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CLL Connects Students to Service-Learning Project for Rantoul District 193

group image of students in SOCW 461B gathered outside

Creating Positive Impact

During the fall 2022 semester, students from the SOCW 461B: Professional Practice I class embarked on a service-learning project together.  The Community Learning Lab (CLL) connected the class with Rantoul Township High School (RTHS) District 193. The district, which includes the city of Rantoul, towns of Gifford and Ludlow, and the village of Thomasboro, received a Community Partnership Grant through the Illinois State Board of Education. The project was guided by Director of Instructional Programs and Eagle Academy Principal, Megan Anderson, School Social Worker, Mindy Moberg and Clinical Assistant Professor, Kim Rice.

Megan Anderson, the project supervisor, identified six areas for the students to work on which would help RTHS achieve grant deliverables. Twenty-six students provided approximately 625 service hours toward the projects, which included:

  • developing social-emotional learning (SEL) activities to accompany children’s literature (grades K-5) and made book recommendations
  • developing SEL activities for children’s literature for the community service center to be utilized by families
  • researching young adult children’s literature and media, and developing SEL activities for reading levels 6-12 grade
  • researching staff wellness activities and resources to be utilized during faculty meetings and institute days
  • developing a county-wide directory of mental health providers with contact information and whether they accept Medicaid. Develop a map of the providers and potential transportation available for Rantoul area families
  • investigating other communities with similar socioeconomic levels and researching what those communities did to implement SEL services for families (students surveyed other districts, gathered and analyzed results, and offered recommendations to RTHS)

Students also made use of the Small Grants Big Impacts! Fund offered through the Community Learning Lab to allow them to travel to Rantoul to work on the project. Five students served as drivers, utilizing CLL grant funds to rent vehicles from University Carpool used to transport their classmates.

Service-learning is a significant part of the learning experience for SOCW 461 and is designed to benefit both students and the agency/organization.  Course discussions revolved around the importance of working within and getting to know communities we serve, the experience of working with grants, and applying the nine core social work competencies to the service-learning project. One student reflected: “I really enjoyed the opportunity to do work in a community that needed it, and to practice some of the skills we have been talking about and developing in our classes. It’s a great chance to get a taste of what internship will be like next semester!”

The size of the project allowed the entire class to work together to achieve multiple goals to benefit RTHS. Megan Anderson commented: “The Community Partnership Grant has been an exciting opportunity for our district but daunting in scope.  Kim and the students made the six projects entirely possible.  The work that these students completed would not have been easily accomplished by RTHS staff and certainly not in the time-frame they completed them in.  I cannot say enough good about the program, the students and Kim. This was a wonderful connection for our district and one we hope to continue in the future.”

While providing a significant service to the RTHS community, the students themselves learned a lot about social emotional learning (SEL) and how resources impact communities. Other skills included collaboration, professional communication, and leadership. Reflecting on the skills they utilized during the project, students had this to say:

  • “This service-learning experience has been very beneficial to my future profession. Since I want to be a high school social worker as my career, working directly with Rantoul Township High School has been very applicable to the population I want to support. The biggest takeaway from my service-learning experience was the importance of collaboration. I was able to communicate effectively with my group members through in-person meetings and virtual communication. I think that communication played a major role in service learning because I couldn’t have completed my project without working together with my group.”
  • “It was an amazing opportunity to complete a project with a tangible result that will positively impact a school district. Working together with my classmates made this project possible.”
  • “Learning how to work with others and combine ideas on how to problem solve is one of the most important lessons I learned through service learning, which I think is very helpful for anyone who is pursuing a career in social work.”

We are grateful to our students’ commitment to serving communities, and to our Community Learning Lab and community partners who help make these transformative educational experiences possible.

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