Birmingham-Southern College has 21 student coordinators to manage the service learning activities of more than 650 participating students. These coordinators are responsible for initiating activities, recruiting volunteers, and maintaining the programs. There are two paid staff members that facilitate the program and raise supporting grants.
The Office of Service Learning has been in existence for over 15 years. It began as a way for students to work on service-learning projects during the college’s January Interim term. It has spread, however, to nine on-going projects and a variety of one-time interim service opportunities.
The student volunteers support the Firehouse Men’s Shelter as well as the First Light Women’s Shelter. The youth serve dinner and spend the night interacting with the men and women who live at the shelters. The Office of Service Learning also supports the Humane Society, International Tutoring, and Meals-on-Wheels. Students nurture animals and assist with other projects at the Humane Society’s adoption center. Weekly, students work with international residents to help them enhance their English speaking and writing skills as a part of the International Tutoring Program. The students also support the Meals-on-Wheels Program by delivering meals to elderly residents in a nearby community every day, with the exception of major holidays.
The four other on-going programs supported by Birmingham-Southern are Success Story, Trades Towers, Woodlawn Community Development, and Woodrow Wilson Elementary School. The Success Story program pairs youth with college students. The youth are tutored, played with and listened to during this weekly after-school enrichment program. In the Trades Towers Program, volunteers host parties, organize trips, and provide companionship for senior citizens living on fixed incomes. Students work with residents, businesses, and civic leaders to help with the Woodlawn Community Development’s revitalization effort. The students tutor, lead a scout troop and chess team, and sponsor special events at their adopted elementary school, Woodrow Wilson.
Service learning at Birmingham-Southern includes such a wide variety of projects. This results in recipients and clients gaining both short-term and long-term benefits. All of the programs provide opportunities for hands-on involvement and community building. Though it is difficult to statistically track the needs met by the program, the volunteers feel elated because they know they help the homeless and elderly receive meals, children and international students are tutored, and their community is improved.