Going beyond the four walls of a classroom for a learning experience can make some nervous, but for University of Colorado at Denver professor, Candan Duran-Aydintug it was a necessary move for her sociology students, who have been studying poverty and social inequalities, to gain a hands-on learning experience that would stick with them for life.
“We’re moving from just classroom learning to going into community-based learning where our students get involved with community based organizations and get to know what’s happening in our community’s schools,” said Duran-Aydintug.
In early November, she arranged for her 20 students to teach in Junior Achievement (JA) classrooms at Malley Drive Elementary, an Adams 12 school based in Northglenn. The school has a 70 percent free and reduced lunch rate, an indicator of poverty. Duran-Aydintug first partnered with Malley Drive last spring through JA. The experience was so successful for all involved, she arranged for an ongoing partnership with the school and JA.
“It is a very unique partnership which results in the younger students learning important life lessons from the older students – and vice versa,” said JA program manager Charlene Moser. “We always debate who learns more from the encounter. We believe they both emerge wiser and more aware of our world as a result.”
Malley Drive’s principal Francesa Craver additionally presents to Duran-Aydintug’s class on the CU Denver campus so that students can learn more about the school, poverty, how the school emphasizes quality education and relationships for its students, and the impact the college students have as volunteers at the school.
“They need that older big brother or big sister as a mentor; being that mentor or champion can really start with you,” Craver told the classroom. “Just being that positive role model helps, they really want to have those relationships.”
While some were nervous at first, the sociology students quickly fell in love with the experience they were having in the classroom.
“It was overwhelming in the most positive kind of way,” said student Emily Sasin. “I left feeling so happy because I could tell they were really excited that we were there. Even if some didn’t fully grasp a concept, they paid attention to us, and they respected us as people, and I thought that was so cool because kids don’t usually do that.”
“One of them wanted our autographs, it was so cute,” added student Valeria Ortiz, who remembered having Junior Achievement volunteers in her own elementary school classes growing up.
“I think it’s important for the kids to know there’s people invested in them,” Ortiz continued. “There’s people like us, or their principal, and Junior Achievement, who all want to see them succeed. Learning about the school from the principal was really helpful to know that there’s a lot going on in elementary schools, so tying that into Junior Achievement was nice because now I realize we are making an impact. This will carry on with them.”
College students are engaged in service learning projects through JA’s College Connect program, which is presented by TIAA. More than 700 college students volunteer with JA annually, touching the lives of more than 9,000 students.