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Students Take Experience to Heart

Service-Learning Projects Bring Community to Classroom

Ianna Hondros-McCarthy
Ianna Hondros-McCarthy wrote a new brochure and grant proposal for the Merrimack Valley Food Bank, fueling  her wish to help others.

By Sheila Eppolito

It’s personal for Brandon Gardner.

As the son of struggling parents who faced unemployment and disability, he knows what it’s like to need help.

Now, thanks to a class offered by English Prof. Diana Archibald, he knows how it feels to be on the other side of things. He’s the one helping out, and it feels good.

“I worked with the Career Center of Lowell as part of my experiential learning class,” says Gardner, who used his writing skills to produce a technical brochure to help job seekers.

“The work I did in this class was important – and meaningful – because I knew people were counting on me,” says Gardner.
And he isn’t alone.

A recent student showcase revealed an array of direct and meaningful assistance – and, perhaps more importantly, introduced a new crop of talented and community-minded citizens.

“Students have the wonderful opportunity to use hard-won knowledge from their class work and apply it to help meet the needs of community non-profit groups,” says Archibald.

“Ideally, the class promotes good citizenship through reflection on social issues and testing of personal values, leading students to a heightened sense of social responsibility and lifelong commitment to their local, national and global communities.”

Other participants also offered helping hands.

Amy Sifferlen joined the organizing committee for the community-based group planning Dickens in Lowell, which will host more than 60 events in honor of the Charles Dickens bicentenary. “In this class, I was exposed to many different kinds of work  – it really helped me fine-tune my passions and interests,” she says.

Raymond Soto helped the Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Lowell with their annual report – writing profiles of members, staff and alumni to better demonstrate the importance of the Club to donors. “I was doing something that mattered to someone – my efforts were no longer just about a grade,” says Soto.

Ianna Hondros-McCarthy wrote a new brochure and grant proposal for the Merrimack Valley Food Bank, fueling  her wish to help others. “I value community a lot.  I’d like to one day join Doctors Without Borders,” she says.

Krystal Quezada spent time helping Budget Buddies, a non-profit dedicated to “helping women help themselves through improved budget management.” “Women’s empowerment is one of my main values, so Budget Buddies was a perfect fit for me,” says Quezada, who put her writing experience to work for the group.

Devan Hawkins devoted his energy to New Entry, a Lowell-based sustainable farming organization that needed help writing and publicizing farmers’ experiences.

Nicholas Bernardo parlayed an internship with the Merrimack Repertory Theatre into a position with Washington, D.C.-based studio Red Eye Productions, where he gained experience in video editing and post-production work while living in the nation’s capital.

Sara Afshar successfully pursued her interest in adoption law with Child and Family Services in Lawrence. After the semester, she accepted a job offer from the organization. “I want to go to law school and I can think of no better motivation for all the hard work ahead than all the children I’ve gotten to know through this program,” she says.

Chynna Lemire, Lillian Calcaterra and Megan Hadley investigated a connection between trash and recycling in Victorian literature and in modern-day Lowell, resulting in a successful  recycling campaign tied to the savings that could be realized by increased recycling, called “5% = $100,000.” 

Samantha Samoiel, Katrina Knox and Jennifer Waterman examined the face of homelessness in the novel “Mary Barton” and in our society today, by interacting with clients at the Lowell Transitional Living Center and writing impact statements about the benefits of serving meals at the shelter.

Check out other Experiential Learning opportunities.