Pottstown, PA — Montgomery County Community College (MCCC) Speech Communication students at the West Campus have taken their interpersonal team-building skills outside of the classroom as part of a variety of community service projects.
Instructor Meredith Frank began the community service projects in her Speech Communication 110 sections in the spring semester to meet the new civic engagement component of the course. Each class was broken into teams and tasked with creating a proposal for a community service project, outlining the specifics and how their team would work together to complete it.
“They started [by] figuring out how to solve a problem,” Frank said. “Then they gave a speech to persuade. Then they do the service, and then present it again.”
Some speeches were so persuasive – particularly a team leading an MCCC campus beautification project – that other students donated their time or money to help.
Devising a community service project that students are “passionate” about is key.
“Pick something that you’re really passionate about,” Frank said. “From there, find that passion and find an organization that’s either at Montco or close to it.”
Tayla Haulcy-Clark said her group focused on the environment and planted flowers around South Hall at MCCC’s West Campus. Her group also added more colorful flowers to a 9/11 memorial and spruced up plantings in a flowerbed honoring biology professor Marie Richard-Yates, who died in 2009.
“We were trying to figure out – how can we get our hands dirty and really be involved?”
Haulcy-Clark, a MCCC sophomore studying communication, said the assignment allowed her to get to know her peers better.
“It gave our whole entire class a sense of community within the class,” she said. “It kind of made us more of a family. It’s a great idea to take ourselves out of ourselves and view things differently.”
Team leader Taylor DiLanzo and her group took on a candy-selling fundraiser to benefit the Cancer Center at Pottstown Memorial Medical Center. The group set up a table outside of the West End Café in South Hall, as well as at Earth Day and Spring Fling activities, raising more than $500.
While candy is admittedly “easy to sell,” said DiLanzo, a general studies student and aspiring nurse, it can be difficult to get the attention of would-be buyers.
“You have to get creative,” she said, adding that the team played music the first day and used colorful bins during other sales. “It kind of draws people’s attention.”
DiLanzo said the project has taught her how to work with different types of people. And, most importantly, “if you want to be successful, you have to put yourself out there.”
Blue Bell/Pottstown, PA — Long after their time in the military, the stories of Montgomery County Community College (MCCC) veterans will live on, inspiring and educating future generations.
That is the goal of the College’s Veterans Coordinator, Mike Brown, as well as his colleagues from the Veterans Resource Center. During the fall semester, Brown began interviewing and capturing audio recordings of student veterans as part of the Veterans History Project of the American Folklife Center.
In all, Brown recorded the stories of 10 veterans so far. He plans to record the stories of many more of the College’s roughly 300 student veterans. Recordings will be permanently archived at the Library of Congress, where all recordings have been housed since the Veterans History Project began in 2000. Recordings are searchable online by war, military branch, the contributor’s name and various other search criteria.
“The variety of experiences from the students really has been fantastic to hear,” said Brown, an Army veteran who served in the infantry during a 1997 deployment to Bosnia. “I shared my story. Two generations from now my grandkids and great-grandkids will be able to listen to my story forever.”
The interviews, which must be a minimum of 30 minutes and generally span 45 to 90 minutes, cover the veterans’ early life, including where they are from, why they joined the military and details of their enlistment. While many who participated so far fought in combat zones, Brown said that is not required.
The College’s involvement in the nationwide effort is open to any and all veterans – even non-students.
“It’s a way to incorporate and include the community, not just the students,” he said. “We can live up to our community college name.”
One of the student veterans, for instance, interviewed his grandfather, a Korean War veteran, as well as his father, who is a Vietnam War veteran.
Sgt. William Keller, a business management student at Montgomery County Community College and an Army reservist coming up on eight years of service between the Army Reserves and the National Guard, said the recordings give the public a “more intimate” look at military life.
“I feel it’s important for veterans like myself to share their stories so other individuals have an opportunity to get a better understanding of what it’s like from our point of view instead of a social media point of view or the news,” Keller said, adding that listeners “get a chance to hear personal stories.”
Keller, who was deployed to Iraq from 2010-2011, called the experience “humbling.”
“The fact that we are given the opportunity to tell our story and that it gets preserved in the Library of Congress for eternity is a pretty honorable experience,” Keller said. “It’s not something that’s offered to every individual.”
Blue Bell, PA — Prior to fall 2015, Montgomery County Community College (MCCC) student Tyler Bend didn’t consider a career in writing. But after that semester, Bend, who says “writing’s never been my strong suit,” did an about-face.
His inclusion in a student writing showcase for developmental English classes changed his mind—and his career choice. Bend was one of 20 students in ENG 010, ENG 011 and Gateway to College courses whose work was published in a book and included on an MCCC faculty webpage. Students were recognized for their efforts and awarded a $25 gift cards to the campus bookstores.
“I really don’t care about the prize money, it’s that I’m getting noticed for a writing piece,” Bend said. “I’m just glad that I got my name publicized.”
Assistant Professor of English Thea Howey authored the student showcase idea. Howey put in the legwork for approval of a Faculty Diversity Initiative Support Grant.
From there, she enlisted help from MCCC professors teaching developmental English courses. Faculty submitted what they felt were their students’ best writings, which amounted to more than 90 pages of material.
“We took a vote. People came with their preferences,” she said. “We had very little trouble choosing what we considered to be representative essays.”
The effort, which began during the fall 2015 semester, culminated with an awards ceremony in the spring. Howey said she hopes to continue the showcase bi-annually to celebrate and inspire students.
“The students in developmental courses are usually somewhat unhappy that they’re in a developmental course. They’re not getting college credit for it, and it’s costing them money,” Howey said. “I wanted to motivate my students to excel and I wanted to affirm them in their efforts. I felt the best way to do this is to publish their work on a website and to publish their work in a booklet, something they could actually hold in their hands and show to the world.”
Dean of Arts and Humanities Michele Cuomo applauded Howey’s effort as a way to “change the conversation” about developmental students.
“Presenting work publicly is usually something that graduate students do, that seniors at a university do,” Cuomo said. “It gives the students a sense of confidence and helps them recognize that ‘yes, I do belong here.’”
Between 10 to 15 percent of MCCC students take developmental English courses each semester, according to Cuomo. Going beyond assignments, as the showcase does, is important for students’ academic development and success.
“When expectations are high, students rise to the occasion,” Cuomo said. “It’s just great teaching practice to expect a lot from students, whether or not they have yet to place at the college level.”
Student Telynn Shields, whose essay “Gender Values in Elektra” was included, agreed that the showcase helped to bring out the best in student writing.
“It inspires us to work harder than ever and to put in more time and effort into our work,” Shields said. “It really shows.”