March 16, 2012 - Every student enrolled in Dr. Murphysteen Counts’ Community Involvement for School Improvement course recently implemented an education-related community service project. Projects ranged from tutoring basketball students to assisting with the implementation of a school-based movie night for students’ families. Dr. Counts, an Associate Professor of Education, teaches on Union’s Germantown, TN campus, and she sees value in the course for the contribution it makes to the larger educational community. To this end, she states, “In order to see the desired outcomes of school improvement, teachers must include parents as well as the broader community in the instructional process. In this course, students research and discuss issues that impact this process and reflect upon the sensitivity needed to increase parental and community involvement in schools.”
Some of the implemented projects continue beyond the requirements for the course. One such project includes the work of Union University graduate student, Charlotte Red. As a part of her project, she piggybacked off a first-grade reading selection, On the Job with Dr. Martha Smith. The story is about an animal shelter and its workers. As a part of Red’s project, she organized a food, toy, and accessory drive for the Senatobia Tate County Animal Shelter, a non-profit facility operated by the city of Senatobia and Tate County. As a part of the project, students were able to meet with representatives from the shelter, interact with animals, and give their collected supplies to the shelter. The project helped the shelter with needed supplies, while also helping students learn about animals and animal care.
Dr. Counts’ says, “The goal of this project is participation in some form of community service to benefit the school and children my students serve. The project requires students to actively seek resources within and outside the school.” Another student in the course, Lesley Harris, implemented a tutoring program for basketball players. As a result of the project, Harris says, “This project strengthened my ties to the community because it allowed me to show parents I’m here to help them when they need it.” Likewise, another student in the course, Chris Scoggins, helped to implement a family movie night. Like the others, Scoggins also stated the value of such work, “Students are able to see their friends outside of the classroom environment, and parents are able to meet those friends and their parents as well as other faculty and staff in a fun filled environment.”
Dr. Counts sees the projects as a starting place. She desires to continue to facilitate the implementation of such community projects into future courses, which, in turn, will offer additional benefits for the local and regional community.