“How wonderful it is that no one need to wait a single moment before starting to change the world” – Anne Frank
This experience was documented by one of our UNL Fellows who went through the Rural Civic Action Program, facilitated by Civic Nebraska and the ALEC department at UNL. Stephanie was assigned to the community of Ashland Greenwood to lead a community development service learning project. Read about her experience below.
I felt excited and nervous at the same time while going to Ashland-Greenwood today. Last week, split the students into four groups based on the means we saw necessary to successfully complete this project: Accessibility, Plants, Furniture, and Presentation. The accessibility group was in charge of connecting with teachers to see if they would have interest in using this space and figuring out the logistics of scheduling in case groups overlapped when they wanted to be outside. The Plants was responsible for reaching out for donations in order to beautify the space. The Furniture group asked the community for furniture donations. Finally, the presentation group would be in charge of presenting the proposed project and progress to the School Board in order to receive the final permission. We worked on developing SMART goals with each group. We discussed in our 496 how SMART goals are a useful tool during planning, as it offers a timeline with a specific desired outcome, and how you plan to achieve this. SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely.
This project may have been the most important, since their results after reaching out would determine the ultimate success the group would achieve. Another reason I was nervous because someone asked if the project was actually going to happen.
I was absolutely blown away by how certain students stepped up and assumed ownership of this part. All the groups were able to report positive responses. While sharing their findings with the class, they all shared encouragement as new information was shared. The plant group received seed packets, the accessibility group found teachers would enjoy using the space, and the furniture group received a grant of $3,000 in order to purchase their chalkboard, benches, and picnic tables.
Our most effective facilitation technique came from our constant support and encouragement in students’ efforts and progress. Each day, we strived to set a safe environment where students could freely share their suggestions and concerns. We also were intentional about praising their specific abilities and efforts towards completion of the project. At times, it was difficult to step back and let the students process. I realized the importance in trusting in the abilities of the students to be successful. Overall, I am optimistic looking back on the semester, as well as looking forward to how I can use my newly acquired lessons and leadership abilities in the future.
Our work with the class is finished, but the students will present their proposal and results to during a school board meeting on December 18th.