Choose Your Own Adventure: Service Learning

Each year, hundreds of students are able to make a difference in their communities as part of their classwork with service learning courses at UAB. Here, two students share their stories.


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Allison Borden: Service Learning, Metropolitan Birmingham Services for the Homeless

It’s easy to forget, in the midst of the service, the learning part of service learning. But for Allison Borden (right), the education came quickly during her time with Metropolitan Birmingham Services for the Homeless. “Early on, my misconceptions about the homeless were blown out of the water,” she says.

Borden’s work was part of her service-learning requirement for UAB’s Global and Community Leadership Honors Program. She had volunteered in the past at the Firehouse Shelter, but this was her first experience behind the soup line—entering data into Birmingham’s Homeless Management Information Systems to chart the needs of the homeless and the services they receive.

Borden also helped interview homeless people out in the city and performed exit surveys for individuals who participated in Project Homeless Connect. Those surveys were “heart-wrenching,” she says. “Some of the people were so grateful for the services and attention they received, just because it was the first time in a long time that someone made them feel like a human being.”

 

Bridgette Windham: Service Learning, Junior Achievement

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“I was scared out of my mind,” Bridgette Windham says. The source of her terror? Fourth-graders. “I was a freshman, and I didn’t think I could take on the responsibility of teaching someone else,” she recalls. “But I underestimated what I could do.”

Windham found herself working with Junior Achievement as a service-learning project through her Freshman Learning Community, “Dollars and Sense.” She and a partner were assigned to teach economics to fourth-grade girls at Birmingham’s Glen Iris Elementary School. “I was frightened, but the girls were excited,” Windham says. “We taught them about human resources and natural resources. For the next class, we told them to come up with a business and pitch it to us. We heard all about their dreams for hair salons in Atlanta and boutiques in New York.”

Windham says she began to see herself in a different light as the classes progressed. “I’d never really thought of myself as a role model,” she says. “But one of the girls told me what she’d learned and how it helped her in class. And she said, ‘The other day, I was talking with my friends about profit and loss.’ She taught her friends about it. I realized I was making an impact. It was overwhelming and monumental at the same time.”

 


Justin Sims: Community Service, Birmingham

Justin SimsSomeone once said that if you want something done, you should ask a busy person to do it. But don’t bother asking Justin Sims (right), because he’s probably already doing it anyway. Sims is a senior majoring in history with a passion for service and minors in secondary education, communication management, and business administration. His seemingly disparate interests are aimed at one goal: “I really want to help everyone,” he says.

Last year, he served on the UAB Leadership and Service Council’s Ongoing Service Committee, overseeing tutoring and mentoring projects at Glen Iris Elementary School. He was the BMEN (Blazer Male Excellence Network) Mentor of the Year. His own group, Ambitious Innovators, works to nurture entrepreneurship among UAB students. And he unwinds by working with Teen Focus, an organization for young men in need of father figures; his fraternity, Kappa Alpha Phi; or one of his two personal businesses.

Sims arrived at UAB on a football scholarship, but he gave up life on the field after his freshman year to focus on his studies, driven by a desire “to really reach out and help people all over,” he says. “I don’t want to be confined to any one area.”

 

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