Service Learning

Service learning is one of the four primary branches of Beyond the Classroom activities at the Honors College.  It is an enhanced form of academic learning in which service not only benefits the community, but also enhances the academic experience. 

Hallmarks of Service Learning

Integrated Learning: A clear link exists between the community service and the academic content.

High Quality Service: Projects are meaningful, well organized, and address a community-identified need.

Collaboration: Students, faculty, and community partners all play an integral role in the planning and implementation of the project.

Civic Responsibility: Projects promote student responsibility for community well-being.

Reflection: Structured time or assignments allow students to analyze the experience and course connections.

Evaluation & Assessment: Students, faculty, and community partners participate in evaluating the project or courses.


Why Service Learning is Unique

Volunteerism or Community Service where typically the primary emphasis is on the service being provided and the primary intended beneficiary is the service recipient. This does not mean that volunteerism is not beneficial for the service provider, as there is much evidence that service in general is educational in many aspects for both parties, especially as participants learn about how their service makes a difference. However, the difference is that, in most cases, volunteer projects are not intentionally linked to academic content.

Philanthropy where the primary emphasis typically is on financial contributions or funds provided and the primary intended beneficiary is the recipient of that donation. Again, this does not mean that philanthropy is not mutually beneficial for all involved, but, in most cases, philanthropy projects are not intentionally linked to academic content.

Experiential Education that is a philosophy and methodology in which educators purposefully engage with learners in direct experience and focused reflection in order to increase knowledge, develop skills and clarify values. Often times experiential education experiences relate to service to the community, but this is not a basic premise of the philosophy and not all experiential education is beneficial for a community or agency.

Internships or Field Education that engage students in experiential education activities primarily for the purpose of providing students with hands-on experiences that enhance their learning or understanding of issues relevant to a particular area of study or career. Internships are organized so that the primary beneficiary in the experience is the internship participant who gains knowledge and experience. There is not always a well-developed emphasis on the benefits to the agency.

Community-Based Research which is a specific type of service-learning in which the main service- learning component of the course is a research project conducted in partnership with a community agency, organization, or demographic group. Community-based research (CBR) takes place in community settings and involves community members in the design and implementation of research projects. While community-based research is a form of service-learning because of the equal emphasis on student learning and community involvement and benefit, not all service- learning involves research.


Service Opportunities

Communities in Harmony is an organization focused on making a positive musical experience for the children they visit each week. This organization began as a South Carolina Honors College outreach initiative striving to use music as a tool to enrich the lives of the people they work with. In order to do this, members collaboratively plan every session. They share songs, dances, and musical games to take to the various afterschool programs that they partner with each semester. The adaptive, cooperative, and personal skills developed have shaped the members into sensitive, perceptive volunteers. Each session has a designated leader who guides the day’s activities. Typically, these leaders are the volunteers with the most experience, but the opportunity is open to anyone who desires to develop those skills. The volunteers bond each week with each other during their planning periods, monthly meetings, and weekly volunteer sessions. Communities in Harmony won student organization of the year in 2014 and has been awarded funds from the Hootie and the Blowfish Grant for their initiatives.

Waverly Afterschool Programs was started in 2003 by a motivated group of Honors students who learned of a need for afterschool tutors in the area during a Martin Luther King Day of Service. Since then, Waverly has become a student organization and has been awarded a lifetime grant of $10,000by State Farm Insurance. Their mission is to enhance the lives and opportunities of children in the Columbia community, to serve as educational role models who provide a fun, safe, and caring experience, to develop the self-esteem and literacy skills of all children who participate, and to help children realize that they can overcome the challenges they may face in life to be successful. Waverly believes that all children need a safe place to go after school each day with caring, responsible adults and with programs that encourage both learning and personal growth. Waverly Afterschool Programs has four core functions: 1) Educational Enrichment 2) To Promote Continued Educational Excellence 3) To Provide Youth with Positive Role Models 4) To Develop Student Volunteers into Leaders.

Project VIDA is a student organization at the University of South Carolina in which students from a variety of backgrounds create presentations about healthy living for elementary, middle, and high school populations in underprivileged communities.  It started through an Honors College initiative (Drop Everything And Lead) and has been supported by the Bernard and Arline Ramsdale Endowment Fund. Since its creation in fall 2010, Project Vida has been committed to educating youth in the Columbia community about healthy living. Volunteers in Project Vida have learned to seamlessly translate their academic passions into interactive and fun presentations for the young people they work with. This organization has given students the opportunity to use their classroom experiences to impact the lives of community members, while receiving personal, professional, and civic growth. One Project Vida member stated, “Even though we are the ones providing the information on health, I never fail to learn new things with each presentation.” The students in Project Vida have truly become a part of the community that they serve. Project VIDA won the Outstanding Student Organization Service Award in 2014.

The Carolina Homelessness Outreach strives to bring together students of the University of South Carolina who have a common interest in serving the homeless around Columbia, to provide volunteer excursions to various venues focused on helping the homeless, to reflect upon experiences, and to advocate the importance of seeing beyond the stereotypes in order to care for the homeless as fellow human beings. Volunteers with the organization want to make positive differences in the lives of homeless individuals, to grow in fulfillment and understanding of themselves, to develop positive relationships with the various community outreach programs, and to increase awareness of homelessness and help foster a positive community attitude. The organization was started by a student after completing Dr. Bret Kloos’ honors service-learning class, Addressing Homelessness in South Carolina.

Palmetto Place Children’s Shelter provides a safe and nurturing environment for abused and neglected children and unaccompanied teens, offering them a broad range of services concentrating on personal healing and development. The shelter is open 24 hours each day of the year and provides medical and mental health care, crisis adjustment/transitional counseling, after-school tutoring and recreational and social activities in addition to food, clothing and shelter. The South Carolina Honors College has a unique partnership with Palmetto Place that allows faculty, staff, and students to participate in various volunteer opportunities, fundraising efforts, and donation drives. In the past, the Honors College has sponsored and attended trips to the South Carolina State Fair, Mad Platter, and college visits and tours with the children at the shelter. In addition, the Honors College has hosted musical concerts for Palmetto Place, Fall Festivals, Valentines Celebrations, and a Redress to Impress Event that provides prom dresses for teens at the shelter.