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Civic education classes take holistic approachs

Sept. 24, 1996

Civic education classes take holistic approach

By Kate Chester

Lariat Reporter

Students eager to participate in volunteer services are finding civic education classes offered through the University a positive way to act on their community spirit.

Civic education classes try to create a holistic learning process through the use of academics and experimental learning, said Dr. Thomas Myers, director of civic education classes at the University.

'Civic Education is a union between education and civic improvement,' Myers said.

The classes consist of one hour of discussion or lecture in class and two hours of community service in a volunteer agency relating to the course.

'In civic education we do not just do 'good works,' but we try to learn from it,' Myers said. 'The learning comes from students talking about their experiences and that give and take. There is much interaction in the class.'

Courses are offered in areas such as Political Participation, Community Law Enforcement, Poverty in Waco, Peer Education and other subjects. Myers said each year has seen an increase in enrollment, with the exception of this year due to a scheduling problem.

Jimmy Dorrell, professor of Poverty in Waco and head of Mission Waco, views his class as a way to 'help Baylor students learn about poverty in Waco through education and hands-on learning.'

The students have a choice of 10 agencies, including Caritas, Head Start and Mission Waco, for which they must spend 30 hours working, Dorrell said. The students volunteer in different areas from working with children or teens from impoverished areas to helping people who suffer from substance abuse and HIV/AIDS.

'This is the first time many students see poverty firsthand,' Dorrell said. 'They learn that many of the 'blame the victim' myths of poverty are wrong.'

Sophomore Adrienne McMurry, who is taking Myers' Political Participation class, said she thinks that it is beneficial to learn through 'hands-on learning.'

'In class we keep a diary of whenever we go (to volunteer) and in class we discuss what goes on,' McMurry said. 'It's a lot more interesting to learn about things like senators and J.P. (Justice of the Peace) through discussion than reading it in a book. It makes it more personal.'

An additional benefit of these classes is the practical experience that students receive from participating in various agencies.

'Students can use this as a resume builder when they graduate. It looks good to have a letter of recommendation from the County Commissioner' for admittance into a graduate program and potential employers, said Myers.

'You can study something as much as you want. You won't know about it until you actually experience it. It's like an apprenticeship,' said Stormie Schott, a Denton sophomore.

Local volunteer agencies are extremely appreciative of Baylor students help. Doug Bagby, director of volunteers at Caritas, said that organization uses 'man power' for food distribution and working the thrift stores.

'The students help a lot,' Bagby said. 'Sometimes they come in and give us ideas on how to do things differently, more efficiently.'

Civic education classes count as credit for many students. The classes are equivalent to an hour of physical education requirements for Arts and Sciences majors. A three-hour class will be offered next semester that is worth three hours of civic education credit or three hours of political science credit.

In addition Dorrell will offer an intensive class on poverty that will go to Mexico City during Spring Break, and to Haiti in May.

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