University run smoothly.”

Launched in fall 2016, the Three Zeros initiative is Carolina’s integrated approach to reducing its environmental footprint through three sustainability goals: net zero water usage; zero waste to landfills; and net zero greenhouse gas emissions. A central component to the initiative is to create a living-learning laboratory for students, faculty and staff to study and advance the most recent developments in sustainability policy and technology.

APPLES leads alumna to an alternative route

By Veronica Ortega

Alternative breaks program provided UNC graduate with unique experiences

Hope Thomson AFBHope Thomson ‘15, like many college students, was exploring options to pursue a graduate degree after completing her undergraduate curriculum at UNC. But one campus experience took her down an unexpected path that influenced her career development.

Thomson participated in an APPLES Service-Learning Alternative Fall Break experience (AFB) where students learn and serve outside the UNC community. AFB participants attend orientation sessions that prepare them for the challenges and issues they will confront during their service experience. Students also collaborate with community service partners, engaging in both direct and indirect services as well as advocacy work. The resulting networking, team building and project management skills are invaluable to AFB participants who benefit significantly from the intimate immersion in local communities.

For Thomson, the AFB experience nurtured an interest to further her community-focused work. As a result, after graduating with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry, Thomson switched gears on her post-graduation plans and accepted a full-time position with Morehead Planetarium and Science Center (MPSC).

Hope Thompson StemvilleToday, as a community outreach educator at the planetarium, Thomson combines her passions for chemistry and civic engagement by sharing educational science programs with families in dozens of communities across North Carolina. One program the outreach team delivers is a simulated laboratory experience in classrooms at schools that are not able to visit the planetarium because of distance and/or expenses. Another program is the free summer camp that services 10 North Carolina counties. Thomson’s personal favorites are doing chemistry experiments with third and eighth-grade classrooms like Elephant Toothpaste and coordinating the STEMville Science Symposium, a half-day science conference at MPSC for students in grades four to seven.

“You cannot bring science to the middle of North Carolina, if you have never been to the middle of North Carolina,” Thomson said. AFB engages participants in the community in such a way that makes their community service meaningful. Thomson added that AFB’s immersive experience taught her the importance of understanding and respecting the diversity that helps many community initiatives succeed. “My career is as unexpected as it is rewarding, and I appreciate the role that AFB played in helping me find my best way forward.”

APPLES Course Development Grant enhances filmmaking class

By Kealia Reynolds

Rachel Schaevitz wanted her students to experience working with real-world clients while creating media in public service. So, she applied for an APPLES Service-Learning course development grant and proposed that students in her COMM 493 film production class pair with university departments to create videos to use as teaching tools in K-12 and community college classrooms. The course is a collaboration between the Department of Communication and Carolina Public Humanities. Inspired by retired professor Francesca Talenti, Schaevitz, a post-doc research associate in the Department of Communication and Carolina Public Humanities, revised her class to include a service component where student filmmaker teams collaborate with educators across campus.

Course development grants successfully integrate community-based service into the curriculum and promote the pedagogy of service-learning at UNC.

“One of my favorite things about this course is that it is truly interdisciplinary, truly helps students serve the public in a meaningful way that relates to their career goals, and truly takes advantage of the myriad resources available here at UNC,” Schaevitz said.

Jaycee Rogers films for her class

Some students in Schaevitz’s class experienced filmmaking for an education-based audience for the first time ever. So, the creative decisions made were filtered through the lens of education. They had to keep the attention of high school students, explain complicated historical material and creatively incorporate faculty experts.

“As the films started taking shape, students became increasingly excited about the prospect that students and teachers in classrooms all over the state would be relying on their work for educational information,” Schaevitz said. “This added a layer of responsibility and accountability to what would otherwise have been a purely artistic project.”

When Jaycee Rogers ’17, a communication studies and English major from Robbinsville, North Carolina, found out that their videos would be used in classrooms, she understood the potential the projects had.

“Knowing that this video was actually going to be useful to educate someone made me push harder to create a great video,” Rogers said. “The aspect of community service made it more than just a class — I was doing this to help a system that needed content to teach kids who need to learn.”

Thanks to the grant, Schaevitz fully integrated a community-based service component into the course. Schaevitz also realized an added impact; the grant allowed her to engage with the Department of Music, incorporating an interdisciplinary experience for the students. They could go beyond the classroom and partner with another professor’s class to enhance their videos. Schaevitz’s students worked with Professor Allen Anderson’s advanced composition course to have his students create original scores for each film made in her class.

“Because we had funds from APPLES, we could pay for mixing and engineering of original student-produced music for all six films in the class,” Schaevitz said.

While Schaevitz and her students anticipated that middle and high school teachers would use the films, they didn’t imagine it would extend beyond that. “We’ve loved learning that professors here at UNC are using our videos as instructional tools in the university classroom as well,” Schaevitz said.

The partnership between Schaevitz’s course and the Carolina K-12 program, also under the Carolina Public Humanities department, will place the class’ videos on a database of educational resources available to teachers across North Carolina. Once the videos are added to the database, teachers across the country will use them to help teach their students.

Schaevitz and her students expected their work to have an educational impact. But the students did not expect the emotional impact the course would have on them. Rogers added how essential it was having professor Schaevitz lead the class. “There were parts in this class that were incredibly hard when deadlines were approaching and she was always there to push us and jump into the thick of production with us,” Rogers said. “Without her, I don’t think the motivation and the sense of community would have been as strong.”


UNC-Chapel Hill student honored for community service

campus_compact-300x244Jashawnna Gladney ’17, a global studies major from Thomasville, North Carolina was recognized for outstanding leadership and service by North Carolina Campus Compact, a statewide network of colleges and universities with a shared commitment to civic engagement. Gladney is a recipient of the network’s Community Impact Award, honoring one student leader at each member school.

Gladney has led Carolina’s on-campus food pantry, the Carolina Cupboard, during a crucial period of growth and new partnerships. She helped Carolina Cupboard secure new funding and a new space, and she has pushed for the capacity to accept and provide perishable foods. Gladney established partnerships with Residence Life, APPLES Service-Learning program, and the pan-campus Food for All committee. Her efforts have meant more food provided to students in need and increased awareness among the UNC community about the reality of food insecurity. In addition, she interned with nonprofits Nourish International and Carolina for Amani, and volunteers regularly with Carolina Covenant Achieve Pre-Health Society.

Gladney was honored at the Compact’s annual CSNAP student conference Nov. 12 at the University of North Carolina at Asheville. The event convened more than 160 students and staff from 24 campuses in the network. The conference included student-led workshops on diverse community engagement topics and a showcase of organizations working for social change, including the Campus Kitchens Project, Rachel Carson Council and the Sustained Dialogue Institute.

Gladney was one of 25 students selected by their campus for the 2016 honor, joining more than 200 college students recognized by the network since the award was first presented in 2006.

North Carolina Campus Compact is a statewide coalition of 36 public, private and community colleges and universities that share a commitment to civic and community engagement. The network was founded in 2002 and is hosted by Elon University. North Carolina Campus Compact is an affiliate of the national Campus Compact organization, which claims 1,000 member schools representing nearly two million college students.


APPLES alternative fall break participants serve where needed

rural2_343x255Each year, many UNC students spend their fall break at home, binge-watching their favorite Netflix show or catching up on sleep lost during midterms. But for 70 students participating in APPLES Service-Learning alternative fall breaks (AFB), fall break is spent serving communities throughout North Carolina, the mid-Atlantic and Southeast.

APPLES alternative fall breaks are student-led, service-oriented experiences where students dedicate their service to participate in six focus areas: urban communities, Latino communities, rural communities, environmental issues, arts in public service and service-learning initiative. Because APPLES alternative breaks has long-standing relationships with community partners, the work students perform is aligned directly to what the community needs. So in the wake of the devastation Hurricane Matthew brought to Eastern North Carolina on Oct. 8, the rural communities alternative break revamped its work to focus on helping those affected by the hurricane.

“While in Robeson County, we felt angry about systemic injustices that people face, but also hopeful and inspired by the strength of the community,” said Rachael Purvis ‘18, a biology major from Gastonia, North Carolina. “One of our community partners told us to hold on to those feelings from this experience and let them carry us throughout our lives and careers.”

APPLES alternative fall break, rural communitiesThe 12 students who participated in the rural communities break visited Robeson County, a highly impoverished riverside community in Eastern North Carolina. Robeson County was one of many communities left flooded by Hurricane Matthew. Students spent their time cleaning out damaged homes, learning from local speakers about emergency response in rural and tribal communities, and assisting the Center for Community Action and the Robeson County Church and Community Center in their work serving the community.

These AFB students gained a first-hand account of how their service work can make a difference in a community only a few hours away from their university. While these Tar Heels only served Robeson County for a few days, the impact of this experience will last long past their return to UNC.

“The clean-up experience [with the students] was both excruciatingly painful and dramatically rewarding. We shared both aspects of the experience with each other and with family members,” said Reverend Mac Legerton, executive director and co-founder of the Center for Community Action. “The experience was deeply transformative, mainly because it included care and discomfort, heartache and heart affection. The classroom experience rarely takes you to either space and place. Community experience does, particularly when it provides both depth and breadth in one’s life that is made explicit through de-liberation and reciprocity. This is the core of meaningful and transformative service-learning.”

Beth Clifford ‘19 from Mount Prospect, Illinois said, “Robeson County changed us in ways we didn’t expect. Even though we just intended to serve, the community members made their mark on our lives.”