Connecting service to learning enhances education

10.27.2014 | By Rob Vanya

As a service-learning project, a group from San Jacinto College provided volunteer assistance at the Baytown Special Rodeo, a day of fun activities for special needs children held recently at the Baytown Youth Fair. Helpers included, from left (front row): students Karen Zavala, Fatimo Castillo, Aydee Garza, Artemisa Conner, Nneka Maduka, Jessica Deleon, and Robert King; (back row): Susan Starr (biology professor), Ationne Crittenden (student), John Franklin Dzuryak (geology professor), Karen Martinez (student), Angela Pruitt (student), Sergio Magallon (student), Daniel CoVan (vocational nursing instructor), Florencia Hermida (student), and Lydiah Moses (student). San Jacinto College offers off-campus, service-learning activities to enhance traditional in-class instructions and training. Photo credit: Rob Vanya, San Jacinto College marketing, public relations, and government affairs department.


San Jacinto College is accelerating service-learning activities with a goal of supplementing and enhancing traditional classroom learning.

“Studies show that students who participate in service-learning projects perform better academically,” commented Pandora Freestone, San Jacinto College service-learning coordinator. “Service-learning enhances learning, builds character, and develops a sense of civic responsibility while improving the College and strengthening our community.”

College service-learning projects are similar to any type of community-service effort, but are more focused in purpose and narrow in scope. Course learning objectives are linked to meaningful human, safety, educational, and environmental needs that are co-determined with community partners and service recipients. Course materials such as lectures, readings, discussions, and reflection activities supplement the student service. In turn, the service experience is brought back to the classroom to enhance the academic dialogue and student comprehension. Students work on real problems that make academic learning relevant while simultaneously enhancing their social skills, analytical ability, civic and ethical responsibility, self-efficacy, and career development.

For example, Freestone is organizing a service-learning project in which students will participate in Sheldon Lake State Park’s Native Prairie Plant-a-thon, which will take place soon at the park. Volunteers will help plant native coastal prairie grasses in an effort to restore 400 acres from farmland to native prairie habitat and reestablish the diverse wildlife the ecosystem once had.  

“It’s about serving and learning,” Freestone explained. “This is why the hyphen in service-learning is important. We are connecting service to learning for more meaningful outcomes. Students research local needs, agree on a project, develop a plan and go. Instructors link the project to the curriculum and help students learn from their work.”

In a recent service-learning project, a group from San Jacinto College provided volunteer assistance at the Baytown Special Rodeo, a day of fun activities for special needs children held at the Baytown Youth Fair.

Nursing student Nneka Maduka, who is especially interested in pediatrics, benefitted greatly by serving as a “buddy” to handicapped children at the event. “It was a very practical and hands-on learning opportunity, and provided a glimpse of what I will face when I get out there in the healthcare workforce,” she commented. “We had opportunities to teach parents and children about taking advantage of resources to assist in caring for their children. Much love and support is needed to care for handicapped children in order to promote wellness and help the children feel secure and safe at all times.”

Maduka plans to earn an associate nursing degree from San Jacinto College, with a career goal of working as a nurse, or in nursing administration. She said participating in the Special Rodeo sparked an interest in her so that she looks forward to volunteering for future service-learning projects.

About San Jacinto College

Surrounded by monuments of history, industries and maritime enterprises of today, and the space age of tomorrow, San Jacinto College has been serving the citizens of East Harris County, Texas, for more than 50 years. As an Achieving the Dream Leader College, San Jacinto College is committed to the goals and aspirations of a diverse population of approximately 30,000 credit students. The College offers 186 degrees and certificates, with 46 technical programs and a university transfer division. Students benefit from a support system that maps out a pathway for success, and job training programs that are renowned for meeting the needs of growing industries in the region. San Jacinto College graduates contribute nearly $690 million each year to the Texas workforce.

For more information about San Jacinto College, please call 281-998-6150, visit, or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.