Sara is one of the Center for Academic Service-Learning and Research’s returning Service-Learning Advocates from last year. She hails from Elk Grove in Northern California and is a sophomore, double majoring in Biblical Studies and History with a minor in Theology. She is currently studying to become a college Bible professor. This desire was inspired by working last year at the CASLR with several of the Service-Learning Bible courses.
This year Sara is working with quite a few Community Partners, including the Azusa Unified School District (AUSD), specifically within Special Education; Foothill Community Center; Foothill Community Church; the Azusa Wellness Center; Stepping Stones for Women; David & Margaret Family Services; and the City of Azusa, including working with Mayor Rocha. Her second year working at the CASLR has been quite a whirlwind of activities and projects. She has also helped facilitate the first online Service-Learning course.
Sara loves working at the CASLR because it allows her to see the big picture of what Service-Learning offers and its mission to provide reciprocal learning and partnership between APU classes and the Azusa community, helping to make a difference in both the lives of the APU students and the Community Partners. She finds great joy in working with her Community Partners, and also likes having the opportunity to empower her fellow students to go out into the community in order to use their developing skills and to learn more in return. Planning and organizing events is also a favorite of her varied tasks as an SLA.
Some of her best experiences so far have been working with Dr. Duke’s Introduction to Biblical Literature: Exodus/Deuteronomy class. She got the chance to take this class last semester where she had a great experience learning about the Jewish traditions of Passover. They planned and hosted a Passover Celebration at Foothill Community Church, where they spent all day in the kitchen bonding as a class preparing the traditional feast. Students from the Service-Learning BLNG 414: Advanced Hebrew class partnered with them by coming to read the traditional blessings in the original language. It was a special experience for everyone involved.
This semester, Sara has had the opportunity to work with Dr. Duke in the same class as a Service-Learning Advocate. Since it is a fall semester class, instead of learning about Passover, the students have been researching and presenting on the Festival of Sukkot, the Jewish Feast of Booths or Tabernacles, which is an eight- day autumn harvest festival.
Sara hopes to leave behind a legacy of organized and well established projects for those SLAs who will come after her. She also has to admit that she will be leaving behind a few great blunders as well. She won the “CASLR Blunder of the Year” award last year for a series of unfortunate events at a school visit and feels that she might be in the running once again for this year, despite her best efforts. The CASLR yearly blunder award is a playful award given out to the SLA with the best story of a project gone awry. This is a way to provide safe sharing of inevitable human errors while focusing on the opportunity to learn and grow from such mistakes.
Sara’s strengths are Input, Belief, Connectedness, Consistency, and Restorative. Her SLA “Buddy,” a first year SLA, would most likely describe her as detail oriented, talkative, funny, passionate, and able to get along well with others. Working at the CASLR has allowed her to be able to see the needs of the community around her in a new way. Partnering with her Community Partners and hearing their different perspectives has also been quite thought provoking and inspiring for her.
The Center for Academic Service-Learning and Research (CASLR) at Azusa Pacific University now collaborates with more than 70 undergraduate classes each semester with a Service-Learning component integrated within their syllabi. What students are learning in the classroom is immediately applied in practical ways that makes a difference in the community as well as giving great hands-on experience to participating students.
The CASLR employ nine undergraduate students to organize all functioning components, including communicating with the professors, the students in each class, the community partners, and organizing all the logistics. These amazingly talented individuals are called Service-Learning Advocates (SLAs), and they are the hands and feet of this sizable endeavor.
Mary C. Pearce is the Graduate Assistant Coordinator for Student Professional Development and Program Support at the Center for Academic Service-Learning and Research, Working on a Masters of Science in College Counseling and Student Development