service learning sign with people holding it

Incorporating Service Learning into Human Services Courses

By Malinda Hudson
Human Services
Delaware Technical Community College
Owens Campus

Sussex County is expanding with new housing developments breaking ground every day and new businesses generated to accommodate the needs of a larger population. People are choosing to migrate to this area, some for business, others for recreational purposes, and still others who have chosen to retire and enjoy their life of leisure near the beach. With that, services are also growing to meet the needs of the increased populace.  This steady growth in both businesses and residences has brought with it numerous opportunities to incorporate service learning into human services courses.

The human services career field is one of the areas experiencing significant growth as well due to the specialized needs of the residents. Services are growing with the addition of the psychiatric center under construction across from the Owens campus, the planned construction of the veteran’s medical center, the possible in-patient expansion of the detox facility in Harrington, housing initiatives to address homelessness, and the new all-inclusive campus expansion planned for The CHEER Center in Georgetown. These expansions are creating a number of prospects for our students to gain entry-level employment either before or as soon as they finish their associate’s degree, including advancement opportunities as they continue in their connected degree tracts.

However, there is a need to ensure we are educating students on the potential jobs that may be available as the human services field can be quite broad. We have students who reach the internship stage and haven’t identified their “population passion” or selected a career path to pursue. We’re hoping the proposed initiative will have an impact by providing students with knowledge and hands-on experience that will help them pinpoint an area where they will work as a change agent.

A Mini Service Learning Opportunity for Human Services Students

The proposed initiative is mini service learning opportunity. The objective is to build more of these ventures into program courses. The service opportunities will be geared toward selected site locations that afford knowledge in keeping with the core course performance objectives (CCPO) of the particular course as well as hands-on experience for the different career paths. The course instructor and site supervisor would work together to pre-plan the career paths and experiences the student would be exposed to.

Students would have the ability to choose between two sites during the semester and would report to these sites for the service learning experience three times for the full class session during the course semester. The student would report to a site supervisor each time who would sign off on the student’s attendance for each session. The student would document the experience in a final class assignment but would have the experience of the career path to consider as their education moves forward.

This exposure to real businesses and organizations related to human services would enhance the student’s resume as well as provide exposure for consideration of employment by the host site. Currently, sites that are utilized during the internship process would be incorporated into the learning opportunities as the site supervisors are qualified and experienced professionals. The process would be piloted for a semester to identify and address any areas of concern prior to roll-out in other courses.

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