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Community-Engaged Learning

Community Engagement & The FYE Graduation Requirement

For the current academic year (2010-2011) the community engagement requirement provides students with the opportunity to think critically and inclusively about their society and develop a hands-on understanding of the effects of class, power, and privilege. Students satisfy this requirement by participating in specific service-learning seminar classes that are offered in the Fall semester, or in one of the many issue-based Community-Engaged Learning (CEL) Days (see calendar) that are scheduled throughout the year. On these days, students gather with others from their residential floor to learn and serve together—as well as to reflect on their experiences and find out how they can sustain their involvement. These four components are briefly described below.

Learning

In addition to the education they receive by completing a project in the community, students learn about a social issue they have selected themselves as they receive a pre-service educational packet and hear from a qualified speaker at the beginning of the day. The speaker may be the leader of a community organization, a professor, or a resident directly involved in the issue and programs that are available.

Serving

Students engage in a structured experience or project that has been mapped out by community organizations, Bonner Center staff, and Bonner Scholar/Peer Advisor students. In the field, students usually work in teams of ten students and are led by an experienced leader. The goal is to be involved in concrete and interactive projects. (Transportation is provided by college vans or buses.)

Reflecting

Building on the idea that we all learn and grow upon hearing our own “voice,” students spend 30-45 minutes talking about the experience. In small groups, usually led by other student leaders or community partners, students discuss a number of guided questions pertaining to the particular social issue of the day, community efforts to address the issue, and their related roles as citizens.

Sustained Involvement

While college life aims to foster a life of learning, it could also spark a life of serving and community involvement. Students are given a chance to sign-up to volunteer on a regular basis and learn how they might integrate the needs or interests of the community into their own course of study. Interested students can volunteer at one of the 15 “comprehensive” Bonner Scholar partner-sites.


The process of connecting first year students to specific CEL days begins in the fall, when Bonner Scholars and Peer Advisors organize civic-engagement floor meetings and two commuter meetings. During these meetings participating students identify their top three choices from a list of social and community issues. These issues or themes are found on the CEL Calendar. (Students in the designated FSP classes in the fall are exempt from participating in the CEL days.)

If you have any other questions or wish to volunteer, please contact the Bonner Center at bonner@tcnj.edu, or (609)771-2548.

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