For a group of Walters State students and faculty, charity truly does begin at home.
The college’s Greeneville/Greene County Campus Service Learners are known throughout the area for helping others. Students donate both time and money to help many community causes and have been recognized several times with the Greeneville/Greene County Partnership’s Spirit Award.
While those efforts continue, a new project has students looking inward – at the campus community – for those who need a little help. The Service Learning Store opened last semester and greeted students this semester with shelves stocked full of school supplies, snacks and lunch items.
“It’s amazing to see how this store has fulfilled a need here on campus. Once it opened, faculty members and students started bringing items in and the shelves are always pretty full,” said Dr. Jerry Wilhoit, associate professor of biology.
Wilhoit is one of three advisors to the Greeneville/Greene County Campus Service Learners. Other advisors are Elesha Goodfriend, instructor of biology and Jaime Parman-Ryans, assistant professor of biology.
The actual process is simple. Students and faculty members donate the items. Students just come and request what they need. Students do not have to show any financial need. In fact, students don’t have to be in financial distress to shop at the store.
“We encourage students to use the store if they’ve forgotten something or they are financially strained and in need of basic school supplies. After all, these are college students,” said Parman-Ryans.
The most popular items, according to Parman-Ryans, are snacks, printer paper and highlighters. (Walters State allows students free use of printers, but students must provide the paper.)
“Students are very appreciative of the convenience that the store offers,” Parman-Ryans said.
For many students, opening the store was a natural extension of the volunteer work they do in the community, like collecting Gifts for Kids or canned goods for the local food bank.
“I participated in service learning projects last semester and also volunteered in the store,” said Heather Jenkins, a nursing major from Parrottsville.
“My schedule is much busier this semester, since I’ve been accepted to the nursing program, but I hope I can continue to volunteer some. I enjoy meeting other students here.”
Like many students, Jenkins has both contributed and shopped at the store. She and her husband, Freddie, have four children: Austin, Logan, Harmony and Jasmin. She can easily forget something she needs during the day when preparing everything for her children.
“Plus, finances are difficult for most students. This gives students an option other than leaving campus and running to the store. If you need some printer paper or a folder, you can get it here,” Jenkins said.
Service learning is a teaching concept that encourages the knowledge and life skills gained through helping others.
“Service learning teaches students that there’s much more to an education than just knowledge. Service learning gives students the ability to see the perspective of others. Service learning also shows how, by working with others, each individual can have a big impact on the community,” Wilhoit said.
Wilhoit said service learning also prepares students for the day when they enter the workforce by developing teamwork, work ethics, and communication and leadership skills. Students often organize and complete projects independently.
The Service Learning Store has given students the rare opportunity to see the receiving end.
“Students are empowered when they see how a small act helps someone else. We don’t always see the recipients when we collect toys for children or supplies for service members. With this project, students are able to see how giving actually helps someone. Students are on the giving and receiving end of this project,” Dr. Wilhoit said.
All three advisors believe that this is the best project the Service Learners have done to date.
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