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Class Reflections: Service-Learning Transforms UT Students Views of Community Impact

Service-learning students get loose before class this spring

Throughout the spring 2015 semester, CSPS co-director Ashleigh Huffman—Dr. Ash, for short—sent students from her Service-Learning: Sport & Community class throughout greater Knoxville to work with some of our closest partners. After preparing for two months through in-class exercises, readings and discussion-based lectures, 21 students served as after-school volunteers with Emerald Youth Foundation, Girls Inc. of Oak Ridge, Girls on the Run of Greater Knoxville, and the YWCA Phyllis Wheatley Center, getting involved with everything from group exercises and discussion sessions, to leading basketball and soccer practices.

At the end of the semester, the students had an opportunity to reflect on the experience and how they felt service-learning impacted the community.

Emerald Youth Foundation

Emerald Youth Collage

“I am very happy to have taken the service-learning class this year. With other classes at UT I just memorize, or present information that is generally unimportant for my future career. It is not practical and can be very tedious and not enjoyable. The service-learning class forced me to come out and lead a group and step out of what I’m normally comfortable doing. I had responsibility beyond what is normal because what I learn in the classroom directly applies to what I do in the field. I am very happy that UT offers this course, as it has been very beneficial in increasing my confidence.”

– Aidan Williams

“The greatest lesson that I learned during this course is that sports can be used as a positive communication platform and have such an impact on people that it can entirely change their lives. I personally learned that there is hope in any of us; as dark as it might look, with a bit of guidance and positive power everything is possible. When we take obstacles as challenges and believe in the positive, positive outcomes will follow.”

– Filip Dzafic

“The greatest lesson I learned is definitely the power of showing up. I wasn’t sure the impact I would be able to have on these girls simply by seeing them a few times a week and teaching them soccer, but I was so wrong. The way they took to me and became some of my favorite friends speaks of the power in showing up and being consistent. They trust me because I am there when I tell them I will be there, and that has done wonders for my relationships with them. One of the lessons I learned about myself is that I can change the life of a child when I put time into it. I went in thinking I was going to do this for class and be done with it. Now, I have developed relationships with the girls and met their parents and I love to be around them.”

– Sydney Carden

“The teaching style in this class was great for me. I think I liked it a lot because it was very hands-on. Once we would learn something in class, we were given the opportunity to go into the community and really apply what we learned. At first, I will admit, it was challenging because I was not used to it. Once I got a grasp of the class goals I was extremely satisfied with it. This really made me stretch in a way because it wouldn’t let me stay in my shell. I had to go out and be creative and contribute to the class, which has not only helped me in a school setting, but in life as well.”

– Ethan Stanley

Girls. Inc of Oak Ridge

Girls Inc

“Service-learning is a different type of community service. This service-learning class has pushed me outside my comfort zone, and I am thankful for that. I have developed a more outgoing personality, become more flexible, and learned to not sweat the small stuff. I have gained more confidence to speak my mind. I am more open to change, new experiences and new people.”

– Callie Brimer

“The impact that this class had on me was extremely great! I really grew in all aspects: emotionally, socially, spiritually, mentally. I enjoyed going to my site every week, but I also enjoyed the days that we met in class. The in-class discussions and reflective writings truly helped me emotionally. It was therapeutically stimulating for me. This class was different than others I’ve taken here at UT because the learning pertained to real life situations.”

– Lauren Santana

“This class helped me develop better communication skills by learning the way each individual understands and responds to the best. I also worked on my problem solving. Dealing with younger girls always helps with problem solving. One girl might not agree with the next, so being able to work through the issue and find a solution was a skill that I acquired. And I improved my responsibility by knowing when I needed to leave in order to be on time, what supplies I needed to get in order to make each day valuable and a lesson learned. Having a set lesson plan to make everything go more smoothly really helped me, as well as kept the girls attentive and interested.”

– Molly McDonald

Girls on the Run

Girls on the Run

“I feel very satisfied with what I achieved this semester. At the beginning, I kind of thought, ‘What did I get myself into?!’ but then after going to my first Girls on the Run practice, I felt so refreshed and proud of myself. It is unfortunate for me to say that if it were not for this class, I would have never taken the time to participate in something like this. I feel very lucky and thankful that I did not have a problem connecting with the girls on my team and having them become comfortable talking to me and listening to me. Personally and professionally I accomplished my goals of giving back to the community, learning how to connect with younger children, and also how to be a good role model for people who look up to me.

– Leeda Roshanfar

“From volunteering with Girl’s on the Run, I learned quite a bit about elementary school aged kids. I especially learned about those who have broken families and an unstable life. The girls were all desperate for a listening ear and a soundboard to process even the simplest things going on in their lives. Even though I am not especially skilled with kids this age, I found that if I pushed myself a little that I could communicate with them and even enjoy my time with them. As the semester progressed I feel as if I learned how to relate to these girls and made relationships with them. Going forward, I will try to be attentive to kids this age that really need someone to confide in. We all need that.”

– Emily Card

“I learned a lot from this class; how to be a friend, how to be a leader, and how sports can really change a child’s life in particular. It is different from other classes because you really get to build on yourself and with your classmates as well as with your site. This class really helped me grow as a person. It gives more meaning to your accomplishments when you can watch someone else achieve their goals rather than just doing a good job on an exam. It’s given me a whole different perspective on what achievement really means.”

– Avery Andersen

“Being in college, you always have to worry about yourself, but this class gave me something else to care about. This class is different because it forces you out of your comfort zone to accomplish something you may have been hesitant about in the beginning. For example, I was hesitant about Girls on the Run because I have never felt like a strong runner. But, to the girls, none of that mattered. The 5K ended up being my favorite part and I would have never even signed up for a 5K if it were not for that program.”

– Kaylin Merz

YWCA Phyllis Wheatley Center


“This service-learning class taught me a lot about myself and exposed me to new things. I was able to fully understand the importance of sports and how it has a major impact on a student’s life. I was able to put myself in an inner-city environment and learn from the students there. It opened my eyes to their lifestyle to understand their behaviors. This class is different from any other class I’ve taken at UT because I actually got the experience being in the Leader Role. I was the one being the mentor this time instead of being the mentee.”

– Kiera Crutcher

“I feel like this class addressed skills I can actually apply to my life. As fun as calculus is, I’m not sure I will ever use it again compared to learning how to interact with others and leadership skills that I feel I have learned in this class. We also actually applied what we learned in real life settings after practicing on one another.”

– Charlsey Bush

“This class had a huge impact on me. It brought several laughs, a few uncomfortable situations, new friends, and many memories. I will always remember my experience at the Phyllis Wheatley Center. This class allowed for so much more involvement and interaction within the classroom and in the community, unlike most of my classes where it is the lecture type setting where only the teacher provides information.”

– Chandler Mitchell